Thinking healthy

Last week, I wrote a story about a very nice man, Larry “Ox” Townsend, from Henderson, who has recovered from a stroke he had earlier this year. It got me thinking about a few things, mostly that I need to start taking better care of myself.

I’m 35, staring down the barrel of 40, and some days I feel like I’m 80. Too much bad food, not enough exercise, poor sleep habits, too much stress – all those risk factors that I am sure affect a whole lot of us.

As Mr. Townsend told me his story, I knew exactly what he was talking about.

The main thing is food. I like food. I really like meat, and salty things, and spicy things and cheesy things and fried things. And sugary drinks. Pretty much all the stuff you’re supposed to stay away from.

Of course, as I type this blog, there’s a commercial on the radio for Subway’s new pastrami melt sandwich. See, I love pastrami. I am kind of obsessed with it, actually.

I haven’t even really started the “health kick” and I’m already feeling like it’s going to be an uphill battle.

It’s not like I haven’t tried before. I’ve gone on diets before, dropped 20 or 25 pounds and thought, “Hey this is not hard at all.”

But I’ve never really stuck with it. That’s the hard part. You start to think you have control, and hey, I lost all that weight. I can eat that whole pizza, just this one time. But then one time becomes twice, then three times, then before you know it you’re supporting the Tri-State pizza industry all by yourself and back to your old weight.

I know what you’re thinking. “Hey this guy is talking about starting a diet with Thanksgiving coming up, good luck with all that.” And you’re probably right.

But I think if I start slow, cutting down on the soft drinks …

(Down south we call them “cokes” regardless of whether it’s Coke or Dr. Pepper or whatever, but that’s another blog entry for another time)

… I think I can build up to a better overall plan. Cutting out a few things at a time, instead of just dropping everything at once and expecting a miracle.

With two little kids around, I need to do a better job this time. I’m not committing myself to a “full body transformation” or anything crazy. I won’t be doing P90’s or crossfit or any of that stuff right now. I just want to start eating a little better.

Now if they’ll just stop running that darn Subway commercial…

Beauty of pregnancy?

One week. I’ve got one week to go. At the time of this writing, this time next week I should be holding my healthy, baby boy in my arms.
I’ve been down this road before (the pregnancy one) and that old cliché about every pregnancy being different is oh so true, at least for this momma.

And any platitudes about pregnancy being a miracle or beautiful or joyful, pshaw! It’s painful, messy, a little gross and exhausting.
Don’t get me wrong, I am SO grateful that I’m able to become pregnant and sustain a pregnancy when there are so many people (close friends and family even) who haven’t been so lucky. But with all that being said, I can still be grateful and feel blessed but also annoyed and disgusted with it at the same time, right?

My mom, super human in a million ways, talks about how she LOVED being pregnant (even pregnant with twins!) She said she never felt as special as she did when she was pregnant with my sister and me. She was fawned on by strangers and just always felt that “special glow.”

I can easily say neither of those things are true for me. I’m a week from giving birth, and I finally feel (well I have the last two to three weeks) that a stranger could safely assume I’m pregnant, not just overweight. But, shy of a few teachers at my son’s school telling me they didn’t think I should go down the slide at Goebel’s Farm in my “condition,” I’ve not had anyone try to pat my belly or fawn over my glowing state. Maybe I’m not glowing after all.

I certainly don’t feel glowy. I’m certainly “shining” (or sweating profusely, however you want to word it.) Between the “sexy” thigh-high compression hose, my work’s disdain for an adequate cooling system and the furnace that is currently residing deep within my core (aka the baby) I am always hot (and typically sweating.)

So I’m crossing “glowing” off my list of pregnancy benefits.

Glorious hair and nails, this has got to be a myth. I remember being told that the prenatal vitamins would give you amazing nails and hair. Nope. Cross that one off!

Gorgeous baby bump — eh, not so much. I would classify what I’m rocking to be more of a baby lump. Seriously, I just look extra lumpy. I was wearing my regular, pre-pregnancy jeans until three weeks ago. There’s been no weekly belly pics; I won’t be posting any cool belly progression videos.

