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Author: Cheat on the job, not the kids

© St. Petersburg Times,
published December 13, 2001

ST. PETERSBURG -- T. Berry Brazelton has seen the scene play out too many times: An expectant mother visiting with the pediatrician breaks into tears when she talks about how soon she will have to return to work after her baby is born.

Balancing work and parenthood is one of the major stresses parents face today, the renowned pediatrician and author told about 125 people, overwhelmingly women, on Wednesday night at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg.

His advice? Parents need to cheat on their jobs and find ways to save their energy for the end of the day when they are with their children.

"The major stress I think today is what we've asked women to do," he said during a presentation sponsored by the Junior League of St. Petersburg. "We've split them in two, asking them to be an expert in the work force and an expert at home."

Brazelton, often called "America's pediatrician," urged parents to set up parenting groups for ideas and support, limit their kids' TV to an hour a day during the week and two hours on weekends and teach their children to appreciate diversity.

"We have not raised our children to be tolerant," Brazelton said. "We have treated diversity as a negative, and if we allow the holocaust in New York to push that even further, then we have lost a lot of ground."

Brazelton weighed in on other several other issues, saying he's strongly for breast-feeding and against spanking. He said child care providers must be paid and valued more.

And on co-sleeping -- parents and children sleeping together -- he didn't come down hard either way. But if you are trying get your children to sleep on their own, don't do it right before another major developmental milestone such as walking.

Parents should be on a mission to get society and employers to appreciate their roles at home more, he urged.

Although Brazelton lobbied Congress to pass the Family Leave Act, he says the law isn't accomplishing what he hoped because most parents don't take the time they are allotted for fear of repercussions on the job.

Still, he said, parents can make up for the time they are away. "When you walk in the door (after work) and everybody falls apart, sit down in a big rocking chair and gather everybody up in your arms," he said, ask them how their day was, then fix dinner together. One of the most common questions working parents ask is: "Will she remember me when I'm away all day," Brazelton said. His answer: "Ab-so-lute-ly."

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