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The Sex Talk


The Sex Talk

I will never forget being in elementary school and my mother sitting me down to have the dreaded sex talk.  I can still see her sitting in the brown chair of our living room and hear her speak those disturbing, scary words, like penis, vagina and babies coming out of it. Oh. My. God.  Is she really saying these things?  Make it stop, God, please, make it stop, I remember thinking.

So when my daughter asked me two years ago, at age 6, how babies are born, I took a deep breath, tried to de-flood my memories, and began a moderated explanation of how babies are made and born.  And I mean the basics. We were in the car, where of course, the best discussions take place, and as I explained the minimal details, my then 3 year old son burst into tears because he just found out that he, as a male, could not bear children on his own.  So after diffusing that meltdown, again, all in the car, went back to explaining the facts of life.  And the inevitable question, “So you did that with Daddy twice?”  I think I’m sweating at this point. “Yup.” I reply.  No need to go further. Thankfully, when it came to the “any other questions?” portion of the discussion, they were satisfied with my response, or thoroughly confused.

A few weeks ago, the topic came up again, oddly enough, in the car.  My daughter, now age 8, had some questions on how babies were born.  This time, she wanted more detail. As I began my straight to the point, without having any idea how to pretty it up, explanation, I used the words penis and vagina.  “What’s a vagina?” She asked.  How on Earth does she not know what a vagina is (maybe because even as I write this, I am uncomfortable even saying it in my head).  And then it dawned on me that if and when I have ever used the word, it was quickly said and with fleeting meaning.  So I tell her it’s another word for her “privacy” as my husband so gently refers to our personal parts.  “Oh, okay.” She is unfazed and uncaring, as it’s just another word to her.  Just another word, just another explanation of life’s mysteries, no big thang.

So of course, because she is emotionally unfazed, I feel the need to go into detail on when grown ups have sex and why and limit the why to having babies and sharing love.  I mean, why else would you do that?  And that seemed to satisfy her.  For now.  Part of me wants her to ask more questions and the other part of me wants to put up a soundproof cabbie window between us to make it stop. But she has no other questions, it’s not an important part of her life. She just wanted to know.

So why is it so uncomfortable for me to have “the sex talk” with my kids?  I have no problem sorting out every conversation they have with their friends and strangers, explaining the weight of their words and the way they say them, calling them out, and even myself out when we make mistakes.  I have no problem singing in front of them (although I’m pretty sure I should) or walking around with my hair sticking straight up for hours in the morning and wearing the same clothes for an entire weekend when I simply don’t feel like showering.  But talking to them about sex…..scary.

I think mostly its out of fear of making sure I say the right things. I want them to know the facts, but I want them to know the potential emotional impact of sharing your personal parts with another. I want them to understand the full meaning of respecting yourself and your body. I want them to understand the risks of STDs and unplanned pregnancy, but I don’t want them to be afraid either. And for the love of God, I don’t want them to look at me like a sexual being…I am their mother!! The same way I don’t want to think of my respected elders as being sexual beings.  Ewww….

All in one conversation.  Is this possible? Clearly, no.

The topic will come up again and hopefully many, many more times. I hope to be their trusted resource and if I’m not, I plan to be their forced resource.  Being their primary educator, I know it’s my job to give them the facts and explain the emotional piece as best I can.  They know me and they trust me.  I have even been around the block…but only twice.

And perhaps I’ll start throwing around body part names more frequently. When my son said “wenis” at the dinner table the other night, I corrected him and said “penis.” and he instantaneously laughed so hard he fell off the bar stool height chair of our new dining room set.  I mean hysterical.  Which made the rest of us hysterical.  Apparently, we have a long way to go.


Old School or New Age?


Old School or New Age?

Am I Old School or New Age?

I think about this a lot.  I am aware of my reputation among some friends to be a holistic or “spiritual,” thinker which I think is New Age or could also be Old School traditionalist, depending on your definition.

I believe in eating whole foods with the least amount of preservatives.  I made my children’s baby food at home, all organic, and some pretty odd concoctions that I couldn’t even stomach, just because they would eat it.  Tofu as finger food…gross. Am I Old School for wanting to eat homemade foods without preservatives or New Age with eating healthy whole foods without preservatives?

