What flies out the window for moms after that first baby is birthed? A whole lot.
That damn stork drops off the baby then takes off with stuff like sleep and exercise.
Despite the world-rocking experience of learning to put an infant’s needs before my own, I managed to find time for work and food during those baby years. And getting some sleep became a priority pretty quickly. (Ever want to torture me? Go with sleep deprivation.) But the non-essential for survival but important quality-of-life stuff, like exercise? It became one of the things I needed most but got the least after popping out babes.
For about seven years, my primary cardio workouts consisted of baby-in-a-front-pack walks and uphill stroller pushes. My strength workouts included toddler lifts and long distance carries. Flexibility came from car seat strap-ins and sleeping infant crib drops.
Sounds decent, but I was not in great shape.
When my youngest started full day preschool at the age of 4, I joined Asheville’s YWCA. I slowly became reacquainted with a more serious level of working my muscles. Now, in addition to swimming at the YW, I’ve taken on Asheville CrossFit workouts twice a week. Think body boot camp. Lots of other moms I know are working to get back in that consistent exercise saddle as well. While I seem to need classes and competition, many of them do it themselves with running, walking or speed gardening.
But the point here isn’t HOW I got back into decent shape after the baby and toddler years. The point, really, is, why. Sanity is priority one — I will drive myself and my family nuts if I don’t have a physical outlet. Two is, yeah, I can be as vain as the next person, and I like how working out makes me look (and feel). Last but not at all least, I’m not getting fit just for myself. It’s also for my kids.
There are obvious health and longevity benefits to being active (I birthed my kids late, and I’d like the chance to meet any potential grandkids one day). But also, I want to model healthy behaviors and habits for my kids.
Researchers say that children truly do emulate their parents. From a very early age, offspring pick up on what their primary caregivers eat, drink, and how often and intensely they move their bods. The good news is that, while you can do all kinds of active stuff with your kids, it’s also OK to enjoy own exercise program and tell them, “This is for me.” Your personal workouts can imprint on your children just as effectively as family activities. It’s a win-win-win.
I recently competed on a relay team in the Asheville Triathlon. I only did the swim portion for time, while a friend (mom of a toddler and a preschooler) completed the swim and run sections. My kids showed up at the race — my daughter had been dragged out of bed by her Dad so early that she forgot to remove her retainer.
But she loved being there, as did my boy. They literally followed me around the pool, cheering me on at the end of every lane. And when I passed a guy in the final 50 meters, I could hear them whooping and hollering.
It’s not only about mommy kicking heiney. It is about my kids seeing me being strong and tough and persistent and taking care of my body and my health.
There were lots of kids at the Triathlon. Even a few babies. I was a little jealous of the moms who’d made the time to work out this hard with babies in tow. I regret that I didn’t do the same. But I’m making up for it now. And, in the process, I hope, I’m teaching my kids that exercise is an important lifelong commitment. Especially during the post-stork years.