Mommy Guilt

Ben used to pride himself on naming my blog. “I thought of the name, so mommy wouldn’t even have a website without me,” he would taunt his siblings with. And, it’s true, kind of. The name came from a time when he was two and afraid of everything: His room, his class, his car seat, his dinner… and me. The moment he uttered the phrase “Scary Mommy,” I knew that my blog-to-be had a name and the rest is history.

Lately, though, his attitude towards what I do has changed. While his siblings love the attention, he shies away from it. He gets weepy when I’m not at home for bedtime and last week, as I told him I needed to leave for a few days, his eyes welled with tears. “I wish I’d never said the name Scary Mommy,” he whimpered. “Because if I hadn’t, you wouldn’t need to go.”

Hello, Mommy Guilt. I’m quite sure a knife in the gut would have been less painful.

These last few weeks have been the most exciting time in my life. Book launch party! Fancy hotels! Talk shows! New York Times List! I’m still pinching myself over all of it. But, as amazing as the experience has been, I can’t help feeling that I belong at home, in my yoga pants and carpool line. You know, with the kids who inspired the whole thing to begin with.

I always offer a question and answer session at the end of my readings and one of the most common questions is about balance — how have I found it? what’s my secret? — and the question never ceases to make me laugh. Me? Balance? That’s the last thing I’ve found. I’m bored when I’m not active enough and when I am, I feel like my family suffers. I want to keep all of the excitement, but pace it out in small doses so I can actually appreciate it. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the way it works. Or, so I’m told.

So, I write this in tears on my way to New York where I’ll be for the next four days. I’m spending Jeff’s 35th birthday out of town and skipping out on baseball and a school performance. Sure, I get a king sized bed to myself, but it comes at a steep cost. Sadly, I don’t sleep all that well when I can’t hear them breathing.

I come home Saturday and this Mother’s Day, for the first time since Lily was a baby, I don’t want the day off. Turns out too little of my kids is even harder than too much.

About the writer


What started as an innocent on-line baby book to chronicle Jill Smokler’s stay-at-home days with her children, quickly transformed into a vibrant community of parents, brought together by a common theme: Parenting doesn’t have to be perfect. Welcome to Scary Mommy!


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Rebecca Schorr 4 years ago

I remain convinced that our kids use their recess time sharing best practices in the guilt department. How else to explain their uncanny abilities of saying just the right thing at the right time to make us feel unbelievably awful about whatever choice we’ve made??

Kristin Shaw 4 years ago

Jill, I completely empathize! I have to have a job for financial reasons, and I have to travel for that job… about a week a month. I still cry most times that I have to leave. Mom guilt is hard.
That said, you deserve this fanfare and your kids are so proud of you even as they’re missing you intensely.

Autherine 4 years ago

You are smart, loving with a lot of common sense. Don’t feel guilty. Every situation calls for a different answer, just use your instincts in every situation. Sometimes to go on the trip and enjoy it, sometimes you skip the trip and sometimes you take you son with you.Your decisions are made with love and that is what matters.

Just Jennifer 4 years ago

I have every confidence that you and your kids are gonna be OK. Why? Because you have these feelings. That will make you think about everything you do (or don’t do) and help you find the balance.

get your ex back 4 years ago

Remember when you were growing up and your mother said she wished you would have a child just like you? And, now her wish, or her curse, has come true? Gee, thanks Mom! For the majority of us, parenting is one adventure for which life just doesn’t prepare us. This perpetual journey unfolds on a daily basis from birth to forever. Although there may be nothing else in life more rewarding, it takes more time than our already busy life allows; more energy than a daily triathlon, and the patience of a saint to be considered an average mommy. I’m not talking about the “Super Mom” here. It’s just me. I embarrassingly remember now promising to myself and even bragging to friends with kids, “I’ll never do that to my kids”, or even more laughable, “My kids will never do that!” Well, the joke’s on me. My husband and I have four adopted blessings. Jacob is five, a bright and animated little man who just started kindergarten this fall. Kristy is my gorgeous four year old (going on 25) who would give away her last bite of doughnut and loves to give her baby brothers their baths. Our identical twin boys, Caleb and Gabriel, arrived in this world weighting 1 lb. 14 oz. and 1lb. 4oz. respectively, born in a hotel room at 24 weeks to a homeless birthmother. These little micro preemies are now 11 months old and doing great. To say the very least, I earned the title “Mommy” more than I ever could have imagined.

