Once upon a time, before this new child took my body hostage and threatened unpleasant and painful results if I did not satisfy its demands for food every single hour of the day, I used to exercise.
I had almost forgotten all about it, it’s been two months and my butt is huge and my belly is too, but it’s not really because of my uterus yet, just the extra 3000 calories a day that I need to keep things semi-comfortable, and the total lack of aerobic activity that I have sunk into.
Yesterday, as testament to the fact that I used to set a healthy example for my children and take care of my body and brain, the Girl tottered over to me with a workout video in hand and told me she wants to exercise. She had gone and put on “exercise clothes” and was demanding something that used to be part of our daily routine. So we cleaned all of the toys off of the living room floor and I put in the show for her, and watched. I watched her still baby soft little body try to go through the Pilates for buns and thighs workout. Mainly she rolled on the floor a little bit and awkwardly flailed her leg around looking edible and adorable while she did it.
It reminded me though of why I am conscious of taking care of myself in the midst of this mommy gig. I am giving my children a gift that will serve them for years to come. I am teaching them to eat properly and exercise regularly something that I hope will keep them from the many problems that most adults experience with their bodies, but that’s not the main gift. I am teaching my son to expect that the woman in his life will not bend over backwards to serve him; that they deserve to be taken care of. I am teaching my daughter that it is important for a woman, especially a woman caring for others, to care for herself as well, that she has value, that she does not have to be martyr for the sake of her family. This has not been easy for me to learn, as it was not something my mother was able to model. For years my struggle with the idea that somehow maintaining a healthy weight, giving myself those same healthful though more expensive treats I get for my children, taking the time to exercise, making sure that I have eaten properly before doing all of those little tasks that my children demand each day was somehow selfish and vain, and this kept me from taking care of myself properly.
I now realize that this is one of the least selfish things I can do, because when I am healthy and my brain chemistry is okay I am a much better mother, and I can bring to them the gift of my full presence, without the burden of sadness, crankiness, or physical weakness. I am giving my children the gift of my health for years to come, hopefully. They will not, as I have, wonder if their 40 year old mother is going to be able to keep going on her own now that they have left home, because she is so unhealthy and has spent so many years doing nothing but sacrifice and fix everything for everyone else and she now resembles an empty shell. I have been afraid for her, and afraid to get to close to the deep sadness and frustration in her life for fear of being sucked in. Fortunately things have changed for her, many for the better including a really great husband, but there was a time when I worried everyday about what would become of her. Though I honor my mother for what she did for me, I do not want my children to carry this burden.
So I take the time for myself, to stay strong, healthy, and happy. And I do it without guilt, even if they clamour and cry for 30 minutes or so because I am not stopping in the middle of my workout to get them a banana. And they have learned that this is the way things are, they often ask me to exercise with them, at the playground, at home, and I feel as though I’m doing something right making it a part of our everyday routine.
So, since I have not the energy or strength of stomach in the morning for a full workout these days, but would much rather sip a cup of tea and hope for my breakfast to stay down, I have decided that I get a half hour walk in the evening while the GH handles bath time and jammies. As yesterday reminded me, it is my responsibility to myself, and to my family, and to this child inside of me to stay active and take deep breaths.