The Realities of Mom Guilt: Finding Ways to Take Time for Me

The Realities of Mom Guilt: Finding Ways to Take Time for Me

I'm slowly learning it isn't selfish to take a time-out.

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My husband and I celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary this past August. As soon as the summertime hit, we started thinking of places that we could go to celebrate. Since we had our first child in 2014, we have not gone off by ourselves for longer than one night, and even that was a staycation at a nearby hotel to celebrate our 7-year wedding anniversary. So, we knew we wanted to go somewhere grand and we wanted to go there alone. This was our chance to get away, we told ourselves. We need time to reset and reconnect, after all. We were "us" before we were "mom and dad" and tapping back into that side of ourselves is healthy, after all.

Or, so we thought. We finally decided on Hawaii after going back and forth on Key West for a few weeks. Yet, as I started to research the islands, watch tourism videos and learn more about things to do, I found myself becoming increasingly disheartened. There were waterfalls galore, beautiful, sprawling beaches and all the snorkeling you could ever hope to do. In short, it was looking like a kid's dream. I just imagined myself driving solo with my husband along the famed Road to Hana, looking out at all of those gorgeous vistas, and thinking to myself "Wow, the kids would really have loved this." That's when the guilt started to creep in and I began second-guessing everything.

Next, my youngest child, our two-year-old son, started seriously potty training this week. The transition has been a timely and needed one and I don't think anyone was as ready for it as I was, but it came with its own set of challenges. I don't know if it's this new stage or the buzz-cut haircut his papa gave him on the side porch last week, but I can tell my boy needs me more than ever before. Always my best, champion sleeper, he has started crying out for me all throughout the night. He's begged to crawl into my bed, for me to lie on the carpet outside of his crib and hold his hand through the slats. To rock him just a little while longer in our old threadbare rocking chair so I can smooth his hair back and tell him all about the big day he will have tomorrow.

These kids of requests and demands are supposed to drive me up the wall. I'm supposed to be aggravated by the neediness and stressed out by the lack of personal space. Instead, I find myself leaning heavily into it. I lay beside the crib on a makeshift palette until I fall asleep myself, my arm going numb between the crib slats. I leave one kid's room for another, where a stack of books is waiting beside a sleepy, smiling daughter who wants just one or five more bedtime stories. I do it all, gratefully, happily, like it's the most natural and wonderful thing in this world, because for me, it really is.

This is the season of life I'm in right now. I'm a mama. Before this, I was a young professional, the only female and only person under the age of 40 at my technical writing firm uptown. Before that, I was a long-time student and newlywed. I've been an artist, a shop owner, a vintage clothing enthusiast and a cheerleader. I've lived many variations of my life and changed constantly. Throughout, I've embraced all of these points in my life as integral cornerstones to my story. I don't want to be anywhere other than where I am now, needed by tiny hands who will all too soon not want to hold mine any longer.

Yet, there is a tiny part of me that does still want to go on this getaway. I've been looking for ways to truly understand the guilt that accompanies the need for time alone, especially for stay-at-home-moms who have wrapped this identity so fully around themselves it feels like a familiar, favorite blanket. How to I pry my fingers away from a clutched grasp, then slip off to devour fresh pineapple, shave ice and sunsets without feeling a little selfish? The answer is "I'm not sure, but I'm going to learn." I know there are so many ways to vacation with your brood. You can camp with kids, take them on epic airplane adventures, go on exciting hikes and so much more. I can't wait to do those things and to show them the world. I want them to get out from behind their favorite cartoons and look up, look out.

I want them to breathe fresh mountain air and get their toes wet in the Pacific ocean. One of my most cherished memories is going to the Grand Canyon with my family when I was 11. It was the most beautiful thing my eyes had ever seen and I felt so incredibly small against it. I want my kids to feel that way, to gain that perspective. I want all of these things for them and yet, I'm not certain they're ready for them. They are two and four and still very much finding their identity and their comfort within our cozy home.

So, I'll feel the guilt momentarily. I'm sure the airport drop-off will see me weep with concern, confusion and gratitude for the mothers in my life who are making this all possible. Yet, I hope that as that plane takes off for the island, and my hometown becomes a speck on the horizon, I can learn to embrace this time away as an investment in myself and in my marriage. I'll come back fresher, renewed and ready to tackle this parenting gig like never before. Because as amazing as Hawaii will be and how much I'm truly looking forward to it, there really is no place like home and there's no role I cherish more than this one.

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The 20 Stages Of Instagram-Stalking Your Crush, As Told By 'Mean Girls'

Whether you love the presence of technology in your dating life or not, it's probably there.

