Separation anxiety is real—but it's also fleeting

This morning I left my 4-year-old sobbing in the arms of her Pre-K teacher. As I turned to leave, the sight of her little face crumbling, trying to be brave but not quite managing, tore right to my core. I walked away feeling like I was wading through treacle, my chest aching and my arms heavy and useless where my child should have been. It felt so very unnatural to leave when she was crying out my name.

Her teacher assured me that within moments of me being out of sight in the mornings she is laughing and playing with her friends, content and not giving me another thought.

The same can't be said for me. The image of her tearful face sits heavy on my heart hours later, and I can't shake the guilt, the horrible feeling that I'm not where I should be, that I've let her down.

This is separation anxiety: the intangible, invisible, heavy-as-lead thing we moms carry around with us for much of the day.

It is most pronounced with my almost-2-year-old, who goes through phases but seems to choose to have her bouts of separation anxiety when I'm getting dressed up to go out, when I'm craving a shower on my own or when I put my running shoes on.

Between the two of them, there aren't many hours of the day I'm not feeling guilty or torn.

Also, I worry my 4-year-old should have grown out of it by now. So I deal with this the way I deal with most of my parenting dilemmas: I go to the baby books, and to my mom.

The experts (mom included) generally agree that separation anxiety starts at about 8 months, peaks in the toddler years, and then—just when you think you've overcome it—there can be a relapse in the preschool years.

The truth is, accompanied by anxiety or not, separation is an essential part of parenting.

We simply cannot be with our children all the time. We need to work, to exercise, to see friends, to spend time alone with our partners, and to occasionally connect with who we were as people before we were parents.

And our children need to learn who they are without us. They need to be allowed to experience their fears in a safe environment and then overcome them, to learn resilience from adversity.

We're doing as much for them by handing their care over to someone else for a few hours as we are in the other parts of our parenting day.

But knowing all this doesn't help relieve my own anxiety about the anxiety. It doesn't ease the guilt, it doesn't ease the sense that I've made some kind of bad mistake.

And then I remember: as with all things motherhood, it won't be like this forever.

Some day, in the frighteningly near future, my daughters will skip into school with a kiss and a wave and not look back. A brief moment after that they'll request that I not walk them to their classroom, and before I know it I'll be asked to drop them off down the block.

When my toddler empties my shampoo bottle on my shower floor as I wash my hair, or she clings to my leg as I head for the door, I try to remember, it won't be like this forever.

Because the flipside of the agony of separation anxiety is the ecstasy of the return.

The sound of “Mommy!" when they spot you coming at pick-up, the pounding of little feet on wooden floors when they hear your keys in the front door, or a sleepy voice mumbling, “You're home" when you go in to kiss her after relieving the babysitter. The little arms tightening around your neck, more like home than anything you've ever known.

And it won't be like this forever either.

One day they won't need me so much, and I'll be free. But one day, they won't need me so much, and I'll be quite lost.

So for now, I accept the stress that comes with their separation anxiety.

I accept the exhaustion and the trips down the hall in the middle of the night and the co-showering and the forceful extraction of little arms from around my knees.

I accept the guilt and the worry and the heaviness of my empty arms and the lump in my throat as I walk away.

I accept all of these gifts gladly.

I treasure them, and tuck them away for safe keeping, knowing that one day, as I wait with my car idling half a block away, I will take these moments out out of the memory bank, blow the dust off them and hold them up to the light.

Because it won't be like this forever.

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Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

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This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.


Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.


Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.


Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!


Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.


Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.


'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."


Glow assorted teas

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This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.


Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.


Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!


Bath soak infusion kit

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Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.


Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.


Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.


Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


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It's my personal opinion that this belly deserves some love. So starting with my second pregnancy, I've relied on Belly Bandit's postpartum belly bands (which I own in three sizes) to help support my core, reduce swelling, and begin to activate my midsection after nine months of being stretched to the max.

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