To all the moms searching for their pre-baby body:
Your body will most likely never be the same. Yep. You heard me. But who cares? Something better may be waiting.
I'm kind of immune to the craziness now, but 4.5 years ago I was in shock and awe as I saw my entire existence changed in an instant. Suddenly I was a mom. I could no longer sleep on my own schedule, linger in the shower, sit on the toilet alone, eat a meal using 2 hands, or leave the house in a timely fashion with only one small purse. Life as I knew it was changed forever.
In the beginning I was very afraid of losing the body I had known before pregnancy. I wanted my body back REAL BAD. Like all moms, I lost a good bit of freedom and gained a whole lot of responsibility, so the task of reclaiming what was originally mine felt daunting.
The responsibility part was easy because I fell so deeply in love with my daughter. Meeting her needs felt instinctual. I immersed myself in motherhood which felt amazing, but I am sorry to say I was SUPER finicky. I couldn't bear to hear her cry for more than a few moments (even if that meant bouncing her on an exercise ball for 30 minutes just to have her sleep for 20). I managed to survive
2 hour stretches of sleep for months while we were co-sleeping. I did not go back to work full time because I was afraid to leave her with anyone else. She was 5 months old before I went on a date with my husband.
As time wore on I realized that I would totally lose my mind if I did not satisfy at least some of my own needs on a deeper level... I needed to redefine who I was as a mother. So I started to take time for myself, for self care. I kind of had to fight for it actually. I fought against my own feelings of guilt mostly.
For me self care came in the form of exercise, running, and yoga. Sometimes I had the urge to binge eat ice cream or go out to a bar stumble home in the wee hours of the night, but that was not really the kind of freedom I was craving. I just wanted "me time" that would help me survive the early years of motherhood, or better yet, thrive in them. That meant having ample energy, the ability to deal with stress, and a better sense of self outside of the baby world.
Suddenly getting my pre-baby body back did not seem so important. It seemed silly actually. Plus, I kind of liked how my hips got curvy and my bar size went up. I didn't need to go back to the old me, I just needed to define the new me. By doing so, I was better able to care for my baby, connect with my husband, and even drum up extra energy to devote to work. Honestly, I never felt more like "me."
Now having two kiddos, I can logically think through other reasons why I stay motivated to exercise. Setting a good example for my kids, living longer, and sleeping better are a few. But when it comes down to it, it is the break (mentally and physically) that I want and need on a regular basis.
*And just a side note, I am pretty sure I am in much better shape now than before I became a mom. It just kind of happened over time!
I started asking other fit moms who I know and admire why they exercise. Not surprising, none of them mentioned wanting the pre-baby body back. They all responded with similar a tone...one of cultivating a healthy body and mind that would benefit their entire family. Every quote they sent to me resonated so deeply. They mentioned everything from endorphins and balance to lower back pain and Ina Garten. Damn, moms are so amazing.
Read the beautiful things these moms were willing to share...
I grew up with my mom doing Hooked on Aerobics videos in our basement (she did move on to some other things- including running her first marathon when she was 58!) so I think it has always been ingrained in my head to take care of yourself the best you can! We also have had some cancer scares in our family and from everything we have read one of the most important things to do is make sure you're healthy and active so even if you do have to fight cancer your body is in its best condition to do it. I hope with being as active as I am, my kids will follow in my footsteps and find something they enjoy that keeps them active too no matter what it is so as gets their body moving!
I stay fit because it's one of the only things I do purely for myself. As a working mom, I think it's important to devote time--even if it's just a couple hours a week--to keeping my body and mind healthy. It helps me stay positive and grounded throughout the week.
Mind Body Fitness client
It's almost a cliche at this point, but it's true - you need to take care of yourself to best take care of others. I've learned this lesson over time but it was especially poignant after I had my babe...because my lower back hurt so much I couldn't pick him up...and picking him up furthered the lower back pain. That cycle was neither okay by me, nor an option. So I prioritized self-care by knowing the minimum I need to strengthen (e.g. 5min of exercise at night, 4 times a week) and scheduling it in my calendar just as I would any other activity (so it doesn't get bumped off a list it's not even on). I let the healthy snowball effect increase my commitment from there, and it's subsequently had a positive ripple effect on my babe, husband and others who depend on me.
Dr. Stephanie Marango, MD
In some ways I think it's almost easier to motivate now that I have two little kids. Before I was a mom, it was hard to drag myself out of bed to run in the morning. Now, I'm up at the crack of dawn anyway. Exercising is my "break"--to run outside for 45 minutes, or do the elliptical in the basement while watching Ina Garten. Plus, working out helps me to relax and clears my head. It definitely makes me a better mom. I have way more patience for my 4.5 year old on days when I exercise vs. days that I don't!
Writer and Food Blogger, Turnip the Oven turniptheoven.com
I believe in parenting by example.... through staying healthy (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually) i am both rising to the responsibilities I have to my family and community to be the best human I can be, and I am also taking care of myself so that my relationship with myself is one of compassion, deep inner listening, and mindfulness. Double win.....plus, the example I set to the kids for how to revolve in the world feels in alignment with my values, and those I wish to raise my children on!
And at a very base level, it just feels good to be in balance!
Owner of Hastings Yoga hastingsyoga.com
Staying fit and healthy makes me a better mom and partner. When I make my own health and well-being a priority my family benefits in so many ways. It's important to me for my kids to see me taking care of myself because I want them to see their own well-being as a priority. I can't expect them to make the best choices about food and physical activity if I'm not willing to do that for myself. I love to cook, eat well, practice yoga, and be out in nature. These things make me feel good and balanced from the inside out. Some days I do a better job of caring for myself than others but overall I hope to provide a positive model for my family.
Exercise is absolutely critical for my overall well being (as a person and particularly as a mom). Since the birth of my child the physical results from exercise have helped my confidence improve, which is a very positive thing for my child to see...but what truly motivates me reaches far beyond physical fitness. Exercise provides me with a powerful endorphin boost, making me happier, calmer and more patient with my child. I strongly believe that our mind/body health has a huge impact on our relationships, so I am motivated to focus on my own self care in addition to caring for my family because when we are all healthy and feeling good, everybody benefits.
Mind Body Fitness client
It took me quite awhile after having kids to prioritize myself and my health in any way. I had to re-calibrate who I was as a woman and understand that while being a mother now defined me (joyfully) in many ways, there were still parts of my soul that belonged just to me. I realized when I was pregnant with my second child that feeling good about myself inside and out was critical for me to feel like a whole person. Perhaps as importantly, getting and staying fit gives me a lot more energy to play with my little girls! They often wake up and catch the last 15 minutes of my workout-- I hope they notice, at least subconsciously, how hard their mom is working and perhaps it inspires them to work hard to achieve their goals as well one day.
Mind Body Fitness Client