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I don't feel guilty for going on trips without my child

Everyone needs a life buoy to breathe easier. For some it's wine, for others melatonin—for me it's the first rush of air I inhale in a new city.

I don't feel guilty for going on trips without my child

Of all the curveballs motherhood throws, one that particularly caught me in the gut was my choice of traveling solo. I say choice because that's what it should be but often isn't.

Having been raised in a conservative '90s Indian society, there are not many gratifying luxuries a girl is awarded. I had my first play date at a friend's house in high school, my first sleepover when I was 20. Getting married at 23 and moving to America was my way of breaking free.

I relished my new found zest for life by deciding against having a child until a decade later. Until recently, that was practically unheard of where I come from. So one can imagine the horror when just a few months after my baby arrived, I vocalized my idea of a family-free vacation.

I love traveling. No, it's not just the kind that looks good on my social feed, but also one that awakens me and yet at the same time suspends me in a stupor that can only be brought on by new smells, new tastes and new sounds.

I have traveled with my son, he's been on more flights in one year than I can count on both hands and he has always imbibed the vibe of the land. Like 4 am departures and sleeping through some '80s post-punk at 1 am—all on the same day. I could not ask for a more placid toddler.

But, given a choice, I would still like to travel alone.

I am by no means a helicopter parent. My days are not spent predicting my son's career choice by the way he looks at an inanimate object. My current conscious contributions to rearing him into a responsible adult are limited to cooking as per the latest health fad and keeping him away from smartphones while scrolling stealthily through The Gram.

To mothers whose REM sleep cycle is nightly invaded by thoughts of what-if scenarios based on the latest episode of Law & Order: SVU, this may not be enough. But motherhood is a revelation that can be equivalent to either attaining enlightenment or being hit by a freight train.

There is no one size fits all and you need to mentally get away once in a while from the massive rock of emotional upheavals and mounting responsibilities drowning you.

Everyone needs a life buoy to breathe easier. For some it's wine, for others melatonin—for me it's the first rush of air I inhale in a new city.

When I sought out new adventures without my son, I was met with caustic eye rolling, inaudible sneers and distinct throat clearing that said mountains without uttering a single word.

I went anyway.

The first one was hard; He was 4 months old and it was like a piece of me was left behind. I wanted to be back the moment I left. I called and Facetime-d a dozen times. When I came back, I expected a reunion that would put the Prodigal Son to shame. All I got was a smile and a spit bubble. That's when I knew this temporary separation was way harder on me than him. It made me happy that in his own little world, my son was growing to be independent.

Unfortunately, the onus of childless traveling guilt mostly extends to the mother. I have male friends who don't have a choice but to travel for work almost weekly. I know of many fathers who have had to make the tough decision of being absent for most of their child's first accomplishments, ironically for the sake of preserving their future.

Reverse genders and all of a sudden one is branded incompetent and unfit. When I dropped the idea of a solo vacation, it was a fellow young mother who asked me, "How could you do this to your child? He needs you."

The question made me wonder: Do I cease to exist, just because I gave birth? Did my individuality somehow become relegated to my son and render me into an empty shell that could only be filled with the whims and needs of my child?

Why is it okay for fathers to be absent for the sake of a well-fed bank balance, but not okay for a mother to do the one thing she may need to keep her mental health afloat?

Women do not need to be reminded we are mothers. We know. It's quite literally a part of our existence.

But that's not all that we are.

We are beings, who like others, don't cease to exist as an individual just because societal expectations say otherwise. We have needs, hobbies and passions just like the ones we try to instill in our children.

So, mama, pack your bags, write that novel, paint that masterpiece or whatever it takes to make yourself feel like you. And don't feel the least bit guilty about it.

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14 sweet 'just thinking of you' gifts for every mama

A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs.

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

volition face + body care duo

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.

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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.

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Kombucha making kit

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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.

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Laetitia lipstick

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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!

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Jigsaw puzzle

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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.

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Matilda's Bloombox

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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.

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'I Am Enough' bracelet

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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."

$35

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.

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Find your voice journal

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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.

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Premium frother

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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!

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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.

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Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

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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.

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Superfood honey

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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.

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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.

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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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Products that solve your biggest breastfeeding challenges

Including a battle plan for clogged ducts!

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

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Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

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Lansinoh milk storage bags

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Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

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boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

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Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

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Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

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Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

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Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

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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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This viral post about the 4th trimester is exactly what new mamas need right now

"We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing."

Artist and teacher Catie Atkinson at Spirit y Sol recently shared a beautiful drawing of a new mom crying on a couch—leaking breasts, newborn baby, pile of laundry and what we can only assume is cold coffee, included. Everything about the image is so real and raw to me—from the soft stomach to the nursing bra and the juxtaposition of the happy wallpaper to the palpable vulnerability of the mother—I can almost feel the couch underneath me. I can feel the exhaustion deep in this woman's bones.

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