Lynn from For Love or Funny 4 years ago

Oh, Jill. This was beautiful.

Wishing you a happy Mother’s Day. Thank you for writing so eloquently about the joys and struggles of motherhood.

Ima2seven 4 years ago

“I’m bored when I’m not active enough and when I am, I feel like my family suffers.” – sums it all up for me. I couldn’t have said it any better myself. Such a unique mom challenge….

Holly 4 years ago

You are the ultimate role model to your kids. Never forget that.

Amanda 4 years ago

((Hugs)) They won’t remember that you were gone for a little while. They’ll remember the love.

Nina 4 years ago

I love what Harley said up there! Seriously, he couldn’t have said it better. Wonderful post, Jill.

dd 4 years ago

I feel your pain. I had many dreams of my 40th birthday in Las Vegas having fun and rocking out. Thanks to my husband, we went all out for 4 days. Babysitting provided by my in-laws, first class tickets, great hotel! It should’be been great! But apparently, the grass is not greener in Nevada either, dang it! I felt awkward and a little lonely without my 3 rambunctious and wild boys ages 2, 4 and 6. I did not know what to do with myself with time to do things, without someone asking for my assistance every 5 seconds. I tried to sleep in and the best I could do was 8am, (and I really tried). It seems motherhood has consumed me and this is who I am. It was a little sad I couldn’t enjoy myself as I had fantasized, but now I really know this is where I’m supposed to be. Leason learned.

Jennifer Rustgi 4 years ago

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It’s so hard to find that sweet spot. Enjoy this wonderful time in your life. I have a feeling your kids are better off for having a mother who is wildly successful at something she clearly loves doing (and misses them like crazy when she’s doing it).

Corey Feldman 4 years ago

I feel your pain on this. I work a lot of hours and have to do a bit of traveling. I miss my kids so much. My perfect world I would be a stay at home dad, write my children’s poem/stories. If the book publishing deal ever comes through, at least I would be home with them a lot more often.

Mamalala 4 years ago

This post made me cry! I always feel the same way, can’t handle being with my kids too long but can’t wait to see then at the end of a long day.

TheHeadacheslayer 4 years ago

Awwwww (((((HUGS)))))) honey! You know, mommy guilt comes with the territory. No matter how hard we try, we cannot be perfect enough for our kids. And when they throw out zingers like that……ouch.

I often feel that mommy guilt since my disabilities keep me at home, missing judo tournaments, inductions, award ceremonies. Especially since my daughter is 17, and finishing her Junior year. Ok I’ll stop right there or I’ll be crying 😉

Please tell your sweet boy that THIS mommy is grateful for his sacrifice, because I have found an amazing group of mommies who have reached out to me so many times, lately to help my little boy when he was very sick. And I am grateful to you as well for all you’ve done. I wish you a fabulous Mother’s Day!! xoxoxo

Erin I’m Gonna Kill Him 4 years ago

Hardest compromise isn’t it? I worked full-time with first, part-time with the second, and now I’m home full-time with the third. Each scenario had it’s own reservoir of guilt and doubt. You’re doing something for yourself, which will make you a more whole person.

Marta 4 years ago

I’m sorry you’re struggling I can’t imagine how hard it would be to balance all that. Just balancing work is hard enough. Hang in there.

Mod Mom Beyond IndieDom 4 years ago

It’s hard when we have to be away from our kids, but the time you’re spending away for the book launch is temporary and then you’ll be back. Having something for ourselves is a good thing and something our kids can appreciate about their moms; that we have talents and a meaningful contribution to society. They miss you, but they are undoubtedly proud of you for all you’ve accomplished and you write about your family, so they are a part of what you’re doing. Allow yourself to enjoy this time – you deserve it! Happy Mother’s Day!

Sarah P. / Julia’s Child 4 years ago

YOU are going to have a great time. And yes you will miss a few things, but it will be fine. Book tour is sweaty and fun and stressful and nuts. And then… it ends. A great, new book is news for, like, 10 minutes. So enjoy all ten of them. Your yoga pants will wait.

The Mommy Psychologist 4 years ago

There really is not any way to win. Guilt just seems to be one of the core parts of motherhood.