And I just haven’t felt good. When I was pregnant with Miles I was moderately uncomfortable, you know the way that anyone would feel when they are growing another human inside them. This time though by around three months pregnant my sciatica was so annoyed with this baby that it felt like someone was continually jabbing me with a knife in my lower back. So I started receiving chiropractic care (amazing results, by the way) that only added to the list of doctor’s appointments a 33-year-old pregnant woman with a pacemaker has to go to.

There was also the heartburn, OH THE HEARTBURN! Today for lunch I had a salad and plain boneless, skinless chicken breast. SALAD and CHICKEN people, who does that cause a fire of a thousand horses (or whatever that phrase is) to come trampling up my esophagus and into my throat?
I’ve worn a path between my desk and the bathroom for the frequent potty breaks that pregnancy demands. Between the gallons of water they recommend you drink to stay healthy and the tiny human dancing or doing a handstand on your bladder it almost feels as if moving into the bathroom would be the saner idea. Because this nice little waddle that my split pelvis (at least that’s what it feels like some days) makes between here and there is not all that attractive or efficient.

And then on a more serious note this pregnancy has been complete with its fair share of “scares.” I had what doctors called a subchorionic hemorrhage early on (I referred to it as that petrifying bleeding that had me convinced that something was terribly wrong). And then when I was about 7 months pregnant my body was possessed by poison ivy and ended up in the hospital for three days after passing out cold in the middle of a parking lot from a terrible reaction from the immune response to the poison ivy and the medication they gave me to treat it. And just about a month ago I had another health scare that sent me back to the hospital.

Needless to say, I haven’t felt all warm and snugly with this whole pregnancy thing. I’ve been anxious, uncomfortable, exhausted and downright annoyed at times. And I’m not even going to get into all the icky stuff that pregnancy brings. You have either been there and are shaking your head like, “she’s right,” or you can go ask your own mother, the mother of your children or another friend who has gone through this “miracle” of pregnancy.

When people talk about the joys of pregnancy they don’t talk about that stuff. They don’t mention days like my Sunday. I had been up until 1:30 a.m. “nesting” and my kiddo woke up at 4:45 a.m. with the lightning and thunderstorm and had and refused to go back to bed meaning his momma was wide-awake too. I was unbelievably tired, sore and downright unpleasant. And by around 8 a.m. Miles was also pretty darn cranky as he too was exhausted but wouldn’t slow down. I had tears of joy when my sister said she was going to drop by for a bit. I think she intended to be there for 15 or so minutes but ended up staying closer to four hours sensing my “on the edge” feeling.

That picture, the pregnant mom on the verge (or in the throes) of tears isn’t what people see when they think about pregnancy.

What do you see? How was pregnancy for you?​

One baby to another

I’ve talked about Project Reveal here a time or two. My recent absence from regular blogging can be attributed directly to this amazing nonprofit organization and my role in planning its first-ever event.

The amazing Stacey Godbold utilizing the photo booth and showing off the back of her dress!

The amazing Stacey Godbold utilizing the photo booth and showing off the back of her dress!

The organization’s creator, Stacey Godbold, and myself have been working on birthing the baby that was named Embrace Your Body. This baby was a fundraising event Friday night and an outreach event on Saturday. We certainly are not the only two involved; lots of other people played big and small roles in bringing this baby into the world. But I’m not sure if anyone else went through the “labor” that Stacey and I experienced with this amazing event.

I’m not going to lie though, it was pretty painful. Remember, I’m just three weeks shy of birthing another baby (this one actually is a human!) I was so tired and sore when I dragged myself home after 11 p.m. Friday night that I couldn’t even walk upstairs to bed; I slept on the couch.

Let me first say, baby Embrace Your Body came into this world at 7 p.m. on Sept. 5 at 56/58 Adams Avenue and was a healthy, happy and super inspiring gal. OK, enough with the metaphor … The event was fabulous. There were more than 200 people that came through the door; we raised a lot of money; we had a great time; and, most importantly, we touched and inspired a lot of people! That was the most important part of what we did.

