Once upon a Time, I Was a Lot like You.
Once upon a time, in my not so distant past, I was a lot like you. I used to watch those moms. You know the ones.
The ones in the running shorts, huffing and puffing along, pushing their jogging strollers around the track. Or the ones out for their scheduled power walk, without their children in tow, ticking off their laps and checking their Fitbits. Those extra-healthy moms, the ones enjoying an active lifestyle, finding the time to just do it despite the biggest deterrent to exercise since the beginning of time, motherhood.
I rolled my eyes at them with baffled disdain because I was straight up jealous. How the heck were they able to fit exercise into their day?
And for a while, I continued to be jealous and make excuses. Those moms had plenty of time to exercise because they didn’t have to work! They could afford childcare while they schlepped off to Yoga, or went out for a run! Or, they must have lots of help at home! They had grandmas and grandpas who came by to watch the kids for an hour.
And those moms weren’t punished for taking time away from their kids to do something good for their bodies. They didn’t walk in to a sink full of dirty dishes and messes to clean whenever they left the house. My mind would run amok with scenarios that always included how easy it was for them.
I ladled heavy spoonfuls of resentment onto my already heaping plate over what I imagined their lives were like. In every scenario, they could exercise because their lives were always easier than mine.
For me, finding time to exercise was simply too difficult. And it certainly wasn’t a priority.
But those moms managed to find a way. Even my nurse friend carved out some time to ride her bike around in the morning, after she rolled in from her night shift. She would strap her toddler into a safety seat on the back while her husband got ready for work, before the day-sitter arrived. They had a steady routine in place.
I kept coming back to the question of Why though. Why would I do something that no one was forcing me to do? Why add yet another thing to my list?
I simply didn’t have the desire, the time, or the resolve. Like you, I told myself that exercise wasn’t important. And I got fat. Really fat. And my fatness led to the vicious circle of more resentment and unhappiness, which then created even less resolve.
One day I decided to throw a wrench into the circle and go for a short, brisk walk. Just one lap around my neighborhood. I dropped everything I was doing, put on my sneakers, told my husband I’d be back in 10 minutes, and just went. No goal. No pressure. No kids. No rhyme or reason. I just did it.
And in those 10 minutes I learned more about what it takes to love myself enough to take care of myself than I had in the past 10 years.
I used to feel like I couldn’t do anything for myself unless everything else was done. The house, the laundry, the dishes, the kids, organizing the closets. What I realized rather quickly, after I started to work a regular walk into my life, was that all of those things would still be there whether I exercised or not. I knew that having other things to do was not a good enough excuse to ignore my health.
Those workout moms annoyed me mostly because they always made it look so easy. I realize now that when exercise becomes a priority, it is easy. It requires planning, yes, and a little juggling, but it’s easy. The first step is honestly believing that it’s not selfish to think about ourselves.
And the most difficult part of the balancing act we must perform as mothers is removing phony excuses from our daily priority equation. Exercise is freeing because it’s something good we can do for ourselves that changes how we feel about everything.
A snowball calming effect takes over our lives when we string together regular exercise. We feel better inside and out, and in turn, our lives seem better and more manageable. Exercise changes how we cope with stress and how we communicate with our partners and children. Because we’ve done something good for ourselves, we become less resentful and overwhelmed.
Removing excuses about exercise is an example I can set for my children.
It’s super easy to make excuses, but guess what? It’s just as easy to lace up a pair of sneakers and walk out of the door.
Once upon a time, I was just like you. I used to watch those moms. Now I am one.
Kimberly Valzania practices mindful gratefulness. She is creatively driven to write about and share her personal experience and opinion on weight loss, fitness, life changes, adventures in parenting, day-to-day triumphs (and failures) and the truth-seeking struggle of simply being human. She believes that life is indeed a journey, and that precious moments appear (like magic) when she surrenders to beauty in all forms, and the divine chaos of unpredictable circumstances. She is happily imperfect, and plans to stay that way. Her essays and poetry appear on The Elephant Journal, The Manifest-Station, The Minds Journal, Scary Mommy, and BonBon Break. You can read more at her website.