Mothering on the road to fitness

Motherhood and fitness is like motherhood and a hot shower, or motherhood and a hot meal, or even motherhood and a favorite 80s chick flick with wine and a box of tissues. Motherhood comes first, and everything else happens if there’s free time, except that moms don’t get recess.

It’s funny how much time we realize we’ve wasted before having kids–at least, that’s my truth. I filled my 20s with boredom. After my kids came along in my 30s, I’ve found that the things I want to do or always assumed I didn’t have time for have exponentially increased in value. So, I’ve found myself cramming extra goals and activities into my life that sometimes leave my head spinning. Fitness is one of them.

I’ve learned the hard way that it’s impossible to carve time out of space, as if I have any control. We can beat ourselves up for not getting things done, but it doesn’t make more time, and it definitely doesn’t create happiness. Instead, I’m working to train myself to steal moments during the time that’s already there. Quiet moments to write a few sentences, or a quick walk around the ‘hood with my kids. The most important lesson I’ve found in using fleeting moments (that in my childless life seemed to have no value) is that they are opportunities to mother myself–to care for myself as well as I care for my children–to give myself what I need. As fitness for my kids is part of my parenting, fitness for myself has to be part of my mothering, for my own body, and as an example for my children. Of course, this goes beyond just fitness. It applies to anything and everything any of us might want for our own lives. In mothering small children, carpe diem doesn’t really apply, but we can seize moments if we choose.

Making the most out of what time there is usually means something just doesn’t happen. Sometimes it’s the dishes. Often, Mommy’s run (exhaustion nailing that coffin). And, sometimes even the kids’ library trip just so everyone has clean socks. The struggle in this is choosing to make peace with a little dis-order. Balance is an illusion, despite what friends seem to achieve in their Tweets and Facebook statuses; we can all trust that the Joneses aren’t keeping up with themselves, either.

I do know some women who’ve achieved mind-blowing fitness goals and body-changing results since completing their families. The difference between them and many others are their local support systems of families and friends–support lost on those of us who’ve been following job opportunities around the country for survival.

It’s come to be that I spend 9 to 16 waking hours of the day completely alone with my children. I know this situation is temporary, and while it appears to make me (feel) the least important in our family, I do know better; I deserve my love as much as my children do, and as much as my hard-working, often-studying husband does. So, I’ve come to see fitness as something to pick away at in the mix of everything else, when I can. Arm flab is the pile of dirty laundry on the basement floor that never goes away, but doesn’t get worse. The pooch that bears the scars of pregnancy, unique of each child, is the sink of sticky dishes that reminds me we’re fed. My house is lived in, but it’s full of life.

Fitness is just another job to do/lesson to learn/thing to juggle on my journey, but like motherhood and all those little things that never seem to get done, it’s a fulfilling one. Just like the laundry will never be done, fitness is something to work toward, to invest in, when we can, as best we can. When we tell our kids, “Don’t give up!” and “Do your best!” we can’t forget to cheer ourselves on, too. For all we do, and for everything ahead of us, we deserve to be our own biggest fans.

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