How do you take care of yourself as a mom? This, for me, is a struggle. When my babies were born 19 months apart, I literally spent years in the pregnant-nursing-diapers-toddler-stroller-napping phase where it seemed like a major military operation to get out of the house.
My needs were regularly sacrificed because life was no longer run by my personal agenda.
When my kids were small, I desperately wanted to go to the YMCA regularly to exercise, but it seemed like the odds were stacked against me.
One kid would be sick (can’t leave the house). Or I had been up all night (yet again) with my non-sleeping son and hardly felt up for a trip to the grocery store, let alone to go work out for an hour. And then there were the logistics: two diaper bags, two sets of snacks and bottles (for nursing babies who did not like bottles BTW), two diapers to change (or more – Murphy’s law) before we could get in the car, drive to the Y, get out of the car, get them inside without a meltdown, stand in line to check them into child watch, and get to class on time.
The process of getting out of my house into the workout room – 5 minutes from my house – took an hour or more. And inevitably, the child watch staff would come to find me because my baby would not stop crying. I would run out of my class to retrieve my sad, very mama-attached baby.
Bye-bye work out. I was so discouraged.
An older, wiser friend once said to me, “That infant-toddler-preschooler time is the most physically intensive and draining time. But it gets easier.” I felt intensively physically drained. It was hard. I wish that I had an easier time taking care of myself during that phase of parenting. But I didn’t. It was just hard. And if that is you, my friend, I get it.
The good news is that my kids are now in elementary school and middle school, and it is easier. They still need me, but in new and different ways. I had the realization that just as they are getting older, so am I.
I need to show them how to do good self-care. This is still a juggle, between work and shuttling kids to activities. And of course, there is dinner, laundry, housekeeping, grocery shopping… our lists as moms are never completely checked off. And if they are, a new day dawns and the list checking starts anew.
Finally, I realized that exercise was a must-do for my physical and mental health – I couldn’t put myself last on that list anymore.
Making It Happen
Wondering how I could squeeze in a workout on a regular basis, I came to the conclusion that my workout had to be the first thing I did every day. After years of sleep deprivation, I hardly would have believed my current work out schedule. I now rise at 5 am most weekdays to work out at the YMCA. It makes the most sense with my life – unless I forget to set my alarm or wake in the night with a sick kid, little interferes with this schedule. A tremendous gift to myself, it does takes some discipline to get up.
But once I am out of bed, I look forward to some surprising benefits.
The first benefit is that I had no idea I had accidentally joined a community of dedicated, early morning workout warriors. That in itself is inspiring. It is a great blessing to be surrounded by a surprisingly large number of other people who wake up early to work out, too. And to be welcomed each morning by the devoted YMCA staff is a great way to start the day. Between the front desk staff, the workout room staff and the fitness instructors teaching at 5:30 am, I have a team of great role models and cheerleaders.
Another benefit is my energy level. I hesitated trying this schedule for a while because I was worried about being too tired. While there was an adjustment period to waking so early (where I did feel tired), I have to confess that now I feel tired when I don’t get up early and work out. My energy level is pretty consistent until about 7 pm, when I definitely begin to feel sleepy. But frankly, what mom has energy after 7 pm anyway?
But one of the best benefits is to walk out of my workout at 6:30 am as the sun is coming up. I feel stronger, focused, and so thankful to be alive. I savor this time to myself, before the needs of the rest of the world start competing for my attention. And I feel ready for the day to come. That makes it all worth it.