Consciously or not, we are all on a quest for answers, trying to learn the lessons of life. We grapple with fear and guilt. We search for meaning, love, and power. We try to understand fear, loss, and time. We seek to discover who we are and how we can become truly happy. – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
I had a recurring experience after each of my children was born—I quit exercising. Even though I like to run, I stopped.
Many of my friends and family would tell me “don’t worry about running, let your body take a break” or “just enjoy your babies.”
I convinced myself that what they said was right. I shouldn’t be worried that I wasn’t running or exercising.
I almost felt I was wrong for wanting to take the time for myself. Not being active made me unhappy.
When I decided to run, I’d sometimes feel like I should be doing something else. Like I didn’t deserve the time.
How did it affect you?
My life got busier. I let go of taking the time to exercise. I convinced myself that this was just another phase of life: the “you’re-too-busy-because-you-have-kids” phase that perpetually worsens as the kids grow older and more involved with their worlds.
I began to think about the beliefs that drove my thoughts about what I should or should not do.
After all, it was just a selfish thing to want this for me, right? Why couldn’t I spend my time doing more laundry, cooking, or something more productive for our family?
I think those beliefs are pressures that face many moms and women today. I saw so many moms who seem to have it all together. I can immediately think of several neighbors who will go home and clean the house an extra two hours, instead of exercise.
So many people I know apologize for not having a spotless house or feel over-involved with their children’s school and activities. The pressures are everywhere. I think beliefs and choices like that could eventually put pressure on my children thinking they need to do things to please everyone at the expense of taking care of themselves or figuring out what they value.
What feelings arose around this?
Unhappiness. I began to see how not taking some time for myself doing something I love to do makes me unhappy.
I felt resentment.
I felt pressure.
I strongly dislike the pressures I felt around doing the many things around keeping our home, raising our kids, cooking and keeping the house, volunteering, taking substitute jobs to contribute income to our family.
What was your part?
I allowed myself to feel pressured to look like a perfect and involved mom and wife, which made me question doing something that I truly love to do to take care of myself.
What did you learn about yourself?
I noticed that I felt guilt about doing something that was good for me and for my family.
When a friend mentioned that she just couldn’t find time to workout, I felt a small twinge of guilt when I responded that I made the time. I still feel some guilt when someone says they are “just too busy to get a workout in.” I realize that I continue to wonder if I should be “too busy” with other activities such as taking that time to plan healthier meals or volunteering more at school, or taking more substitute teaching days—which then brings up that feeling of “I don’t deserve to take this time for me to run.”
I eventually noticed I would fill my missed exercise time with other things, and not necessarily anything productive. For me, missing exercise time has to be filled with some other activity that is productive. I’m not sure why I think this—is it a justification that I get to run? I’d tell myself, “If you don’t run, then you better be sure that you put all that laundry away.”
What shift did you make in your thinking?
I let go of how others view me and some old ideas about how I view myself. I now see all the benefits that exercise has on my family and me.
I have become a little more comfortable in saying “no” to all the pressures I feel about things that need to get done.
I now feel I am okay doing what works for my family and me versus showing others that I have everything together all the time.
I am okay if I am not the image of a perfect mom.
How did you choose to respond to your challenge and what was your intention?
I chose to fit exercise into my day at least 4-5 times a week.
Even if I have to wake up at 5 AM, I make sure to get some activity. Sometimes I skip other responsibilities or even meeting up with a friend to squeeze in a few miles. The time to myself feels like private therapy on the open road.
When I regularly exercise and take care of my body, I think it helps me be a better wife, mom, and friend.
This may sound dramatic, but I think my choice to run often saves my marriage and family from my negativity. When I am out running alone, I am able to re-think that argument with my husband or how I reacted to one of my children. It gives me a few minutes to step out of the situation and think of a new way to handle it or express myself or see my part in an issue which helps me to say so and then apologize.
How is your choice to run affecting other areas of your life?
I am happy. Less stressed (and probably less sick) and physically stronger. I want to be as healthy as I can be for as long as possible. I feel fit.
Running is like meditation. I can clarify my thoughts and regroup and usually see the other side of things. It fuels me with good vibes.
I am learning that even just thirty minutes of exercise makes me happy. I feel I am a better version of me.
Choosing to exercise is good for all my relationships. I am a better, more patient mother and spouse. I think my family benefits from the positives exercising brings forth me—less yelling, less resentment for not exercising, and it models an active lifestyle for my children.
As time passes, I no longer feel guilty about putting other things off to get some workout in my schedule. I realized just how good exercise makes me feel. My thinking clears. I feel better about myself.
I also learned it is okay if I don’t get everything else done. It’s okay if the kitchen is not spotless every day. It’s okay if the laundry sits one more day or three before I put it away. It’s okay if I am not able to volunteer one morning. It’s all okay. My kids seem to love me just as much.
Exercise has become part of my day, like breakfast. Even if it means giving the kids the occasional PopTart or saying no to one more activity so I can squeeze in a quick run, I say yes to exercise.
I can also go ahead and eat the extra cupcake without feeling guilty.
Jill. Ohio. The United States.