One of the inspiring photos Erin took.  Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

One of the inspiring photos Erin took. Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

Two of the photos on display during the exhibit. Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

Two of the photos on display during the exhibit. Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

The super-talented photographer Erin McCracken took hundreds of photos of women from the Evansville area of all ages, shapes, backgrounds and ethnicities back in June. And let me point out that these women were in their underwear! They were truly embracing their bodies and entrusting us. We narrowed the photos down to 24 and made huge prints (seriously huge — two feet by three feet.) Those photos were then displayed in a swanky feeling gallery space in Evansville’s Haynie’s Corner Art District. Add to that live music, a fun photo booth, delicious food, a bar, an amazing green lemonade and the inspirational words of Stacey and Erin and you have a perfect night.

We also made sure those that attended the event (and also supported us with their positive words, encouragement and donations) felt like they could be a part of Project Reveal. They participated in our interactive art piece that will forever be a part of Project Reveal and then also had the opportunity to either “embrace their body” or “reveal” something about themselves on luminary bags that meandered and glowed around the Haynie’s Corner fountain.

People walking to the luminary display at the fountain.  Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

People walking to the luminary display at the fountain. Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

Luminaries on display.  Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

Luminaries on display. Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

I’m not going to lie, when I walked outside and saw that at the end of the night my eyes got a little wet. It was beautiful. Not only was it just an impressive site seeing all the luminary bags glowing and the words written on them but it was validation for what we’d worked so hard to do.

Each of those bags represented someone that believed in something that I’d invested so much of myself into recently, something I’d made so many sacrifices for in recent months and something that I too really believed in.

Luminaries at the fountain. Picture courtesy of Project Reveal

Luminaries at the fountain. Picture courtesy of Project Reveal

It meant a lot that my mom, twin sis, family friend and boss all took their time (and money, this event wasn’t free folks, it was a fundraiser after all) to support me by showing up. There were other co-workers there supporting the organization as well. It really meant a lot.

I know my husband is so very, very tired of hearing me say, “I’ve got to work late tonight on Project Reveal,” “I won’t be home until 10 or 11 because of set up for the event,” “I’ve got to leave to do a radio spot for Project Reveal,” “We’ve got a Project Reveal event all afternoon, sorry I won’t be home.” But every time he said, “Go, have fun. It’s fine.”

Coworker Megan Erbacher posing with me and Erin McCracker during the event. Photo courtesy of Megan Erbacher

Coworker Megan Erbacher posing with me and Erin McCracker during the event. Photo courtesy of Megan Erbacher

Without him completely taking over all of the house maintaining and child care duties the last couple weeks I’m not sure what would have happened. I certainly couldn’t have done what I was able to do with and for the event.

I know I wasn’t the only one making these sacrifices. Stacey, mom of triplets who just turned 1 and a 4 year old, made even more sacrifices and put even more blood, sweat and tears into the planning. And Erin, who got married in the midst of all this event planning craziness, also was super dedicated and involved.

And the most important thing to stress here is that I WANTED to do it all. I’m the kind of person that likes to be involved in something. I want to channel my passion and energy into something I believe in. I hadn’t really had that in the last few years, especially since I’d had Miles. I’d get involved with specific events (I was on the planning committee for Relay for Life in Madison County, was on the Heart Walk team here, etc.) but had not really found a place where I really felt I belonged and could have an impact.

People enjoying the gallery.  Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

People enjoying the gallery. Photo courtesy of Project Reveal

But I think Project Reveal is it. The mission of the organization is to create a forum where “women can help other women by sharing their stories, strength and hope about a defining time in their lives.”

So until I hear otherwise from Stacey, she and Project Reveal are stuck with me.

But I have to say, now that baby Embrace Your Body has made it’s debut it is time for me to focus on the other baby I’ve been working on for the last eight-plus months — baby Owen. His debut (if all goes as planned) is in 21 days. It’s been hard to focus on preparing for his arrival with all the event details and deadlines. So now my focus is on this baby and back on my amazing and supportive husband and kiddo Miles.

