Sorry if you have a problem with that, but I don’t.
Near the end my last Crossfit class, my two-year-old lost patience waiting in the kids’ room, where she had plenty of puzzles, crayons, toys, and movies all within eyesight of me. When she wandered out to where our class was performing never-ending burpees and plank walks, I didn’t panic, embarrassed that someone would get upset that someone would be mad at me for bringing my kid to class or yell at me for interrupting an adult environment.
Instead, I greeted her with excitement because I knew that in this class, kids are not a problem. I simply grabbed another yoga mat for her and she joined me in working out. It was adorable and more importantly, I welcomed the opportunity to introduce fitness as a completely normal part of life for my kids.
Although I am far from what you would call “fit,” and I still have a long ways to go for what I would like to accomplish in my health, I have made exercise a priority in my life since having my fourth baby two years ago. I started having children relatively early on in my life, getting pregnant at 21, and back then, I wasn’t very educated about exercise. I went through my four pregnancies, pretty much back-to-back, without really knowing how to exercise or how it could help me. I wish so much that I would have known more back then, because my pregnancies could have been a lot easier and I could have recovered in the postpartum period a lot faster too.
But the point is, exercise is now a big part of my life, because I’ve found that not only does it help me feel better physically and gives me the energy I need to get through a day as a work-at-home mom with four kids eight and under, but it gives me tremendous mental benefits. Honestly, exercise is my therapy. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety my entire life and I had a very hard time after going through a miscarriage this summer — my anxiety felt like it was out of control, to the point where I would be driving down the road and go into a full-blown panic attack that I forgot one of my kids, even though I could see all of them.
I knew that something had to change, so I joined a new gym and even though it was a bit of a stretch financially, I felt comfortable to go because I knew the coaches and class participants were 100% OK with having my kids there. To know that I don’t have to pay a sitter or enroll them in a gym daycare not only saves me money, but it saves my sanity as well. I can visibly show my children, from early on, how important exercise is to me — and how fun it can be for the whole family.
These days, I incorporate exercise with all my kids. We play exercise videos in the basement and each kid has their own mini set of dumbbells (one pound, just so we’re clear!), my kids come to my classes, and if the gym is empty, I’ll even let them tag along with me while I do my workouts. My oldest daughter makes up moves for me to do that are actually pretty darn challenging and my six-year-old ran a whole mile with me this summer — and almost beat me! I am a pretty slow runner, but I was still impressed.
Personally, I love it when I see other moms at the gym with their kids. There are so many obstacles to exercising as a mom, especially a new mom, so to see other moms there, sweating alongside of you as they lug in diaper bags and car seats and sippy cups, feels like such a relief. There is even one brand-new mom who brings her newborn in a car seat while she lifts crazy heavy weights and I’ve never been so impressed. Because I know that working out as a mom is usually not about ‘getting your body back” or working on your killer six-pack, but instead, about feeling more like yourself again.
It’s about getting out of the house and seeing other adults and feeling like you are a part of something again. Being a mom of little kids can be so lonely and isolating and it’s so tempting to want to stay home in your sweat pants, even when that doesn’t make you feel good either.
So yes, the next time you need me, I’ll be proudly bringing my kids to the gym and if you happen to be there with yours, I will smile that knowing smile of moms everywhere and give you a silent high-five. Because strong moms = awesome moms.