One of my current pet peeves is reading a celebrity interview where a Hollywood mother of young children says her workout is “chasing the children.”
Come on. We all know it’s not.
You have help with the kids and a personal trainer and exercise at least three days a week, and you know it. Stop making other mamas feel like we should have six-pack abs and chiseled deltoids from cruising after toddlers.
That said, I workout almost every day and I can vouch for the reality that it’s not easy. It is, however, a priority. Here are eight realistic tips for any parent who wants to get into great shape, all while the little ones are around.
1. Don’t wait for help.
Sometimes it feels like my husband and I could spend an entire Saturday piggy-backing workouts. Actually, we have.
I don’t live by my family or have a babysitter to help out. These tips that are about to follow have been created out of pure necessity within my life.
My most important advice to all moms out there who want to exercise and feel good about themselves? Don’t wait for help. We can do it.
If you can clean up more poop in one day than you can count and you can grow a baby inside of your body, you can find thirty minutes a day to exercise.
(Here, I’ll help you. Keep reading.)
2. That said, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Typically, my exercise has been completed by the time my husband comes home from work.
For one, if I waited for him, I usually either wouldn’t workout or wouldn’t workout to the same capacity because, news flash, it truly is exhausting chasing children. (Which is why we need to exercise—so that we can!)
Additionally, he wants to exercise too.
Regardless, there are definitely days where my head is spinning and my tongue is nearly being bitten off to not lose my temper—and it’s days like these that I give him the kids to figure it out while I work out.
Sometimes everyone needs help and it’s absolutely true that being a stay-at-home mom is the most demanding (and rewarding) job out there.
3. Be creative.
Realize that while “chasing children” isn’t enough, that we are at a stage where we likely will not get as much exercise as we want—and be okay with this.
I’m one of those people who could—and has—exercised for hours a day, given the opportunity. This, though, is not one of those places in my life. (Not if I want to be present with my children the way that I want to.)
So I’ve come to accept—on most days—that I’m not working out to win races or competitions. Know what else, moms? Someday much too soon we will have more time on our hands than we desire.
Don’t wish your life away, but do acknowledge that some things aren’t for forever—for good and for bad.
4. Stop using children as an excuse.
This said, our kids, in my humble opinion, should never be used as excuses for why we don’t take care of ourselves. It’s not true and it’s not fair, so don’t do it.
5. Exercise early in the morning.
It’s hard to come up with as many reasons for why we didn’t exercise that day if we get right to it. Try as hard as you can to carve out thirty minutes for yourself after breakfast.
6. Let kids feel like it was a team effort for mom to complete a session.
This morning my husband went mountain biking and I just didn’t want another weekend day that was over before it started because I was waiting to lift weights until he got home. So I put the baby down for her usual nap and took my daughter and her Cozy Coup car down into the basement.
Yes, there wasn’t a lot of driving room around my workout area, but she had her little red car, two of her favorite books and was ready to help Mama count out her reps.
And when I finish a set or my exercise all together? We high five and say something cheesy like, “Go team! We did it! Hooray!” Kids love this. At least, mine do.
Another tip? Don’t wait until the kids are entirely sick of watching you exercise to finish up.
For example, when my four year old and I were downstairs, she was being so good that I was really tempted to crank out a few more back exercises that I hadn’t gotten to yet, or to add it in some arms or more cardio. But the key here is to have this be a part of your regular routine.
Instead, I looked at her in her little red car and the baby still asleep on the video monitor and asked if she wanted to go upstairs and read together for a little bit. Because honestly, that extra set or ten minutes on my circa-1980-whatever Nordic Track are not that important.
7. Acknowledge that often watching mom exercise stinks—but there are rewards afterwards.
One of the main reasons I exercise in the morning is that it impacts my mood for the entire rest of the day with my kids. I’m also honest with my children that mommy works out because while it does take time away from the beginning of our day, it makes mommy much more patient and fun for the whole day after. Kids may have limited ability to understand a verbal explanation like this, but the proof is in the pudding.
In other words, they will see how you are before a workout and after, and they will get it.
8. Know that rewards might be delayed.
I’m still at the point with small children that this is my “one day” hope: my aim is that my kids might remember how I had to work at staying fit while they were little, and that this helped them to develop a healthy attitude about exercise—and the priority that we should be placing on it.
Remember that previously declared pet peeve? It’s a problem, to me, to have this attitude that we “don’t have time”—for both exercise and caring for ourselves—in front of our children.
I am raising two daughters. I want them to grow up with healthy body images and I want them to know that I value myself as a human being outside of being their mother. Staying active and keeping my body limber and strong are some of the easiest ways I can think of to work towards this otherwise challenging goal.
Because, at the end of the day, I workout largely so that I can chase my children—staying healthy and in shape for, ideally, a lifetime with them is one of my best motivators.
But my biggest motivator is simple: I want to feel good and treat myself with love, and exercise is just one thing that everyone should be trying to squeeze in every day.
Some people might think that stay-at-home moms have it easy; that there’s no reason for us not to exercise—but, moms, we know it’s not that convenient, right? So here’s one last tip: be patient with yourself.
Know that being in your best shape doesn’t mean looking like someone else.
Honor fitness goals like “nail that yoga pose” or “see more definition in my triceps,” but recognize that the best reward for working out is simply to feel good and be the best version of ourselves, not a crappy version of someone else.
After all, we are raising tiny human beings, and they do see and emulate our behavior. Make sure your workout time is adding to your self-esteem and your self-care rather than detracting from it.
Most importantly? Give yourself a huge hug for working so hard to take care of yourself in front of your kids.
Photo: Author’s own. (Heh heh heh…)