I don’t and haven’t eaten red meat since I was in the 7th grade. For my love of animals? No, because I was in love with the actor, River Pheonix and wanted to be prepared for when we met and I would be his perfect mate.  He later died of a heroin overdose.  Old school childhood obsession/rebellion or New Age vegetarianism of not eating mammals?

So far, I only allow my children to participate in one extracurricular activity per season.  I want them to play with their friends, outside/inside/upside down.  I want them to follow what they enjoy for an activity, but to do what they enjoy everyday without a goal or extra pressure.  I want them to play, build, run, create, and use their imaginations.  Is this an Old School “just go outside and play” vision, or New Age, “let them be who they are” belief?

I don’t do for my children what they can do for themselves.  They fold their laundry, put it away, and make their own lunches and snacks at times. They pick out their own clothes (but tend to need a lot of fashion tips), bathe themselves and do their own homework.  I want them to Depend on me to teach them Independence. I am here to support them and love them and show them exactly how responsible they can be. Is this an Old School non enabler belief or New Age self advocacy belief?

The belief to care for our children in the way that we deem fit doesn’t have to mold into a category to make it acceptable, but so often, we tend to group ideas and philosophies in order to make them “normal.”  Sometimes it feels like parenting could be one of those taboo topics at dinner parties that shouldn’t be spoken of…along with religion, politics and favorite sports teams.  Always at risk to draw judgment and controversy!

I don’t recall ever being questioned about my choices or judged by my actions to the same degree as when I made the choice to have children.  Once we walk into the arena where others have played, the advice and comments and questions on what and how we are doing things suddenly become so important to everyone, including us.  Not only do we feel judged by others, we are often judging ourselves, especially in the beginning, because it’s new territory and each child is so different.  It can be hard to sift through what we are offered with good intent versus criticism to determine which suggestions we’d like to examine. But until we try them for ourselves, we don’t know what will work or if it will work.

Many of my beliefs and ideas on childrearing have changed dramatically since my children came into my life.  What I swore I’d never do makes perfect sense to me now when I do it.  I know I am judged by the decisions I make for myself and my children; sometimes through others’ insecurities and sometimes by genuine concern.  It is up to us, the parents, to either let go of the judgment or embrace the underlying message.

I was a co-sleeping parent who could still hang with those who wouldn’t consider sleeping in the same room with their kids.  It worked for us. I was a breast feeding mama who hung out with formula fed kids.  I gave my babies pacifiers in the hospital within the first days of their life, something some of my closest friends wouldn’t have dreamed of.  I let my kids eat hot dogs outside our home, despite the internal and mental pain it creates in me…so much more gross than tofu. But, we try on what fits and when it works, we feel and look good!

At the end of the day, no matter which style you choose or which category you fall into, isn’t our goal all the same? To love our children, respect ourselves and do the best we can without a foolproof instruction manual.  We’re all in this together, right?  Or as my son would say “Tomaeto/Tomato” (phonically speaking).  Our love and dedication for our children is the same whether we make them eat dinner at the table or let them eat in front of the TV. We want the same thing for our kids.  To be healthy, responsible, respectful, the friend others want to have and to be happy and proud of who they are and what they do.

So am I Old School or New Age? You can be the judge, it doesn’t matter.  In the end, its all the same.


The Puppet Master


The Puppet Master

Do you sometimes find yourself trying to control every movement your child makes, the words that come out of their mouth and how they are said? Do you expect them to do exactly as you say and become exasperated when they don’t follow your lead?  Wouldn’t it be easier to raise a puppet that you could control?

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned as a school counselor is that I have no control over my students’ behavior.  The most difficult lesson I’ve learned as a parent is that I have no control over my children’s behavior.

It’s quite a concept.

