I feel guilty, or could easily find a way to feel guilty, about everything as a mom. It’s crazy, it’s unnecessary, but really I think it’s unavoidable. So, of course, I used to feel guilty about exercising…used to being key here!
I felt like it was unfair for me to take time from my children to exercise. Now, two years since Insanity magically transformed me into an exercise person, I realize how unfair it would be for me to not exercise. When I exercise, I am a better mother. I didn’t notice it for a while, but one day it dawned on me- I snap a lot less than I used to. I have had fewer “crazy/mommy dearest/why does nobody listen or care until I scream?” moments. Maybe some of this has to do with experience or age or wisdom. But a lot of it definitely comes from exercise. It’s just made me a happier person. I feel better physically, emotionally, mentally. I have more energy. I also have something that’s mine- and I think this part is very important when you’re a mother of young children.
My whole life is theirs, but this exercise thing is mine. Me strengthening my body is mine. Me pushing myself and making progress and seeing new muscles is mine. I share it with them often, and I enjoy that. But this exercise thing is my thing. For so long my body wasn’t mine- it was growing babies and feeding babies. All day long there was little time that some little being wasn’t asking something of it- to sit on it or be held by it, to be washed by it or changed by it, or for it to do something- get juice, make lunch, read, draw, play. Some days it was a relief after bedtime to just be- to move freely, to use two hands to do something! I still have days like this sometimes, though they are fewer and farther between. And believe me I know enough now to savor them- I’ll miss these days soon enough!
But when your’e giving and giving and giving, when all your time and energy is spent taking care of your children, thinking about your children, worrying about your children, analyzing yourself in relation to your children…it’s nice to have something separate, something your own.
I very much get a kick out of my two-year-old doing push-ups with me, or my then four-year-old daughter high-fiving me during Insanity. And I love showing my nine-year-old the new muscle I noticed on the back of my arm, or watching my seven-year-old show me the push-ups he did in gym class that are like the ones mommy does with Shaun T. That is all so cool! So it’s not that exercise is mine in the sense that I don’t want to share it, but it’s mine in that I own this. I own what I’ve done, I own the person I’ve become. I have pride in something I started doing just for me. I have no need to feel guilty about that.
Now, in a less abstract, metaphorical, lalala way- there are days I feel bad if I stick my little guy in front of a Barney because I didn’t get out of bed to work out before the kids were up. But those days don’t happen too often. And I can cut myself a little slack when they do happen. One week early in the school year, there were several of those days strung together and I did feel badly about it. A couple days in, it was a beautiful fall morning and I couldn’t turn on the TV again. It wouldn’t just be the 30 or 40 minutes I had to exercise, it would also be the showering and getting ready that followed it. So I dragged out the jogging stroller and changed my plan and we had a great little run. (But wow, I forgot how hard running with a stroller can be!) I got my exercise in, and he got some fresh air and had a ton of fun on our outing.
All in all, though, I’ve put away the mom guilt on this one. I have plenty of other things to feel guilty about! This exercise stuff is a good thing. For me, for all of us, in so many ways…