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Far too often we wait for that follow request or Snapchat add to know that a boy is interested. We look to those notifications for validation of that mutual interest.

There is nothing quite like the freaking treasure trove that opens when a crush approves your follow request(or maybe you're silently looking if he is public). There is so much to do. This has now turned into an ~event~

All other priorities do. not. exist.

1. When he doesn't follow you back immediately

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Not mad, just disappointed. Actually, very mad. Seething, if you will. Honestly expected way more from Steve from Intro to Biology.

2. If he follows you first

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Hey! It's a little hard to see you down there since I'm ON CLOUD NINE RIGHT NOW!!! You text all your friends. These days, this is practically a marriage proposal. Time to start picking out wedding china? Can Vera Wang do this on such short notice?

3. If one of your friends also has a crush on him

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Sorry, Becky. Guess you'll just have to live with being a bridesmaid at our wedding.

4. If you don't follow him, but have a mutual friend who does: you ask them for screenshots

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He's private and you want to know what he is like without any consequences. You're just not ready to follow him yet, but you need some screenshots in your arsenal. This is case in point of why I should ABSOLUTELY not be considered a real adult for at least another five years.

5. Reading his bio

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The best thing it could be is just his name or school or maybe his frat. Or nothing if that is indicative of being a real live grownup who has a job(and I don't mean working at an IT start up your daddy found you). We don't really need an inspirational quote or something random that only two people understand. Your name is fine, thanks. Gentlemen, take a page out of Avril Lavigne's book and don't make everything so complicated.

6. Seeing how many followers he has

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This is something I don't really care about, but it can tell you a lot about the person. Like if they are a SoundCloud rapper trying to make it big and have clearly followed a ton of random people to try to get a follow back which has resulted in a sketchy follower-to-following ratio. If not, then they're probably normal.

7. Seeing how many photos he has

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There is nothing worse than thinking you are about to feast your eyes on all his photos only to discover that he has two photos and one is a group shot where his face is practically hidden. This will result in an hour of promising your friends that he is normal and good looking, despite what this feed might suggest.

8. Making sure he is not radiating jerk

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Saying "Saturdays are for the boys" is fine sometimes, but not every weekend. If he has more gym mirror selfies than the amount of Cosmopolitans Carrie Bradshaw has drank in her lifetime, it's time to move on. Unless you're working on a street corner, there is no need for you to be "just out here hustling/grinding."

9. Temptation to comment on a recent picture

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His hair looks really good! Or if he posts a picture of a party you saw him at this can be more tempting than buying cookies from Girl Scouts outside the grocery store. Resist, resist, resist.

10. Discovering you have a shared interest

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Oh my gosh, he went on spring break and you did too!! He went with ten friends to Panama City and you went home and ate Chinese food with your mom, but really, I don't see a difference there.

. 11. Stalking the most recent photo

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Is it with a girl? Is she prettier than you? If she commented an emoji it's freaking over. You sprint immediately to your closest grocery store and buy all the Ben and Jerry's.

12. Gathering of all the information

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Now we go into detective mode. Assuming at this stage that the dude actually had a decent amount of pictures, we now dig like Bob the Builder. We look for hobbies. We judge these hobbies. If you really like him, you concoct a plan to see how you can relate to these hobbies.

"Oh my gosh, I loveeeee fishing! I love it so much! Oh, you fish, you don't say? Look how much we have in common!"

13. Figuring out how close is he with his family

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Looking for how many times his parents surface on the IG. If you see he has siblings then if you are on a date one day you won't be trying to digest their names and ages, you'll already know. He will be blown away by your impeccable memory and interest in them.

14. Seeing something cool he did and becoming obsessed

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Maybe he studied abroad. All the heart eyes for the picture of him volunteering with Habitat for Humanity last April.

15. Pictures that make the world stop

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This might be him in a tux at a wedding with his grandma. It might be a swoon-worthy pic of him shirtless at the beach. It might be a picture of him and his wait for it… DOG and you die and blush and get so excited because you don't know what's cuter: him or the dog. These are the ones you screenshot for your friends.

16. All of a sudden it's been an hour

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You look at the clock, an hour has passed and you're in 2014. Great, now you know exactly what he wore to a middle school dance. Awesome!

17. When going into the tagged photos leads to being 3 people deep

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In tagged photos, you find previous girlfriends, and naturally, you have to stalk. Luckily, her account is public and you see that her best friend could easily be the next contestant on the Bachelor and probably win the whole thing. So you click on her profile and stalk her too. Then you see her boyfriend and look at his profile and feel genuinely hurt that you won't be getting an invite to their wedding.

