Easing Mommy Guilt: 20 Quick Ways To Connect With Your Baby When Time Is Short

Even to this day, more than a decade later, I remember what it felt like—that gnawing, desperately unsettled, perpetually unsatisfied, I’m-totally-failing-my-baby feeling I had when I was juggling a full-time job, a burgeoning book career, a young marriage and new motherhood, all at the same time. I was a features editor at Honey—a demanding job that called for long hours, some late nights and ridiculous commutes from a Manhattan office to our home in New Jersey. Mornings always were rushed as I’d make the teary-eyed day care drop off and make the mad dash to work, and I’d get home barely in time enough to kiss my baby goodnight, let alone feed her dinner, bathe her, read to her and love on her the way I wanted to. The nanny, a grandmotherly woman whom we hired after a couple of disastrous run-ins with bad babysitters, was a terrific nurturer for my Mari, then about two. But she was caring for, nurturing and loving on my baby—what I should have been doing. What I longed to do. Quitting my job wasn’t an option—or a desire. I liked working and I was excited about where my book career was headed. But I wanted more from my relationship with my baby. Much more. I’m sure this is what I was thinking when Nick drew up The Mari List. The Mari List was a manifesto of sorts—an inventory of activities he whipped up to help us bond with our girlpie in meaningful ways, even if our time together was limited. I don’t quite remember if we did anything on the list, but when Nick found a copy of it in his computer files—more than a decade after it was drawn up (!)—my heart melted remembering why we made it up and especially where my mind was in the whole work-life balance struggle at that specific time in my motherhood journey.  For sure, I was thirsty for a true connection with my daughter. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share with you The Mari List. Perhaps you’ll find here something fun and adventurous to do with your babies. Or, like me, you’ll reminisce about the fun you had with your children when they were wee-bits. Enjoy!


  • When coming into the house, we can gather up a bunch of leaves and try to recreate their various colors using the crayons we have at our disposal.
  • We can get playdo and see who can make the best sculpture of a dog.
  • We can see who can jump on one foot the most times without falling.
  • We can roll a ball back and forth to her on the floor.
  • We can see who can balance a book on the top of our head the longest.
  • We can get a gigantic piece of paper and have her lie down and trace Mari, then cut it out and have her draw Mari’s entire body inside.
  • We can look through magazines and cut out every picture we see of a dog, then decide which one is the biggest doggy and which one is the smallest, which one is the prettiest, which one looks the meanest.
  • We can get dolls and start showing her how to braid their hair.
  • We can get together our instruments and everybody play a song while we record it.
  • We can go outside at night and count the stars in the sky.
  • We can count all the trees we see on the way to Amberlena, or all the blue cars.
  • We can have Mari create her own songs to sing, using the people and places she loves.
  • We can look through magazines for pictures of people and determine whether they are happy or sad.
  • We can get a stack of five books and see how many times we come across a bird, or a kitty cat, or a Mommy, or a Daddy.
  • We can plant a seed that becomes Mari’s plant, and have her water it herself everyday.
  • We can learn a new song every week with Mari, with eveyrbody in the family having to learn it so we can all sing it together.
  • We can teach Mari how to pat her head and rub her tummy at the same time.
  • We can teach Mari tongue twisters, like Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
  • We can play catch with a ball, or even a pillow.
  • We can build a tunnel with the pillows and have Mari crawl through it.


1. Millionaire Ann Romney and the Fake Mommy Wars: What We Moms REALLY Want 2. Mission Possible: A Black Mom Trades In “Having It All” For “Having What Matters” 3. Postponing Motherhood: Is It Possible To Build A Family and A Career? 1. Balance is for Yoga and Flamingos: Rethinking Work/Life Balance For Busy Moms

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

One Comment

  1. Awww! I love this so much. I remember the days (and still have some now) of feeling super guilty being a busy, working single mom, and all of the guilt that comes with it. When I told my baby girl, who is now 15, that I would be leaving my job this summer the first thing she said was, “so does that mean you’ll be home when I get home from school and we can cook dinner together and eat at the table??” I felt so bad. My remedy when she was younger was to have “mommy-daughter days” I would take one day out of the week and one weekend per month where we would do something fun together. It could be as simple as getting ice cream bu as long as I called it mommy-daughter day, she loved it.

    Thanks for this!

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