Kimberly 4 years ago

Huge hugs to you!

They will miss you, and you will miss them…which will make the time together all the more precious and wonderful on Saturday!

Shirley@motivatedmommyoftwo 4 years ago

Being a working mom can be hard, specially if you have stayed with your kids all of this time. I know that when I stay home with my kids for two weeks it is always hard to go back to work and see their sad faces that Mommy will not be there with them every day. But it is a good thing you are doing, your brand is evolving and I pretty sure as they get older they will understand.
Enjoy your Mother’s day with them, I bet it will be a very memorable one.

heather 4 years ago

big hug. and don’t kick yourself too much. unfortunately the world will try to do it for you. i know it’s hard, but it’s actually good for everybody that they know you aren’t just “mom”. you are a real, actual person. an author. a blogger. a professional shit-stirrer. and, when you have to be away, every second away seems like too much. but, it wouldn’t be better for them if all you had to do was adore them and cater to their every whim every second. and, they will appreciate you and be happy to see you when you get home.

Kara J 4 years ago

See, this just goes to show you women really *can’t* have it all. Career or kids. You can’t have both, or one thing will suffer.


Kat 4 years ago

Jill, I’ve been keeping up with your posts and one thing I know for sure is that doing this book and everything that goes with it have made you very happy and is something that you are proud of. A mom who feels good and fulfilled on all aspects of her life is a great mom. If you sacrifice that, you won’t be doing them any favours. Enjoy this ride while it lasts and enjoy them all you can :)

Joanna 4 years ago

As a working mom, I can relate to how you are feeling. I just have to believe, though, that being apart actually makes our relationships with our kids better. I am better able to fully appreciate my daugther, and she is better able to realize that she is happy with me around. (She is 18 months…I *might* be projecting.) I think if we were all together 24/7, we would not appreciate our time together, but would rather be fantasizing about time apart. I have worked since she was 3 months old, and have never wished for alone time – only more time with her.

Not only is this experience an amazing, and enriching thing for your life, but I believe it will enhance your relationship with your kids.

Also, think back to when you were a kid. Did you fantasize about spending every second with your mommy? Probably not. I think we expect so much more of ourselves than our kids do. We all need to learn to cut ourselves some slack.

Motherhood on the Rocks 4 years ago

Balancing life is hard. I think it’s something we all struggle with. And although you might be missing out on some things now, I think you’re kids will grow up with an appreciation of the hard work and dedication you are instilling in them. *hugs*

Jack@TheJackB 4 years ago

I remember my 35th birthday. My dad was on a ventilator 3k miles from home, and the docs weren’t sure if he would survive.

My son was almost 3.5 and really angry that I was constantly busy with work and taking care of my grandparents, which normally wouldn’t have been my job, but since dad was on life support and mom was with dad, it was my job.

I had a pregnant wife and a job that offered no sympathy or support. They would later on fire me on the day of my grandfather’s funeral, but I digress.

That time turned me into a blogger because I needed a place to vent. I never imagined that it would be how I would make friends or gain numerous other opportunities.

Eight years later I am still blogging and at times still wondering if I screwed things up then. Did I make that almost 3.5 into a worrier, because he worries now. Not all the time, but…

And then I look at business trips I have taken and I think about how the children asked me not to go and I wonder if I made a mistake in not trying to do things differently.

The point isn’t to make this all about me but to say that the good news is that the guilt never goes away. Never. It just changes and every often you get to revisit something from the past and wonder if they go to therapy now or later. 😉

Hang in there Jill, it gets better…I think. 😉

molly 4 years ago

I would give so much to be in your place with a published book. But I’m sure at the end of the day I would miss my kids like mad.

stylisticallystella 4 years ago

Upon returning home from a six-day trip to visit old friends, my daughter was less-than excited when I picked her up from school. The Ritz cracker snack on her pre-preschool table took precedence over me, and then I felt silly kneeling in the classroom doorway, arms outstretched, tears threatening to burst forth. She gave no indication that I was missed. The following weekend, my husband travelled for a half-marathon and was away for two nights. I mentioned to our daughter that I was going to be running in a race soon, too. MELTDOWN. “I don’t want you to leave again!” Guilt is not what I felt but reassurance that I am loved and needed and missed when I am gone. I scooped her up and offered an overabundance of kisses.