18. Not blurting out everything the next time you see him

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You know you can absolutely NOT let on that you stalked him at all. Even though there were ten close calls, you did not accidentally like anything. Consider that a success. They should give out trophies for that. He doesn't need to know that you dropped your phone into the Oreo crumbs that were on your face at 2 a.m. As far as he knows, you simply approved his request and moved on with your life. If it comes up you should say "Oh, I didn't even remember we were friends on Instagram."

19. Crafting your first post with him being a follower

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It has to be hot, but it has to be effortless. You could do a selfie but you want him to know you have friends. But they can't look prettier than you. Should you be mysterious and post an artsy shot? Or post a travel throwback? *Books plane ticket to a cool destination just to take a pic he might like*

20. The first time he likes your post

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You feel like the definition of fabulous. A Snapchat is coming down the pike for sure. Ugh, how can you hate a culture and love it so much at the same time?

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On Growing Up: The Things You Suddenly Care About

I thought I knew it all. Then, I grew up, had babies, and found out I'm still learning.

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We celebrated New Year's Eve tonight with a few close friends. I could have said this exact same statement for the past 10 years, as we've done the same thing, with the same people, for a decade. At first, we all went out to eat at fancy restaurants. We were recently out of college, all newlyweds, with good-paying jobs and plenty of disposable income, with no one to spend it on besides ourselves.

We'd sit and talk for hours at dimly lit tables near the back of our favorite three steakhouses, chatting about everything and nothing all at once. We'd talk without fear of interruption and without keeping a close eye on the clock. Then, we'd head back to someone's townhome to pull out the champagne and toast to another year together.

Tonight was much like all of those other nights. We caught up, laughed and toasted. Only this time, we toasted at 7:00 in the evening rather than at midnight. We had dinner together, but it was pizza in our living room, surrounding by no less than six babies and toddlers alike. We navigated around toys, dolls, books and Legos to find a place to sit and our conversation, despite how we tried to steer it otherwise, inevitably landed on our child-rearing days. How do you get them to listen to you? Is she ready for preschool? How is potty training going for you guys? We compared notes, listened to hilarious anecdotes about life with tots, shared worries and told each other that we're all going to be just fine.

They left with a little sliver of the sunset still up and I was reminded that though there are many times when I still feel like that newlywed in her early twenties that I once was, I'm very much an adult now and suddenly, the things I care about look so much different. For instance, I spent 15 minutes yesterday comparing types of almond milk because since having my second, I haven't been able to tolerate dairy. I got legitimately excited about the 500-thread count sheets and pillow-top mattress cover that my mother-in-law gifted us for Christmas this year.

I care more about this week's cartoon lineup than my own shows because I know my three-year-old will want to watch the newest episode of Mickey Mouse after lunch on Wednesday. I can tell you all of the characters to every book they love. I know about things like which detergents are best for newborn onesies, what shampoos make their eyes sting even though they say tear-free, how to get pen marks out of a microfiber couch and which flavors of Gatorade will leave a mark on the rug and which won't.

I didn't sign up to learn these things. These are just the kinds of things you find yourself thinking about when you have a two-year old and a four-year-old living with you. While those points are trivial, they've also had me considering more deeply the really important parts of life. What do I want to do with my days, and who do I want to do it with? Do I look at a screen too much and if so, how can I better focus my attention toward them? Is public school enough or should I consider homeschooling or a private school education? Do we live too close to the road or should we move to that family property that sits back in the woods? If we choose the latter, do we leave it as is, or install things like a paved driveway or solar panels to make it more long-lasting and kid-friendly?

I don't pretend to know all of the answers, and I think that's the beauty of it. It's also ironic. When you become an adult, and especially once you have kids, the things you thought you cared about suddenly seem small and your prior concerns are replaced with much bigger ones that leave you awake at night wondering if you'll ever really feel confident that you got it right. At the same time, the journey is the revelation. As we seek to better understand, to learn it all and to be the best we can, that's where the real growth takes place.

I'm excited that I get to experience that alongside these little people who call me "mama." I'm glad that my days don't look like they used to and my nights are certainly different, too. Growing up is hard and there are many times I think I'm likely doing it incorrectly, but if tonight was any indication, I'm not in this boat alone. We all have our doubts, our insecurities and our inadequacies. We're all wondering, both aloud and to ourselves, if the way we're going is the right way. When we share that with one another, there's solidarity. There's the comfort that says, "I see you, and I'm here for you. Let's tackle this together."

So maybe I think too much about things I shouldn't or I know too much about things that won't matter five years from now. Today, however? I'm well-versed in adulthood and parenthood and there's nothing else I'd rather be learning.

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