If you want to learn more about Project Reveal visit projectreveal.org.​

Dear Decaf,

How I love you.
Your big, bad, older brother caffeine has been on my “no-no” list for a while now. Still, until recent times I used to sneak away with him for the occasional dalliance here and there. I know that cheating on you, my dear friend, isn’t kind. But he’s just such a tease. Sometimes I can’t help but give into his temptations and join the “dark side.”
But in the last few weeks, I’ve dumped him and all his velvety, peppy taunts for you, decaf. You are a leaner, meaner, modified version of your brother. You don’t pack much of a punch, but I’ll take your robust flavor and placebo energy boost any time. It hasn’t been an easy transition, but I appreciate your efforts to be there for me each and every morning.
Years ago I’d become dependent on your brother but now am happy with my morning routine of an iced version of you, oh lovely decaf.
So thanks decaf for sticking it out with me. I promise my dedication to you won’t waver this time (at least until this little munchkin makes his arrival in about 60 days.)
Love,
Abbey

Things don’t always go as planned…

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Parties are my thing. I love being a hostess. I love everything about it — themes, baking, planning, making lists (seriously, I really enjoy lists), making people happy … OK, you get the picture.

So when I was thinking about my son’s third birthday weeks ago I got pretty excited. We weren’t going to go nuts or anything. It was 15 people and was going to be a small cookout with the kiddos playing in the little splashy pool we got Miles as an early birthday present. But I was stoked.

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But, as often is the case, things don’t always go as planned.
I was released from the hospital after three VERY long days a little more than 12 hours before his party was scheduled to begin. And if that wasn’t enough to put a damper on plans the fact that I was released with strict orders of bed rest flooded out any plans for a party.

Elvis wrapping paper -- I know you are jealous! :)

Elvis wrapping paper — I know you are jealous! :)

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Miles got Thomas the Train sheets and comforter!

Miles got Thomas the Train sheets and comforter!

My son deserved a party. I’m not sure if he really understood what was going on or what he was going to miss, but every kid needs a party. And my body was just incapable of providing one. Of course my amazing family wouldn’t let Miles be deprived of anything. My mom brought the party to us — an amazing Thomas the Train cake, a spectacular Thomas balloon, Mickey straws and noise makers and Spider-Man plates and napkins — and we had a little get together. I celebrated from the couch, but Miles was happy. He had CAKE! And to top it off, my mom and sister took Miles to the zoo Saturday so he could celebrate with my nephew, the monkeys, otters, giraffes and jaguar.

Miles and Charlie at the zoo

Miles and Charlie at the zoo

As much fun as I know he had at the zoo and during our impromptu, multicharacter/theme party it made me a little sad. OK, I’ll be honest, it made me a lot sad. I even cried when they were leaving for the zoo.

You can blame it on hormones (I am eight months pregnant) or the emotional roller coaster of the past days in the hospital. But what it came down to was that my little guy was now 3. Yes, I was sad I didn’t get to celebrate with him like I’d planned. But deep down I know he had a great time, maybe even more fun than he would have with the party I’d imagined.

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Another year has passed. Sentences are the norm now; he is out of his toddler bed and in his very own big boy bed. My baby is growing up, and I can’t do anything about it.

Will every birthday be this tough?

Luck and blessings in uncertain times

We all have that place in our head — it’s dark, scary and typically void of all rational thought. And no matter how hard we try, we are sucked into that spot every once in a while.

I’m learning, through experience and advice from family and friends, to not beat myself up for the trips to those places but instead to make each of these “adventures” a time to learn and become a little better, a little less likely to venture back to that place.

I made one of these trips Thursday.

Since last Saturday night I’ve been one giant, itchy, swollen poison ivy blister. That morning my son and I were outside in our backyard. While he played on the swing set I decided to tackle a patch of poke weed that was staring me down. I made sure not to touch anything that looked suspicious and immediately came in and washed all exposed skin well. It did no good.

By Sunday my face was swollen with the rash threatening my eyes and I was itching like crazy everywhere. Since I’m about two-thirds of the way through my pregnancy I checked with my OB about what to do. She sent me into the OB emergency department Sunday where they prescribed me a steroid. In the coming days it just got worse and more intense. Wednesday, during a regularly scheduled appointment with my OB she sent me to a dermatologist that afternoon. He prescribed a high dose steroid shot. I got the shot in his office with the assurance that in a few days I should be feeling better.

I left the office feeling itchy but fine. I was walking to my car thinking about what I had ahead of me for the rest of the day at work.

Then I woke up, sun beating down on my face blinding my eyes from what felt like about 20 people (but probably closer to eight) leaning over me as I laid on the hot asphalt of the dermatologist’s parking lot.

I’d passed out and was unconscious. A man thankfully noticed me in the spot he’d started to pull into and didn’t run over me with his truck.