Once they make their way into our world as newborns, we are in control of what they eat and how often they eat, but not how often they cry to let us know they are hungry.  We are in control of how much we change their diaper, but not how much they soil it.  When they are toddlers, we are in control of their nap time, but not if they actually sleep. We are in control of taking them out of situations when they are throwing a temper tantrum, but not if they have one or not.  When they are in school, we encourage them to consistently participate, do their homework and appreciate the value of education, but we do not control whether they actually do it.

We do our best to manipulate the situations, taking things away, offering solutions, creating rules and boundaries, all of which are imperative, but we do not control whether or not they respond to our manipulation and consequences, no matter how well crafted they may be.

The worst part is when they discover that they are in control and we’re not ready to give up our puppeteer gig.  For me, my first lesson was potty training. It was torture.  Both my kids were two when they started and both kids were three when they ended.  I had an agenda and for some reason (my guess is two years of built up resentment of me trying to control them), they did not adhere to my expectations.  I would say go, they would say no.  They went on the potty when they wanted to and didn’t when they didn’t.  We tried EVERYTHING to manipulate them, read all the books, tried all the tactics and then when they decided they were ready, on their terms, they were officially “trained.” I remember being at my wits end with my daughter and going to visit my grandmother and saying to her, “Well, Grammie Button does not allow diapers in her house, so you will have to wear underwear and she does not allow pee on her floor.”  She replied “okay” and that was it.  No accidents, no problems, no pee outside the potty.  She respected her great grandmother and wanted to please her and that was enough to change her behavior.  How I had wished I had tried that tactic earlier! But it wasn’t for me to control, it was for me to offer opportunities for her to decide what worked for her.

I counsel parents in my job equally as much as their children.  The most typical concern I hear is that they can not control their child’s motivation to do school work and are looking for ways to “make” them do what they want them to do.  I used my potty training woes to let them know I could relate. They used to laugh, but really, the issues were the same.  We expect a certain behavior or reaction from our children and when we don’t get it, we question everything we are doing wrong and relentlessly try to find ways to control our children to respond in a way we are comfortable with.

We have the illusion of control and for a long time, most of them buy into this illusion, until one day they discover the truth that they are in fact in control of what they do, think and say.  Sometimes they embrace this reality in a way we want them to and sometimes they throw this reality back in our faces and torment us.

And here’s the hardest part, we are frustrated by our inability to control them, yet isn’t independence the end goal?  Do we want our children to feel controlled by those around them, rely on others to think for them, respond for them and tell them what to do or do we want our children to think independently, question their influences and be in control of their own lives?  The puppet strings are attached to help support them in the beginning, but need to be cut so they can walk on their own.

Personally, I want to direct my children’s thoughts, feelings and actions up until the point that they have “perfected” the way I want them to react to life and then I will set them free and let them live on their own.  Probably age 25 or so.  But since, I’m pretty sure they are going to discover their personal freedom well before then, I am trying to really hard to accept this reality.

So if we don’t have control, what do we have? The simple answer…Faith.

Faith that we are doing what we can to teach our children what works.  Faith that they will make decisions that benefit them and keep them healthy, safe and happy.  Faith that when something doesn’t work for them, they will learn what does, with or without our support.  The more we lack faith, the more we want to control. The more we try to control what we can not, the more frustrated we become.  And the cycle continues.

But faith we can do. We may have to practice to recognize it, but we live it everyday. Its part of our life’s show.  We can control our own strings and our own performance, with the intent of  influencing our audience along the way, but we have to believe without knowing that their will be another night to perform and they will always come back for more.


Festivus for the Rest of Us


Festivus for the Rest of Us

As I was filling out the religious exemption form for immunizations, so my son would be able to attend kindergarten, I wondered which formalized religion I was following to “ethically” do this.  I sent a text to a few of my super smart friends and asked what the name of my religion was.  The most immediate response came from my brilliant friend, Bevin.


Of course!! Festivus for the Rest of Us. Thank you, yet again, Seinfeld (and Bevin) for putting the rules of society into perspective.

I am not at all against immunizations, but I am against someone else telling me what I am lawfully bound to put into my child’s body.  I am a very health conscious person who monitored what was going into my child’s body in utero and after birth, right up until he went on his first play date.  I breastfed and made my children’s baby food so I knew exactly what they were ingesting.  Good nutrition and their health has always been a priority to me.

