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Kiss Mommy Guilt Goodbye

Guilt Trip: Wishing you were free

When Christina Bess's kids were 2 years old and 10 months old, she was invited to spend a week in London with a girlfriend from graduate school. "She had a hotel room all paid for by her employer -- all I had to do was buy my plane ticket." But the prospect of leaving her kids at that point struck her as outrageous. "I thought, 'How can I do this? Something terrible will happen!'"

Who among us hasn't wanted to simply walk away from the sleep deprivation and the crying and the chaos -- at least sometimes -- and then felt guilty about feeling that way? But this is an example of guilt trying to tell you something: It's important to take some time for yourself to recharge.

Give yourself a break: The experts all agree -- schedule regular "you" time, and keep it sacred. "I write in the mornings and I exercise a few afternoons a week," says Collins. "That's my time, and my family knows that if I get to do that, then I'm a nicer mommy to everyone."

Caroline Poser, a mom of three in Groton, Massachusetts, recently declined to teach Sunday school in her kids' class at her church. Instead, she joined the choir. "I go to church for myself, too, and I want to enjoy it," she says. "We're supposed to feel guilty if we don't make the 'right' decision, but I realized I need to take care of myself as a person, not just as a mommy."

In the end, Bess did go to London, and her mom and her husband took great care of the kids. And after a week spent recharging, she was happy to see her family again.

Guilt Trip: Working

When Susan Jackson returned to her job at an ad agency in Cincinnati, invariably the conversation with the other new moms in the office turned to guilt. "Even though my daughter was at home with my husband and I loved my job, I still felt pangs. The guys I worked with didn't get it. 'You're providing for your family,' they said. But the moms understood. This spawned our Working Moms Against Guilt blog," she says.

Give yourself a break: "The twinge of guilt is always going to be there," says Jackson. "But there are several ways to deal with it."

Find a sounding board. "Friends, and even blogs, have been a huge help to me," says Kim Moldofsky, a mom of two in the Chicago area who works part-time. "Just knowing that there are other women in the same boat, with the same struggles, always helps, because it puts everything in perspective." Her husband, too, often serves as a reality check.

Or find your balance. Gebler Ashkenazy used to work a demanding 60-hour-a-week job, but after she had her third child, she left for one with a more flexible schedule, so she's home a day and a half during the workweek. "I love my work and I don't want to give it up entirely," she says.

Finally -- and this is true for all these guilt trips -- accept the feeling and move on. Don't let it bring you down.

So take a deep breath and repeat after me: "My kids don't need me to play with them for hours." Now go hug them and tune out your guilt -- at least for today.

You can find Julie Tilsner at