Are fit moms truly choosing exercise over time with her children?
My Instagram feed floored me the other day. Two women posted on motherhood and fitness. Both were working moms who had pursued fitness before birth and even through pregnancy. They are also both working moms.
The first post was from a mom who said she more or less stopped working out after having her child. In her mind (and in her post) the choice was BETWEEN moments with her daughter and fitness. And her daughter won as she put it: “Every. Single. Time.”
Her underlying message? Fit Moms were choosing exercise over their children.
Right beneath that post was one from another mom about fitness and motherhood. This mother of 2 posted a picture of her 6–pack abs. She posted that she loved being a fit mother and that she felt like being in shape made her a better mother.
She addressed the time it took to work out and noted that :
She did not do so at the expense of her time with her children, she simply worked out in the morning before her kids woke up or during her lunch break.
So one chose to continue working out once the kids arrived and one chose to stop (more or less). Both seemed to agree that time spent exercising was time away from their children.
There seems to be some social acceptance to that message, otherwise both would not be responding to this unspoken statement via their posts, right?
It raises questions in my mind:
- Does Exercise Benefit Moms?
- Can Exercise be considered Self Care?
- Is it Really an Either/Or Proposition Children OR Fitness?
- What about Stay-At-Home Moms? Are the social “rules” different?
Does Exercise Benefit Moms?
1) Exercise creates endorphins.
2) Exercise makes you feel good about your body.
3) Exercise increases your sex drive (side effect of #2, but also a proven fact for women).
4) Exercise makes you think about what you are eating (and you make healthier choices).
5) Exercise helps you sleep better.
6) Exercise boosts your stamina and endurance.
Are these desirable traits for a mother?
In a world where Mother’s battle postpartum depression, there is HUGE value in endorphins and the ensuing happy feeling they create. I believe any mental health professional will tell you that working out is a great prescription for bouts with depression.
What about sex drive and feeling good about how you look? That’s a BIG deal for moms. Women’s bodies have been rocked by having a kid. They have changed irreparably in some cases and that can make us feel less attractive to our mates. As a result, I would say that anything that can help us overcome these issues is a “must-have.”
What about good sleep and increased stamina-are those desirable? That’s a definitive, “Yes!” We need all the sleep we can get when our kiddos are new. It is a precious commodity. And those rug rats can be exhausting! So we need all the stamina we can get, too!
How about our eating habits? As parents, we are trying to set our kids up for success. What WE put in our bodies is a big deal. If we are becoming more health conscious because we are working out, then they are watching us model some good behavior. I would put that in the “win” category.
What About Self Care?
First, let’s address the idea that self care is important. I get that the “helicopter mom” style is very popular (the mother who is consistently hovering over her child). That doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
What IS healthy for moms is taking some time to take care of themselves. That means time when mom is not around kid, but is doing things like meditating, getting her hair done and dare I say it? EXERCISING.
I think part of the message that “choosing exercise is not choosing our children” is another nail in the coffin that self care is not important for moms. It could not be MORE important for this population for all of the reasons listed above.
Is it an Either/Or Proposition?
Is it really a choice between fitness and our child? Do our kids really lose if we elect to work out without them present?
I SAY NO.
Here’s why: groups are popping up in every city for moms who want to work out with their kids in tow. Plenty of workout groups actually incorporate babies/children in their fitness routines and then offer a playtime after. WIN!
For those moms who only want their kid as company, companies make jogging strollers! Whether you walk or jog you are getting outside with your child and getting you some exercise. WIN!
Stay-At-Home Moms and Exercise
To this point I have only addressed the working mom population, but I would be remiss if I left the Stay-At-Home Moms (SAHMs) out of this discussion. (As you can see on my byline I am a SAHM.)
These moms get time with their kids all day every day, not in the short bursts before and after work. How do they fit into the parenting and fitness equation?
Based on my experience and the observed experience of my SAHM friends, gym time is a big piece of our self care time and a crucial time each day.
I have a Stay-at-Home Mom friend (mother of 3) who told me that her daily 2-hour break at the gym every day saved her sanity. It also taught her kids how to play with others who are not their sibling. Those sound like wins to me. Another win?
Some gyms offer childcare for no additional cost.
I have found gym childcare to be hugely valuable for our son. He lives as an only child (older siblings, not at home). We started taking him to the gym at 3 months old.
Some solid results? He plays easily with other children and has no issue being cared for by other adults. He does things like make crafts while I take a spin class with my husband or workout with other moms. Win!
What about the hour or 2 the SAHM moms are not with their kids? Should that merit a flogging?
I am gonna give that a HELL NO.
As noted above, the SAHMs who hit the gym are getting significant benefits. We are also able to meet other moms who are invested in their health and fitness and create a community of like-minded friends.
BIG wins found there! New friends. Play dates. Self care.
So, is it REALLY a choice to work out OR to spend time with our kids?
I believe that all the evidence above points to one conclusion:
That idea is pure BS. More importantly, we, as moms, need to stop perpetuating that BS by behaving as though it were true.
Come on, ladies! Enough already. Let’s get out there and reclaim our bodies and a little bit of time!