I am aware that immunizations are wonderful and have helped protect many from contracting awful diseases and illnesses.  We are fortunate to have them available to us in our country. We are also fortunate to have freedom of choice, which to me means I get to choose if and when my child is immunized.  And by the way, I do immunize my children, just not with every one, nor on the same pre established developmental time table.

Although I do not own a Festivus pole, I most certainly have participated in the Airing of Grievances, perhaps more than is required.  When it comes to protecting my family, I plan to win the Feats of Strength every time. (You really need to be a Seinfeld fan to appreciate this) But more importantly, I have firm and valuable personal beliefs which don’t fit into one particular formalized religion.  Does this make my secular viewpoint unimportant or unworthy of being recognized? Of course not. We all have a right to feed our beliefs with passion, especially when their intent is to help, serve or protect others.

How I choose to raise and protect my children is my religion.  It is my belief system in which I have strong faith that I am on the path of what is right and true for me.  As with every religion, I will be judged for what I do and what I don’t do and for what I believe and what I don’t believe and that’s okay.  I am perfectly content to own my thoughts, feelings and actions and know that what I believe in works for me.  And if I find that something is not working, I will assess and regroup and search for the next belief that fits my mold, because I can.

My son is now happily enjoying kindergarten and I am happy that Festivus allowed us the freedom to ensure his right to attend public school.  I can only hope his kindergarten teacher feels the same…


To Work or Not to Work, That is the Question


To Work or Not to Work, That is the Question

To work or not to work, that is the question.

As I write this, I am blissfully sitting with my children on the beach of my town’s lake, listening to happy children splash in the water with the sun shining brightly and the smell of lathered sunscreen everywhere.  I love summer and I love not working.

Now yesterday, when I was up at 6:00 a.m., out for a run, two loads of laundry deep, traveling to the dentist, grocery store, farm stand and then on to pick strawberries, build a lemonade stand and prepare for a low key end of the year party at my house in the evening, I wondered if this is the life for me.  By the end of the day, my “real” job seemed relaxing and stress free.

First, I have to admit, I am incredibly lucky to not work in the summer.  However, I also have to say, I chose much of my luck. I knew before children I would want to be with them as much as I could, so choosing a counseling profession where I had the same school hours as them made sense.  And this profession required 7 years of full time college, so hard work and sacrifice also came into play.

When I had my first baby, I loved her beyond measure and agonized over the idea of returning to work. Even though nature and proactive planning allowed me four months of maternity leave, it did not lessen my working mother’s guilt an ounce.

Yet, I went back to work, stressing over daycare costs and feeling the need to spend every moment with my child.  Even though she was happy, well adjusted and would go to just about anyone, I worried.  It was completely my issue.  But we needed the money and couldn’t possibly survive on one income.  Until we did.

My husband unexpectedly lost his job when my son was 1 and my daughter 4.  Due to the loss of income, we opted to have him stay home with the children.  And by the way, he was an AWESOME stay at home dad or Daddy Daycare, as he preferred.  He even became our friends back up childcare in times of need.  But we had done the math prior to the job loss and it would never work. But work we made it, for two full years.

Making it work was not easy.  We debated and number crunched.  We looked at both long term and short term goals.  We knew we’d give up salary potential, as well as retirement investments to make the decision to stay home.  The debates were not balanced and neither were the sacrifices.  Making it work included both of us working part time jobs for extra income and getting rid of our extra cable channels,  land line telephone and any other “unnecessary” expenses we could think of.  The two years my husband stayed home with the children were years he could not get back, with a job or with the children.  We had to decide which years were more important to lose. In the end, the children won, their years were precious and their development fast paced.

My husband relished in his time home with kids. He grew a bond with his children he may have never experienced otherwise.  They had their own jokes and rituals and TV shows they shared.  Although when I came home to my 5 year daughter singing the theme song to “The Nanny” and “The Golden Girls,” I did seriously question calling around town for daycare openings.  But the truth was, they loved it.  And I loved knowing they were home with their Dad.  Those two years flew by and once my daughter began full time school, my husband began full time work, and the craziness began again.