All I could say was, “I’m pregnant with a pacemaker. The baby!”

The rest went fast — stretcher, ambulance, needles, EKGs, tears.

I’m not really your standard pregnant woman considering I’ve got a pacemaker. And on top of that, I was covered in this monster-like rash. I went to the same OB emergency department I went to on Sunday, only this time it really was an emergency. Their concern was to determine why I passed out. My concern was for my unborn son. Had he been hurt when I fell to the ground? I had a huge knot on the back of my head so there was an obvious impact. Was he OK? What did this mean for him?

Tests, monitors, ultrasounds — they all assured the doctors and me that my little guy was OK. Around 10 p.m. that night they transferred me to another part of the hospital where doctors could better monitor me and my heart and would send people over to monitor the baby every few hours.

I didn’t sleep, at all. Part of it was the misery of the itching and the pain from hitting my head and back so much. But mostly it was the guilt and anxiety.

Passing out is something that happens with this lovely heart condition I get to call my own; but it hasn’t happened in more than a year and never happened during my last pregnancy. And while it is never fun and always scary, the intensity of my fear, anxiety and guilt of what happened that day and what might happen again felt incapacitating, like I almost couldn’t breathe.

All I could think was, “Thankfully my little guy looks great. But what if it happens again? What if the outcome isn’t the same?”

I couldn’t live with myself. What would my husband think or do? Friends, family, strangers? It would be my fault.

All day Thursday people were coming and going telling me I was doing fine, the baby was doing fine. I didn’t want to be at the hospital; I wanted to be home with my son who didn’t understand where his mommy was. But I was terrified to leave. “My baby was safe there,” I thought. “He might not be safe with me.”

Rationally, I understood that “I” was not hurting him; it wasn’t my fault that I lived in Bangladesh 10 years ago trying to help people as a Peace Corps volunteer, and I seemed to have caught some virus that damaged my heart and forever changed my life and is now impacting his life.

But when I was sitting in my hospital room feeling his tiny, helpless body rolling around inside ME, and I know I am the one responsible for keeping him alive and healthy, rational thoughts aren’t really the first ones to rise to the top.

No shiny bow. I’m still scared out of my mind. And I know that I’m not the only one; others are going through much more terrifying things. That thought only makes me grieve for them, not take comfort.

But, with my promise to myself to make these trips to irrational, scary land more productive, I left the hospital late Friday night in a much better place. I had a plan; the doctors had a plan. I can take good care of myself and this baby but I can’t change the fact that I have a heart condition that might impact my pregnancy again. I can’t loathe myself for that fact. I have to accept that and accept the limitations that come with it.

One of those is living the next week from my couch, overstuffed chair or bed and allowing those around me to help during this (hopefully just) week of doctor mandated bed rest.

I’m blessed with amazing family and friends who have made this experience manageable. My husband didn’t skip a beat, taking over full responsibility for Miles while I was in the hospital and doing his best to help me maintain my sanity. My mom swooped in, providing a birthday party for my son this past weekend and is keeping him for the week so I am truly allowed to rest. My sister provided clothes, S’mores pizza, company and support. And friends kept me sane with phone calls, visits, baby snuggles, a fridge full of food, perspective and milkshakes.

So, writing this from my eerily quiet house while my husband slaves away in the yard, I am reminded — even in the midst of some scary and uncertain times — just how lucky I am. And this little guy that is thankfully happy and healthy dancing around in my belly will be equally blessed when he gets to join the rest of us in about 10 weeks.

Vacation with a toddler

My husband and I are pretty experienced travelers as our entire relationship we’ve lived several states away from either my parents (in Indiana) or his parents (in Louisiana). And growing up driving six to eight hours away for a long holiday weekend was the norm as our extended family is that far away.

But travelling with a toddler is a whole other ballgame.

The stuff, the chaos, the challenges!

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Because our priority when we’ve had time off has always been to see family, Michael and I have never had a real vacation together besides our honeymoon a few months after we married. We’ve always just traveled to see family. So when there was talk about planning a vacation among the members of my extended family I was pretty stoked. We are a pretty tight-knit group but only get to see each other a handful of times a year because we are all spread out and have busy lives of our own.