Jennifer 4 years ago

Oh how I know these feelings. So much. And you are right. There is no such thing as balance. It is more like a juggling act than a balancing act.

Michelle Saunderson 4 years ago

We all have Mommy Guilt, so don’t feel like you are the only one out there who has it. As long as you are doing the best for your kids that you can do, that is what counts. And making Scary Mommy successful I am sure has made their lives a whole lot better.

SeamstressJ 4 years ago

Do you use facetime, skype, etc? If not, I bet the kids would get a kick out of being able to talk to & SEE mommy! 😀

The Flying Chalupa 4 years ago

We’ve all been there, Jill, New York Times Bestseller list or not. Kids always know how to cut to the core, don’t they? Chin up! They’ll be fine, Jeff will be fine, and you’ll be home before you know it.

Jackie @ MomJovi 4 years ago

Oh man, I feel you. I’m already preemptively feeling guilty that I have to work all summer and my 4-year-old has to keep going to preschool. I feel so guilty that she’ll never know the joy of lazy summer vacation days because we live so far from our family and there’s no one around to watch her. Her future will be summers filled to the brim with back-to-back-to-back camps. Of course, because I work she has a much better life with more fun things than she would otherwise, but it still doesn’t stop the guilt. Can’t someone invent a cure for Mommy Guilt? Sign me up for the clinical trial!

Hang in there.

Amy 4 years ago

It’s tough – for moms that work outside the home and those that don’t. I’ve been all of the above. All I can say for being away from your kids like you are is that you are showing them what a strong woman can be professionally and setting a wonderful example. It’s tough but, as you noted, it does make you relish the time with them that much more. Something to be said for that I think.

Sarah 4 years ago

Ah, I know this feeling so well. There used to be a time where I had to travel for work every year (usually for 2 to 3 weeks straight) and it was always at the end of the school year (and all of the festivities this entails). Also included Mother’s Day and my wedding anniversary. Those were some hard times.
Soon you will be able to return home and revel in your children.

Bon 4 years ago

I just got teary eyed! That is a Mother’s love. As much as I feel like I’m always tired and always going, and never catching a break…I feel guilty when I do things without my sweet boy. I enjoy the time to myself on those rare occasions, but I either rush to get back to him or daydream about playing, laughing, and snuggling with him. The love is so powerful that it overcomes all. Great post!

Galit Breen 4 years ago

Oh this made me teary, you.

(Thank you for keeping even this real.)

Squeeze them extra tight on Sunday and here’s to on-days when you can get them!


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes 4 years ago

And you know the real irony? By the end of Sunday or perhaps Monday morning you will be wondering why you missed your kids so much.

Mark 4 years ago

Guilt is good. It means you have a soul.
I’ve often written, “You can have it all, just not all at the same time”.
Much success to you! I hope you find your balance.

Kelly 4 years ago

I hear ya! Being a working Mom is a delicate balance, yet it never seems to happen. My daughter was always really independant and good about it, my son however made each moment heartbreakingly painful. Along with there being a balance for you, the kids also have to find their balance which i think is a good lesson. It’s also a wonderful thing that their mother is teaching them how to follow their dreams.

sam 4 years ago

This is exactly how I feel. I returned to working outside the home almost 6 months ago and it has been one constant struggle. My best to you!!!

Heather 4 years ago

What a touching post! I can soooo relate, having just moved my little family clear across the country last month to take my dream job after staying home with little Toshy for his first year. He cried for me off and on almost all day yesterday, because we had such a wonderful three-day weekend together, and I think he thought I was back home to stay. But someday, he’ll be proud to have a successful mommy, and of course it’s nice to finally have some damn health insurance … and we aren’t shopping for groceries at the fucking 99 Cent Store anymore … and I paid the rent this month with zero fear of bouncing the check.
So yeah. Balance.

Vinobaby 4 years ago

Hang in there. I understand. I’ve been working evenings, and somehow putting kiddo to bed doesn’t seem like a chore, but a privilege I’m missing out on. It’s all temporary, right? Enjoy your King-sized bed.

Shanan 4 years ago

35?,so young. All moms have guilt. I have it right now while looking online instead of doing arts and crafts or whatever ” good moms” do with their kids at 9 am!