The decision to work when you have kids can be a tough one.  Or not tough at all when you are a single parent.  But none the less, both jobs are a challenge!  Personally, I feel like I get the best of both worlds.  I love getting paid to help people, truly love it. I also love adult conversation and friends laughing at my dumb, yet highly intellectual jokes…actually I need it!  I love getting a paycheck to help pay for my home and the clothes on our backs and internet on my phone, I simply can’t go back!

I also love being home and bringing my kids to the lake, the playground,  local farms, museums and picnicking as often as possible.  And now that they are well out of diapers and can pack their own bags, I appreciate it even more!

When I’m home full time with my children, I greatly appreciate that I know what they are thinking, how they are feeling and what is influencing their day.  It’s always strange to me when they start school and begin a new life on their own without me. I am left with holding on to faith that all will be well.

Each job has its challenges.  During the school year I agonize over bills, not enough time with the kids and when I will have a few minutes or an hour to myself.  When I’m not working, I agonize over my kids arguing, having too much time with them, wondering what “productive” feels like, and when I will have a few minutes or an hour to myself.

But the good news, no matter what, it always works out.  This is a natural fact and one we can hold on to.  It doesn’t mean that life doesn’t get hard, but it does mean that we can always make it better depending on the choices we make for ourselves and the way we view a situation.  My husband was devastated when he lost his job, but we chose to make it work to our advantage and created a positive experience for our family.  We took a gamble, won all our money back and made enough for a pizza on a Friday night.   Most often, it really all boils down to perspective and how we adapt to change.  And let’s face it, life is one big transition day after day!

So to work or not to work?  The real question is how will you make it work for you?


Mother’s Intuition


Mother’s Intuition

I knew my child’s pediatrician was a living, breathing reincarnated saint when I first heard him say to me, “trust your mother’s intuition, it is always right.”  Thank goodness he had recognized my brilliance! Now I wouldn’t have to explain in detail why every book I had used to research my daughter’s current symptoms suggested that she did not have the asthma she had been previously diagnosed with and I would no longer be medicating her.

When he gave me permission to make decisions that felt right to me, I knew a door had been opened that I never realized had been closed before.  Trust myself.  I may actually know what I’m doing.

If Mother’s Guilt is a disease, Mother’s Intuition is its cure. Since our child’s birth, we look to outside resources for our information and answers.  Tell us how to make the baby stop crying. Tell us how to know when they’ve had enough to eat.  As they start toddler hood and preschool, tell us if they are developing on track with their peers and tell us the signs to know if they will be serial killers.  Early detection is the key.

Throughout their school years, we look to books, teachers, doctors, counselors, friends, and for some, police officers, to get a stronger impression of our child. Who are they and how can we best support them through their development? We are constantly asking ourselves, am I doing this right? I am suggesting, instead of asking “am I doing this right?”,ask “does what I’m doing feel right?”  You know how to answer that question. It’s the feeling in your gut, the gnawing knowledge you don’t always give recognition. It’s real and it’s yours.  We all have it and have experienced its power, but sometimes, we forget to rely on it and sometimes we forget to allow ourselves to trust what we already know.

If it wasn’t for my Mother’s Intuition, I could have lost my son a couple of years ago at a family party.  As I sat talking to a cousin on the back deck, I randomly interrupted her as I was overcome with a feeling to check on my son.  When he wasn’t in the bouncy house where he was last seen by at least 15 family members, the hunt went out to find him. He was found 10 minutes later, hysterical and overheated locked in a parked car in front of the house on a very warm day.  Mother’s Intuition does not know good manners.  It rudely interrupted my cousin. It does not look for other’s opinions or even ask if we think we are right.  It blatantly tells us how we feel and we can respond accordingly…or not.

By the way, I know we call it Mother’s Intuition because Mom’s rock, but Dad’s have it too and we need to give a little credit where it’s due.  As a counselor, I have worked with some of the best, in tune Dad’s who have no idea just how impressive they are.  Another reason I really believe in reincarnation.  They clearly must have been women in their past lives.