And even though it is “my” family, Michael has said he feels as if he’s been accepted as a McLaughlin and is a part of the family too. And my cousins’ have little ones that Miles LOVES to play with.

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So the idea of a vacation was very exciting… until it got to the getting ready part.

We were to spend a long weekend (we left Thursday late morning for our destination and returned home around 6 p.m. Sunday) at a lake house. My cousin Annie did an amazing job picking a location with lots to do and that was as centrally located as is possible with as many of us as there are. The spot was Innsbrook, Mo., a resort-town built around dozens of lakes. We rented three large lake houses among the nearly 30 of us (with six, seven and under) but all gathered together at least once a day during the trip.

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As happy as we were about the idea of getting away, the sheer notion of getting all the needed items together, packing them and fitting them in the car was pretty exhausting. So actually doing all that was even more exhausting. We had a box and cooler of food, an array of swim items, a handful of toys, a cot and sleeping bag for Miles, camp chairs, our bikes, Miles’ seat for our bike, clothes, beach towels… You get the picture.

But once we got there it was an amazing time. We went to the beach, boated, biked, walked, explored, gabbed, played games, laughed, ate too much, napped and every once in a blue moon even relaxed.

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I’m ready to do it again, just give me a year or two to recover from this one!

Our backyard/beach, so beautiful!

Our backyard/beach, so beautiful!

What’s been your best vacation survival strategy? Best vacation with a toddler? Share your ideas!

Ongoing battle with mommy guilt

I’ve talked about this before but it is something that still is at the forefront of my brain nearly every morning as I walk out the door to go to work — guilt.

The concept of mommy (in my case) or daddy guilt is very real. I think no matter how prepared or experienced we feel as parents, that dreaded “pit in your stomach” sense of guilt pops up; and in my case I feel like it pops up pretty frequently.

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And the source of this mommy guilt for me is varied when it comes to my son Miles — is he watching too much television, is he getting the right foods, was that reprimand too harsh, do I spend enough time with him? And the guilt with my yet to be born son has already started — am I resting enough, did I forget to take my prenatal this morning, am I pushing it too much, how is my bad heart impacting him?

But the biggest and toughest guilt hurdle I’ve encountered is working. I have several friends who are stay-at-home moms and I see the joys and challenges they face in raising their children. And heck, my husband is a stay-at-home dad so I see firsthand the things that I miss.

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But you know what, I have this messed-up guilt complex when it comes to the me working part — I love my job. It’s rewarding, stimulating and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. So this, of course, causes me to have some guilt because in many ways I’m happy I get to go to work.

The other side of that guilt sandwich comes in, and for the last few weeks has been coming down on me pretty hard, when my son says he’s going to “play mommy.” He goes and grabs my shoes and purse and says, “I’ve gotta get ready for work.” He walks around the house in my shoes carrying my purse. “Gotta go to work. Kiss, kiss. Hug, hug. Love you, bye. See you tonight.”

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Over and over and over again. And each little gesture and phrase — while initially kind of cute and made me laugh, especially when he was walking around with no pants doing this — hits me in the gut. Guilt.

When my son is “playing mommy” he pretends to leave. Ack. That kills me to think about. Are those the memories my little guy is going to have of me — me leaving for work? I do my best to be engaged and make lots of memories in the limited time I am home but it’s this repetitive task of getting ready and leaving for work five days a week that sticks with him not the frequent trips to the zoo or playing in his pool outside for hours or riding bikes up to Garvin Park.

And these last few weeks have been even busier and longer work days for me meaning there’s even been a night or two where I’ve just come home in time to put him to bed. The guilt sinks in even deeper.

How do I combat it? What’s the solution?

Not working certainly isn’t an option for several reasons — we depend on my income to support the family and I NEED it for my sanity. I’d miss it terribly. I think in a perfect world where money weren’t a factor (I know, I laughed at the thought too) working part-time would be the solution. But that perfect world doesn’t exist, at least for us it doesn’t.

What I can continue to do is do the best I can — the best I can to savor every moment I have with my little guy (and soon to be little guys) and the best I can to push those feelings of guilt aside confident that I’m doing just that — my best.

Do you deal with mommy (or daddy) guilt? How do you counteract the at times crippling feelings that it can bring on?