When it comes to exercise, which camp do you fall into? Do you do plenty and are you happy with what exercise you do and now much. Or are you a bit hit and miss as life tends to get in the way. Or, indeed do you not bother even trying most of the time as you just feel too busy?
I reckon not many would say they’re in the first camp (myself included). And if we’re not exercising as much as we would like to there can be lots and lots of reasons. We’re busy, we’re tired, we lack the motivation, we feel like if we can’t do everything we want to it’s not worth doing any at all, we’re lacking in confidence….. The list goes on.
But one of the things I think we often don’t acknowledge is Mum Guilt. I talk to lots of people who say they can’t exercise at certain times because the kids are around and then by the time the kids go to bed they’re too tired to do anything. They feel that when the kids are there, being with them and doing things for them, should be the sole focus.
The result is that we tend to come last and our need to exercise and do things for ourselves falls so far down the pecking order that it usually completely falls off the to do list.
I know that when your kids are particularly young, it can be true that trying to exercise with them around can be challenging to say the least. However, I do also think that for a lot of us it’s almost as if we felt we couldn’t do other things when the kids were really young and that habit has kind of stuck. Even once the kids are a bit older and a bit more self sufficient we continue to tell ourselves that they need to be in bed or at nursery or at school in order for us to ‘indulge’ ourselves with exercise or to just sit for a bit.
I admit that I struggle to create time to exercise sometimes. Generally, when my kids are at school I tend to be working. Then I often have classes in the evenings and on Saturday mornings. Which means that my time to exercise has sometimes had to be at times when the kids are around. Otherwise I really would struggle to fit exercise into my life effectively.
But what this has done is to make me consider the benefits of actually exercising while the kids are around and as far as I can see, it’s actually good for them!
Firstly, you’re setting a brilliant example. You’re showing your kids that exercise is a really important part of life, not just an afterthought or something that they never see you doing. And we all know that kids learn by example. Watching you moving shows them that exercise is a normal part of the day, that it’s just as important as brushing your teeth or having a shower. Plus, when you’re telling your kids that they should be out running around and moving rather than watching TV, your words will carry that bit more weight because they will know that Mum practices what she preaches.
Secondly, I think we need to show the next generation that Mums aren’t just there to serve others. We don’t just exist to make them dinner and take them to clubs and generally make everyone else’s life easier! We actually have needs of our own and our own self care is important too. We may have come a really long way in terms of gender equality, but we’re not there yet and we need to keep showing our kids that Mums are more than just the people that look after them. Because even if we do work, when we tend to be the ones that pick the kids up, make their tea and wash their clothes (this may not be the case for all of you, but I bet it is for a lot) then that’s the stuff that kids see.
Finally, if we can make that time to exercise it will likely make us slightly more relaxed mums! I know that when I’ve had a hectic week and haven’t fit in the sessions that I want to it makes for slightly more stress. When I’ve done my workouts I’m definitely a more laid back mum. So, a win all round!
So, if you tend to feel that Mum guilt and it means that you don’t get to do the exercise that you would like to because of it, then it’s worth thinking about all of the positive reasons for getting your sweat on while the kids are around. If you do have younger kids it can definitely be harder, and I know myself that I did many a session that was incomplete or just not what I wanted it to be when mine were little. But it started to set the expectation even at a young age that that was what mummy did sometimes.
Now that my kids are older I can usually find half an hour while they’re playing on the trampoline (with regular breaks to stop them fighting, obvs!) or I save it until it’s their post-dinner TV time and do it then. But what I never do is feel guilty for taking that bit of time out for me!