Now the one thing Mother’s Intuition will not give you is a direct list of options to your long list of questions.  But it will tell you when you’ve picked the one that works best for you and your situation. So go ahead, give it a try and Trust Yourself.  There’s a really good chance you may actually know what you’re doing.


“You Get What You Get and You Don’t Get Upset”


“You Get What You Get and You Don’t Get Upset”

“You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”

I don’t actually know where this originated from, but for my children, it was their Auntie Tara, my best friend, who coined the phrase which became our mantra last summer, for the grandiose act of selecting a popsicle. If you pulled out a green, you get a green. If you pull out a red, you get a red. That’s just the way it is. You’re lucky you’re getting a popsicle.

And then it moved onto snack choices or the type of juice that came in the coveted drink box. My children would chant this phrase often to each other when one of them would snub an option that seemed lesser than what they were willing to accept. They were teaching each other the power of acceptance in times of disappointment, an invaluable lesson in the realities of life. You do get what you get and you don’t get upset. Actually, you can and often do get upset, but it’s not going to get you anywhere, another irritatingly valuable lesson.

With childrearing, this lesson is the same, yet can be quite challenging to accept. We begin with expectations for the pregnancy, what the symptoms are and sensations and then compare with everyone we know who is or has been pregnant. After birth, we watch for their steady progression in development and inadvertently start comparing each of their stages to every child we encounter and every chart our pediatrician has. If and when the next child comes, we are constantly comparing their development to the first and how one is so different than the other and how miraculous it is that they share the same genes. We are constantly comparing and contrasting our children to every child and “norm” around them, trying to feel out what characteristics, types of intelligences, and skills we want for them versus what we don’t want. At some point, we either acknowledge that they are who they are and we are okay with that or that they are not what we expected nor how we want them to be and we are hell bent on re-sculpting them. After all we did make them and we should be able to reshape them into our own works of art. If only the stork knew to deliver us clay instead of talking, thinking beings, we’d be all set.

In my professional experience as a counselor, the most frustration I hear from parents occurs when their children are not meeting the expectations they have for them. In my personal experience, the most frustration I feel occurs when my children are not meeting the expectations I have for them. Coincidence?

Let’s face it, when we don’t get what we want and expect, it’s annoying. If you were holding out for the red popsicle, but orange was the only color left, you’d be disappointed, but you really wanted a popsicle, so you take it. It’s still refreshing and gives you the gratification you were looking for, it’s just a different flavor than you originally requested.

When you opted to have a child, you asked for the star running back for the football team, you ended up with the president of the drama club, both with great leadership potential, but different. What makes one better than the other? How we choose to view it.

Maybe you asked for the salutatorian, because really the valedictorian has way too much pressure, so you lowered your expectations just for your child, after all you don’t want to ask too much. And then you ended up with the child who thought community college was a better match for them to strive for and they wanted to save you $120,000 in college tuition. Your child doesn’t want to ask for too much either.

I asked for a respectable member of the community who uses good manners and has excellent social skills. I ended up with a child who runs through the grocery store like a wild beast and touches every item on the shelves 35 seconds after promising he would choose good behaviors. But when he asks if he can have a treat for being such a good boy, he always says “please.”

I believe it can be advantageous to ask where our expectations come from. Are they social norms and standards we are striving for them to meet? Or are they dreams and goals we created for them that they don’t seem to share? Either way, they are still ours and not theirs. That doesn’t mean we should change them, it just means we can acknowledge where they came from and assess their merit and the level of effort needed to teach them if they are indeed worth it.

If you wanted your child to play soccer because you were a soccer player, but your child would rather sit on the side lines and draw, fine. Let them try soccer for a couple of seasons (sometimes they don’t realize what a great sport it is until 3 years later), and let all your relatives know that drawing pads and colored pencils are the greatest gift they could give. And when your child “accidentally” pops their soccer ball with a kitchen knife and they just can’t go to practice without it, call it a day and consider letting it go. You both gave it a shot. Feed your expectation, but don’t starve your child when they don’t want to pick out the same item on the menu that you want.

