Back in August, I sprained my ankle two weeks before I was going to run a half-marathon (what would have been my longest race). It’s been a long recovery that I’ll write about from various perspectives in the future. What I’m feeling good about right now is that I am starting to imagine exercise being not a struggle that is at odds with my parenting.
I’ve had a hard time feeling totally okay with taking time to exercise and focus on my body even though I know it makes me more grounded, happier, more centered, more patient… in short, a better mom, partner, friend. Some moms I know just do it without a second thought and go about their business, and other moms act like they couldn’t imagine running a mile or leaving their kids in childcare at a gym. I haven’t felt comfortable on either end or in the middle.
After having had early and intense separation anxiety, my 25-month-old son has recently started to do fine at neighbors’ houses for short babysitting, especially when there’s another kid around. I decided that if I was going to pay for this gym membership, I had to start using their childcare. It’s small, safe and fun. I watched EJ the first time on the video monitor and he did fine for the 30 minutes I spent on the treadmill. The time I tried an hour-long yoga class wasn’t so great. I kept looking over and saw the childcare worker holding him, and before sivasana, I saw he was crying at the door, so I did my own quick corpse pose early and left before everyone else settled in. That was a few months ago, and I hadn’t tried again, instead fitting in exercise around other times I had childcare at home, usually from my husband.
Last week the gym held a mommy and me yoga class and then a mother’s day tea party after. EJ enjoyed playing with the big exercise balls and eating the (GF, homemade) cookies I brought for him and the fruit the gym provided. The experience seems like it might have accomplished my goal of setting a positive association in his head about the place.
This week, I jogged him down to the gym and told him we were going to play with Cassie for a few minutes and then come home. We did, and he found some toys that whetted his appetite, but we stuck to our plan and left together. Later that day, he was asking for Cassie, so I told him he’d see her the next day while I went to a yoga class. It seemed like I finally got in my head that this really could be okay — we were both going to get something good out of the experience. He’d get to see some kids and play with new toys, and I’d get Zen. Or something.
My now-running-again legs were happy for the attention, and I realized how out of practice I am on my mat. On my run today, I spent some time thinking about working trips to the gym into our schedule more regularly. It just needs to be something we do rather than the thing that only happens if everything else aligns just perfectly. I don’t need to apologize for caring about my body. If I want my son to grow up making his own health a priority, he needs to see his parents do the same.