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Kiss Mommy Guilt Goodbye

Guilt Trip: Not wanting to play more

Somewhere along the line, "playmate" became another facet of the mom job description. But in today's crazy-busy life, slowing down is hard enough, and slowing down to play yet another game of Little Mermaid and the Princess Ponies is -- well, it takes a saint.

Give yourself a break: First, reconcile yourself to the happy fact that children don't need to be entertained their every waking hour (least of all by you). And when you do decide to spend time with them, really do so, even if it's only for half an hour. Focus on what you're doing, rather than on the to-do list in your mind.

"When my husband plays with the kids, instead of thinking 'How much longer do I have to do this?' he tells himself that he will just be in the moment, and he says it works great," says Jacqueline Mroz, a mom of three sons in Montclair, New Jersey. "So I tried it, too, and he's right!"

Remember also that your mom probably didn't get down on the floor with you all that often -- and she didn't feel guilty about it. I've always told my kids, only half joking, that I am not the fun parent. Daddy will play crocodile with them all day, but I'm too busy keeping them well fed and reasonably well groomed and chauffeuring them all around town. They seem to accept this as gospel -- and, yes, sometimes I break out and surprise myself, to their total delight.

Finally, realize that you do a lot for your child every single day. "At the end of the day, I try to tell myself, here are five things I did that my kids loved," says Pamela Anderson, a mom of two in Coronado, California. "You do the best you can on all fronts and try to ignore the rest."

Guilt Trip: Not wanting sex

"Having been in contact with small bodies all day long, I just don't want physical contact with another body at the end of the day, when I'm totally exhausted," says Mara Collins, a mom of four in Portland, Oregon. "My husband knows intellectually where I'm coming from, but there's the other side of him that feels rejected and hurt. And that just makes me feel worse."

Give yourself a break: Sometimes guilt is a necessary emotion -- it serves as an internal alarm that something may be amiss. The tricky part is knowing when to tune in to the feeling and when to tune it out.

No one is saying that feeling touched-out isn't valid. But before any misunderstanding snowballs, communicate: Tell your husband how tired you really are, even if you're sure that he already knows.

And at some point, you'll have to rally and communicate in that other way, for the good of your union. "When I say 'no' one too many times, we get into this negative-feedback loop," says Collins. "But it only takes once to get back on track. Being physical with each other keeps our connection strong, and it's worth it in the longer run. I try to remember that."

Yes, we all know about date nights -- but who can afford a regular one these days? So do what my friend Lynne Matlock does. "Sometimes we'll order takeout and have it delivered after the kids are asleep," says the Long Beach, California, mom, whose two kids go to bed at 7:30 sharp (she thanks her husband for that).

"We eat it by candlelight. Not only do we get to be together, but we also feel like we're getting away with something -- like teenagers!"