Speaking of food, I am super conscientious about what I buy and serve my children, but I must admit, my kids turned me on to popsicles last summer…even sometimes the ones with high fructose corn syrup…shhhh. Because of their insistence, I truly do not care which flavor I get. I do still have my preferences, but I am learning to adapt to all flavors and brands. And I am slowly discovering, that no matter what, popsicles are great and I’m lucky to get one at all.


The Curse of Mother’s Guilt


The Curse of Mother’s Guilt

“If Momma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy”

There are hundreds and hundreds of pregnancy and baby books which guide you through the trials of pregnancy and living with a newborn, giving you every scenario of the excitement of your growing baby and the intense fear of everything that could go wrong. They cover every aspect of prenatal health and the postnatal care down to learning how to teach your muscles how to support your bladder for long term comfort and deciphering what every coo stands for in your newborn cherub. There’s advice on breastfeeding, post partum blues, twelve different forms of diaper rash and survival tips for living sleep deprived and feeling like mush. Yet the one fact that we are kept sheltered from is the warm introduction to our new lifelong companion, Mother’s Guilt.

Mother’s Guilt is one of the most powerful emotions you will ever experience which follows you around like your first boyfriend who just seemingly hit puberty. And not normal guilt like you did something wrong and were aware of it; useless guilt for not being in the same room when your baby opened their eyes alone or when they still seem hungry after they ate and you were ill prepared to meet their momentary whim. Guilt that you have to work to keep clothes on their back and a roof over their head. Guilt that you stay home with them and don’t love every minute of it. Guilt that they cry when you are not around and guilt that they do cry when you are around and you can’t soothe them. Useless, unnecessary guilt that grows stronger and more pronounced as they do.

When I first had my babies, I rarely left the house outside of work. I felt like I couldn’t leave them because no one could care for them as well as I could. Plus, I worked and oh the guilt that came with that—wow! I felt I had to compensate for my absence by filling our time together with meaningful activities and joyous outings. My time spent with friends was usually limited to play dates. My life was not my own; it was theirs. I was a slave to making sure they had everything I thought they needed. My husband regularly encouraged me to get out more, but I rarely took his advice. Instead, I built up resentment towards him because he seemed to live his life so freely and I was holding on to my guilt of not being everything for my children and slowly losing my identity of who I thought I was.

I am well aware of the fact that in order to effectively take care of someone else, you must first take care of yourself. I have offered that knowledge to others and meant it. But it wasn’t until I started living it myself that I discovered it really is true.

I started to take care of myself by learning to trust that my children would be okay without my watchful eye and acknowledging that I was not the end all be all for them. I began to attend “Book Club,” and “Ladies Night” and added in regular dinner dates with friends. It was time for me to be me and relinquish my role as mommy for a few moments to role of woman who has a brain and interests outside of managing every aspect of my child’s wellbeing. And an amazing thing occurred, I was re introduced to a friend I forgot how much I once liked and respected, ME!

As our child’s primary educators in life we are teaching them the importance of taking care of ourselves by our example and the satisfaction that comes with it. We need to train them and ourselves that the word “selfish” does not have to come with a negative connotation. We are teaching our children our values within our absence. When I go to the gym, my kids learn that I value health and wellness. When I go out with my friends, they learn the value of maintaining friendships and the necessity of tending to their growth. When I go to work, they learn the value of getting an education which allows me to work in a job that I enjoy. If we want our children to grow up to be individuals we must teach them that we too are individuals AND be okay with it.

Now my Mother’s Guilt has me playing legos for longer than I’d like and having a picnic dinner on the living room floor because its “fun,” but it feels much more manageable since I have found its natural remedies which are following my personal values and Mother’s Intuition to know when I am doing what is best for my child. I am still the greatest mother in the world to them because I want to be there and I want to take care of them, which makes balance that much easier.

As our children grow, so do their problems and our insecurities on how to handle them. We will always have questions on how to solve these problems, as we should. How do we know if we are doing it right unless we’ve done it wrong? Let go of the guilt and hold on to the faith that together, you will get it right.