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Real moms: How involved are you in your kids' lives?

Lisa Steinke, with Liz Fenton, is the co-author of the debut chick lit novel l'll Have Who She's Having and the popular Chick Lit blog chicklitisnotdead.com.

Get involved or butt out?

If you've been feeling guilty because you don't think you've spent enough time with your child lately, you're not alone. Mom guilt is a shared feeling among mothers everywhere. We asked moms about how involved they are in their children's lives, how they find balance and how they cope with that dreaded five-letter word: Guilt.

very invovled mom

How involved are you?

Kenan, mom of three from California, says, "Being that I am a stay-at-home mom, I feel that it is part of my job to be involved in my kids' lives outside of the household. I am Room Mom, I sit on the PTO and I volunteer twice a week at the elementary school. Because my kids are young, they are learning now that my husband and I fully intend to be involved in their lives -- from school to sports and extracurricular activities.”

Liz, a working mother of two from California, says, "I’m involved but always feel guilty that it's not enough -- and I have major guilt because I don’t volunteer in the classroom. But the kicker is: I don’t even want to!”

Lisa, a mother of one from California who calls herself a full-time mom/part-time worker, says, "I am super involved in my 20-month-old son's life. Sure, there are times when I am exhausted and need a break, but I wouldn't want anyone else experiencing these 'firsts' that I would have missed if I had gone back to work outside of the home."

Can you be too involved?

Tiffany, a working mother of two from Missouri, says no. “I've seen the looks on the faces of the children who don't have a parent at the event and I cannot let that face belong to my daughter. It is simply heartbreaking. In my opinion, why have children if you aren't going to be involved in their lives?”

Ellen, mother of two from Virginia, has a different take. "Balance is everything. I'm as involved as I need to be so that my kids know how much I love them, but not so much that it takes away from my relationship with my husband. I have no problem putting on a movie for my child so my husband and I can have a romantic dinner. I refuse to become one of the moms who has no purpose in life once her kids go to college."

Justine, a part-time working mom of one from Illinois, agrees that there needs to be a balance. “I am pretty involved in my son’s life, considering he is only 15-months-old, but I don't believe in being with him all of the time. I think it's healthy for both the mother and the child to interact with others besides each other at least a couple of hours each week.”

And what if you simply can't be as involved as you want?

Laura, a full-time working mother of two from California, says, "Sometimes I feel like I treat them like batons passed in a relay race. I'm running constantly to fit it all in and give each daughter some one-on-one time. I hate it.”

Heidi, a single working mother of one from Chicago, says, "I'm newly divorced, so I'm a single mom who wants nothing more than to be able to attend every single event at my child's preschool. But with a career, it's impossible."

Juggling work and family >>

So can that dreaded “mom guilt” be avoided?

Shannon, a working mom of four from California, says no. “I never feel I have spent enough quality time with the kids. I try, and I think that counts for something. Whenever I pick my kids up from school, I always get one or more kids running for me yelling, "Mom!" in excited voices. If I was a horrible mom, they wouldn't be so excited to see me, right?”

Peggy, mother of three from Illinois, works two jobs and admits she convinces herself she's helping her children by not being more involved. "I'd like to say I have the right amount of involvement in my kids' lives. My conscience (or is it my mommy guilt) says I'm not involved enough. I tell myself I'm raising them to be responsible and independent, which is why I don't hover over their homework or nag them about going through their backpacks. In truth, I don't always have the time."

Melanie, a mother of two from Minnesota, says, “It seems to me like mothering and guilt go hand-in-hand in America."

And can you ever shake the guilt?

"Guilt? What's that... I'm the perfect mom of four. I spread my love equally and fairly at all times amongst my children, always put my needs last, never yell and am always thinking up new fun crafts for us to do as a family! Not!" laughs Shannon from California.

Shannon continues, "I think if you're a mom and you don't have guilt about spending enough time and being involved with your kids, then you must be doing something wrong. Mother's guilt is like breastfeeding... it comes in with your milk.”

Justine from California has a simple answer. “I don't feel guilty about the amount of time I spend with my son because he benefits from having a "happy" mom -- at least most of the time."

How to make the most of your time with your kids >>

Lisa Scottoline -- Save me & Come Home book covers

Life vs. fiction

Want more? Check out two great reads in the new SheKnows Book Lounge by bestselling author Lisa Scottoline: Come Home and Save Me. Two riveting novels about the extraordinary lengths mothers will go to for their children. Head to our new SheKnows Book Lounge now.

More ways to find time to be involved

Mommy-tasking: How to find more time to spend with your kids
6 Ways to juggle your job and your new baby
How do I balance work, my kids, my family and all of my responsibilities?

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