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Who Are Mommy and Me Activities Really For?

Em was only 2 months old when I brought her to Mommy & Me Storytime. One of the members of my new moms support group had raved about it and, as a book nerd, I welcomed the chance to get out to my local, independent bookshop under the auspices of instilling my daughter with a love of reading.

The children's room was already packed when I arrived at the shop 10 minutes early. Another mom—noticing me laden down with baby, baby carrier, diaper bag, and purse—offered me the toddler-sized chair she was sitting in. Once I finally settled down, my various items spread out around me, my knees hunched in almost to my chin, I noticed that Em was the youngest one there. All of the other kids were mobile, able to move about the room, grab at toys, sit up on their own. When the children's room staffer reading the books asked her audience questions related to the story, they shouted their answers back at her. When, between books, she led the children in song, they capably sang along.

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As they shouted out the lyrics to "The Wheels on the Bus," Emily stared silently at the ceiling fan. I caught another mom's eye.

"Did I come too soon?" I asked.

Though she assured me my daughter was benefiting from everything she heard that morning, I felt relieved when storytime was over and I could pack Em back into her carrier, snuggle her into my chest, and browse the shop for adult books. But I wondered:

Was it really worth bringing Em to storytime?

Would she benefit more from our private book time at home?

Didn't I really just come because I wanted to buy books for myself? And get out of the house? And have an excuse to brush my hair?

One time, I spent at least half the class sitting off to the side, comforting her, wondering to myself: is this even worth it?

Another thing we do together is Mommy & Me Yoga. Most Thursday mornings, I pack up Em and my yoga mat and head over to my OB/GYN's office, where the yoga teacher who taught my prenatal classes leads us in gentle stretches and lunges and backbends.

For some poses, we leave our babies on cushions placed in front of our mats, where they can smile up at us as we do warrior 1 or swan dive into forward folds, tickling their tummies on our way down. In other poses, we prop our babies onto our hips, facing outward (tree pose) or cradle them in our arms facing outward as we shift from foot to foot or place them on their tummies on top of us as we press our hips up into bridge pose or do reclined abdominal work.

Em's gotten to the point where she really enjoys a lot of this. She giggles as I forward fold over her, my hair tickling her nose. She grins hugely as I lie down on my mat, place her on my shins, and lift her up into the air so she can pretend she's flying. She laughs with abandon as I swing her around the room.

But other times, she screams and I have to stop my practice to check her diaper or feed her or just walk her around the room.

One time, I spent at least half the class sitting off to the side, comforting her, wondering to myself: is this even worth it?

And I don't think there's ever been a time when I was actually able to enjoy a savasana.

So how much of this is for her? So she can leave the house? And move her body? And interact with other babies? And interact with me (instead of watching me work at my computer for hours on end)?

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And how much of this is for me? So I can stretch the back that has tensed up from lifting her up and out of the crib again and again? So I can re-stretch and re-strengthen the muscles that used to pretzel their way through four to six yoga classes a week?

So I can look inward and breathe?

I don't know. Maybe it's okay to acknowledge that it's for me. Maybe it's okay to be just a little bit selfish. To recharge. To make myself sane again, so I can be more for her.

Or maybe, now that I think about it, it really is doing the both of us some good.

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