Feel guilty when you put your feet up to watch a new episode of Trading Spaces? How about when you down a whole candy bar -- or you stay out a little later than usual with your book-club pals (or even wish you belonged to a book club)? Guilty again? Time to stop. Turns out that some of the things you think are self-indulgent are actually good for you (and your kids too):
Fantasizing During Sex
It can be good for your marriage. "It's fine to design scenarios in your head to move your arousal up a notch or bring yourself over the edge," says Susan Perry, Ph.D., social psychologist and author of Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way. Also, when you fantasize, you take fuller responsibility for your own satisfaction rather than resent that your partner sometimes can't make it happen. "It's nothing to feel guilty about, so long as your fantasies aren't regularly about someone who might become a threat to your relationship if you took real action," Perry says. Jude Law: harmless!
Hooray -- it's good for you! (Well, sort of.) "Chocolate has more antioxidant power than many nutritious foods, such as strawberries, blueberries, and garlic," says Jackie Newgent, a registered dietitian in New York City. Believe it or not, you'd have to eat a whole pound of strawberries to get the antioxidants in 2.3 ounces of dark chocolate. Just don't go loco: We're not saying you should swap strawberries for candy bars. The fruit has more nutrients and a lot less fat and fewer calories, and it's much more filling. But you can stop feeling guilty when you have dessert. Thank goodness.
"I used to think that chocolate was taboo," says Terra Wellington, a mom of three in Phoenix. "I was so self-conscious about my weight that the thought of even one bite would scare me. But I realized that no food is the enemy as long as you control your portions. I satisfy my cravings with a few Hershey's kisses a day."
Leaving Your Child at Home
"Getting a babysitter, even if it's just to run errands, helps me regroup, and it gets my kids used to being around other people," says Jill Lewis, a mom of three, ages 5, 3, and 1, in New York City. "They also learn things that they wouldn't from me. Two of our regular sitters are budding artists -- I could never dream up the projects they do with my five-year-old."
Don't feel bad about having a sitter come in for a few hours, even if it's only so you can buy lettuce in peace. It's better for everybody, really. "Many moms might not think to leave their child unless it's for an evening out. But having someone sit while you get things done on occasion is amazingly therapeutic," says Peggy Alvarado, a mom of two in Manalapan, New Jersey, and a parent coach who helps new moms and dads adjust to life with kids. "Because so many child-related tasks seem never-ending, the sense of accomplishment can really keep your stamina up, and your child would surely rather be doing something other than all those errands."
Eating Because You're Happy or Sad
Comfort food gets such a bad rap. It's okay to eat "bad" stuff sometimes -- and yes, even when you're not really hungry. It helps keep you from feeling deprived, says Marsha Hudnall, program director of Green Mountain at Fox Run, a women's lifestyle retreat in Ludlow, Vermont. Of course, if you frequently eat for emotional reasons -- because you're feeling sad or bored, for instance -- it's important to explore why and find other ways to cope. Otherwise, eating in a basically healthy way on a regular basis means you're free to eat a plate of french fries on a Friday night (or Wednesday afternoon) just because you're in the mood -- or just because they taste so good. So dig in, and hold the guilt.
Having a Hobby
Even if it means less time with your child, do what you love. You don't have to put aside a hobby or interest because you're a mom. It can be something you work on at home: Sarah Kearney of Portland, Oregon, does needlepoint while her 2-year-old, Phoebe, watches DVDs. Or it can take you out of the house: Kathy Waugh of Ann Arbor, Michigan, loves to act and recently performed in a local amateur production of Chicago. What matters isn't what you choose to do, but that it makes you feel like you again. You'll feel rejuvenated by it -- and end up a much happier mom for your kids. "It's amazing what working out at a health club does for my peace of mind," says Teresa DeSimone, a mom of three kids under 6 in Prior Lake, Minnesota. "I feel great by the time I get home to my family."
Seeing funny shows on the tube releases tension and makes people feel happier, a recent study finds. So go ahead and tune in to some Will & Grace therapy, and stop worrying that it's bad for you. "To chill out, I often watch a couple of hours of TV on the weekend," says Ponteir Sackrey of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a mom of two. "Frankly, I find it quite restorative. I feel refreshed when I return to work on Monday, and not running around seeking 'fulfilling' activities has been a relief."
Dropping Out of Yoga or Spinning
You heard it here: It's okay to forget about a form of exercise you really don't like. Despite its popularity, "om-ing" isn't for everyone. If the only reason you're doing yoga -- or running on a treadmill, or taking a spinning class -- is because you think you should, ditch it and find a workout you actually enjoy. "When people ask me what the best exercise is, I always ask, 'What keeps you coming back for more?'" says Neil Maki, a spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise. "Despite TV testimonials and fitness trends, there is no ultimate workout. Do what you truly like, and you'll lose the baby fat." It doesn't matter if you end up dancing, biking, or jumping on a mini-trampoline. If it's fun, go for it. If the shoe doesn't fit, it's time to move on.
Anna Roufos writes for Glamour, Fitness, and Self.