Annie 4 years ago

Isnt that the truth…. I couldnt have said it better myself. Hang in there…. How awful it would be if they didnt miss you when you were gone….. ((hugs))

Meredith 4 years ago

That was lovely.

Guerrilla Mom 4 years ago

Oh- this is heartbreaking. You’re a great mom.

Are you doing readings/signings in NYC- because I live here and would love to go! I’ll stop being lazy and search your site for info now…

Allie | Ramblings of a WAHM 4 years ago

I don’t like missing anything my kids do, I feel I am letting them down. But sometimes mom needs to just do it.

You are awesome!


Harley 4 years ago

Jill – the reason Ben is so upset is because of how wonderful a mom you’ve been his whole life. That doesn’t change because of a few busy weeks. He’ll forget the travels the minute you settle back in, but you’ll never forget the experience you’re having now. And the guilt we all feel when we can’t be there for them all the time – just remember all the times you were there, and think of all the times you will be there again soon. Have Jeff tape the baseball game and the school performance, and relive the events with the kids when you get home. And Jeff will still be 35 when you get back – parties are always welcome, even a few days late. Don’t let the guilt ruin the once-in-a-lifetime experience you’re having. Rest assured, plenty of scary mommy moments are waiting for you when you get back.

    sharon 4 years ago

    Wow – what a great reply! You said everything perfectly!

Corinne O’Sullivan 4 years ago

I can completely relate. Going back to work after a year of being fortunate enough to be alone with my son was incredibly tough. My heart ached for him – still does.

I’ve got my fingers crossed that the next few days fly by and you get to be showered in kisses as soon as you return!

Nicole @MTDLBlog 4 years ago

Oh how I {heart} you my friend. Big HUGS. XO.

Kristen Mae 4 years ago

Your time away will make your return for Mother’s Day that much sweeter! Sometimes a little separation is the perfect thing to remind us how much we really hate to be without our munchkins…

In the meantime, enjoy your professional success! You’ve earned it!

April 4 years ago

Aww mommy it’ll be okay. Hugs hugs and more hugs.

Liz @ PeaceLoveGuac 4 years ago

Such a sweet post, but ouch! It’s always the boys who REALLY know how to twist that knife, isn’t it? Hang in there!

BellaMomma 4 years ago

And I quote:
“Parenting doesn’t have to be perfect!” – J.S.
That’s your advice to us! Don’t be so hard on yourself!! It’s not like you left them and didn’t remember about the bday or the events. It’s not like your not going to call/text/skype alot! This is just a brief time about YOU and your talent helping your family (and others). (hugs)

Karen 4 years ago

I think your last line is spot-on. I have so much more trouble being away from my kids than being with them, even though being with them certainly has its challenges. I think that’s how we know we’re doing a good job.

Hatton 4 years ago

Such a sweet post, Jill! I think I used to give my mom a hard time when she would leave town, but she’d bring me back a Snickers and all was forgiven :)

Alison@Mama Wants This 4 years ago

You’ve done amazing things as a woman, wife and mother. The guilt is inevitable, we can never get the balance right can we?

Go have a wonderful, all-encompassing Mother’s Day with your kids.

Cassie 4 years ago

We all know the feeling of Mommy Guilt. You just have to remember that it is good for them, if their mommy is happy and doing what she loves. You are a wonderful mommy and an amazing inspiration to the rest of us! Your kiddos will be all the more excited to see you when you come home. : )

Stephanie 4 years ago

Awww. I know. Those times when I say I need to get away, or I finally convince someone to take one of the babies overnight, the guilt kicks in and I want to go pick them up. Enjoy all this, though. Seriously. It’s the opportunity of a LIFETIME! And your entire family will be better for it, in so many ways, in the long run.

Jane 4 years ago

I think I must be in the minority because these days I rarely suffer from mummy guilt. I share custody of my DD5 60/40 with her father plus I work full-time so I don’t get to spend loads of time with her. But feeling bad about it isn’t going to change the situation so it’s just wasted energy. Instead I focus my energy on enjoying the time I have with her, and without her and being fully present in those special moments. I’m lucky that I have an employer that’s flexible and an ex husband who I get along with (sort of) which makes life easier. I choose to be happy and grateful that I have the wonderful gift of being a mum to my mini me whilst still having a fulfilling career and enough ‘me’ time too. My daughter may not understand now why I’m not there for her 24/7 but I hope when she’s older she will see the benefits of having a mum who worked hard to give her a good life and was happy with herself whilst doing it. Hopefully she can apprecaite that I did the best I could with the cards I was dealt. That’s all any of us can do.

