Years ago before I had kids, I worked at the Coors Fitness Center. I remember a beautiful red-headed mother and her adorable little blond boy, almost always in cute red cowboy boots, coming in often. He always looked happy to be coming in to the the gym daycare, but every single time the mom tried to leave him to go workout, he would lose it! I remember watching in awe, every single day, as the mother stood outside the door (out of the boy’s sight) after dropping him off, and listening in agony, as her son would cry for her. She asked me once through tears,
“Am I ever going to be
able to workout again?”
This repeated scene scarred me. I vowed that my kids, should I ever have any, were not going to ruin my priorities. A naive declaration, I know, but witnessing her struggle definitely changed the way I parented.
I worked out the last day of each pregnancy, and the first day I was able to after both C-sections. I’m not bragging. Some cannot. I get that. I actually don’t feel good at all admitting that when I went back to my first client, after Izak was 6 weeks old. I almost threw him at the babysitter and didn’t realize until I got to their front door that I hadn’t even kissed him goodbye. What kind of mother was I!?
I didn’t change the way I ate while breastfeeding. I have no idea what I was eating to make Izak’s 5 p.m. witching hour so horrible, but not surprisingly, it stopped when I stopped nursing him at 9 months. Nadia was a tiny baby, and started growing and thriving more after I quit nursing her, too. Knowing what I know now, I would have done better.
I do have regrets, but here’s one I don’t have: I always make time for me.
My kids have always seen me prioritize working out, choosing mostly healthy food, and reading or journaling (sometimes in the middle of the day). They learned young what quiet time means and that sometimes mommy was not available for complaints, requests, food or other non-life-threatening needs. I don’t regret locking them out of our bedroom sometimes so mommy and daddy could have “alone time.” (I DO regret locking her IN by accident once…) They learned early on to entertain themselves. Sometimes an adult would come to my house for business and be here for quite some time before noticing there was a child in the room also.
I sound selfish. I realize.
I am lucky. I know this.
But all the little events we witness in life become a part of our next decision and after many, who we become. Watching that poor mother suffer taught me what I did not want.
Perhaps some of this comes from the fact that I did not have my babies until later in life. I’d had time to get set in my ways. I’d had time to indulge in my freedom. The bottom line is, I don’t think my kids suffered because I chose to prioritize myself. My hope is, they were taking notes.
Both of them workout regularly now, by choice. Izak also eats very healthy while Nadia loves sugar. Both are fiercely independent. I let them read this article, and we had a neat conversation about who they might be had they been raised in a different home, with a different mother.
I asked how watching me prioritize myself may have influenced who they are. They didn’t hesitate. It’s hard to say what would be different, but both were thankful for the example they’ve had and are convinced it has influenced them positively.
My hope is to give encouragement to mothers who struggle to justify making the time to take care of themselves. It’s not selfish. It’s actually required. I think it’s essential for the raising of self-sufficient, independent, healthy adults. If our kids do not have a model of self-care, how will they learn to do it for themselves?
Each moment and decision your children see, collectively become a pattern in their brain wiring. It is actually part of your job description, as a mother, to model self-care and prioritizing yourself. Do so unapologetically.