April 17, 2010 02:00 PM

Courtesy Working Mother

Parting used to be such sweet sorrow for Alison Sweeney and 5-year-old son Benjamin Edward.

“There was a period when he didn’t want me to leave,” the Days of Our Lives star and Biggest Loser host tells Working Mother.

Like many others, Sweeney,  33, says she initially made “the mistake of sneaking out,” but a pediatrician alerted her to the error of her ways.

“[He] said I should say goodbye,” she explains. “He reassured me that children behave that way even if you’re a stay-at-home mom going to the grocery store.”

Instead, Sweeney says she now recognizes the importance of allowing her son to experience separation “and to see that I always come back.”

“We have a routine where we blow kisses,” she continues. “He grabs one kiss and eats it and saves one in his pocket for later.”

That’s not to say that the separation is easy for Sweeney, however. Also mom to 15-month-old Megan Hope with husband Dave Sanov, she admits she struggles with working mom guilt.

“There’s no easy answer, but if you’ve made the choice to work, accept it and allow yourself to reevaluate from time to time,” she advises others. “It’s the choice you’re making right now — it doesn’t have to be the choice you’re making for the rest of your life.”

Be honest with yourself, and don’t be afraid to the tough questions, Sweeney says — like how your children are handling your choices. “Parents who dwell in guilt often end up being too lenient,” she opines. “And remember that being home all the time isn’t all lollipops either.”

“Kids can sense if you’re stifling some part of yourself. I teach my kids to deal with their feelings and find their voice — but the same thing applies for moms. I really believe that taking great care of yourself allows you to take better care of your kids.”

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