Melissa 4 years ago

I NEED time away from DS2 b/c DH works away from home for 6weeks at a time. Sadly, the only thing I do when I get time away is just miss him like crazy. Damned if I do – damned if I don’t.

Amanda 4 years ago

I hear you! There is no such thing as a perfect balance, but def something to keep striving for!

tracy@sellabitmum 4 years ago

Oh hugs, Jill. My mama heart aches. You should be so proud of what you have done – and you know that they are too. But damn just being there for them…that’s the prize isn’t it. You DO rock it all. Love you.

Lavinia 4 years ago

This month is the first time I’ve been away from my daughter for a long period of time. She ‘s with a friend while I prepare for a deployment. While some parents like to call their on a daily basis when they’re away, it’s much harder for me because once I hear my daughters’ voice I just go into withdrawal and it’s even worse when she asks me “Mommy why did you leave me”. That’s when the guilt really hits me, but duty calls.

    Audrey 4 years ago

    Thank you for the sacrifice you are making :)

      Shanan 4 years ago

      Yes, thank you! I really don’t know how you do it. Good luck on your deployment!

Kara 4 years ago

{{hugs}} It’s SO hard to be away from the littlens, especially when they railroad you with the guilt. Keep your head up! xoxo

Pauline 4 years ago

My heart was aching for you as I read your post. As hard as it is right now, it will only serve to strengthen your bond with them. You’ll be more present and more attentive when you are with them again.

Britney 4 years ago

Yes, I have an 23 month old and a 9 month old and I’ve never left their sides for more than 18 hours tops! I feel like going crazy sometimes and that honeymoon we never had my husband keeps begging for sounds amazing, but I know I wouldn’t enjoy it. Especially at their age, my oldest is all “MaaMaaaa bye byee!” in tears if I leave to go to a doctor’s appt! It is a curse that is the cure :/

Kathy V. 4 years ago

You’re a good mommy. You know what helps mommy guilt? Champagne and long bubble baths. Just not at the same time, or you might drown. Relaxing and rejuvenating yourself is a gift to the little ones as well!

Kim 4 years ago

I hear you. I die for time away and think about them the whole while. Sigh.

Amy I. Bloom 4 years ago

It’s a fine line we walk. We dream of having time to ourselves, and then we feel guilty, or even more strange, lonely, when we do. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

Loukia 4 years ago

Oh Jill. I know exactly what you’re talking about. Except I don’t hdve a best seller! 😉 Seriously, though – I left Mom 2.0 on Saturday, skipping out on the Versace psrty. All so I could be at home at midnight, to kiss the cheeks of my sleeping boys. Sigh. It’s so hard! xoxo

Mercy 4 years ago

Four days alone – I could use that right about now. But then my son would probably find a way to make me feel guilty about leaving him. I might make it through one day and then be too concerned about them to not stay in touch.

Making It Work Mom 4 years ago

Oh I get this. Whenever I am away from my “babies” (12, 10, 5) I feel like everything has lost its luster. I can’t really fully enjoy anything because I am thinking about what THEY are doing.

Sometimes you can’t fully appreciate perfect until you are removed from it.

Hoping you have the best Mother’s Day ever full of screams, fights, tears, sloppy kisses, sticky fingers, and all the unconditional love you can handle.

Codie 4 years ago

This post had me in tears…this is how I feel after being able to stay home with my 3 boys for 6 months after giving birth, and now its time for me to go back to work. :( sometimes its not about the success or stability that comes with it, kids would just rather have more mommy time than all the expensive stuff WE want for them…stay strong and thanks for posting this!

Alison 4 years ago

The ultimate tragedy of motherhood. Hugs, mama.

Cassandra 4 years ago

Oh hun…..*hugs*

Desiree Eaglin 4 years ago

Aww, hang in there lovebutt. You’re a good mommy.

    Anne Walsh 4 years ago

    She totally is. She makes me happy all the time I read her blog posts. I just wanna hug her. Keep on posting scary mommy, we love ya!


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