Taking Care of Yourself = Bad Mom: What?

Last week a rage and insult filled thread swept through my birth board over on Baby Center. Similar to the controversy sparked by Maria Kang’s photo several months back. The poster, though a bit attitude heavy, asked if anyone else was sick of hearing women use their kids as an excuse to not take care of themselves, lose the weight they gained during pregnancy or put on weight after having kids. She said that she made time to exercise and was back to her pre-pregnancy weight at four months postpartum. As I followed the thread, I was pretty shocked at how negative it got and the number of insults that started flying. Before the thread was shut down, out of 10 pages of comments, there were only a handful of other new moms who said that they too made time for themselves to exercise and were supportive of the original poster.

What I really noticed, is that immediately these women went into defense mode. Saying things like, glad you care so much about yourself and not about taking care of your baby, my baby cares more about my presence that me being skinny, etc. They started calling into question her parenting skills just because she said that she exercises and wondered why some women say, I don’t exercise, I have kids.

On another working mom board, a woman posted about how others find time to fit it in because she wanted to exercise but was breastfeeding, had a two year old and was having trouble scheduling it. I posted suggestions about what I do since we’re in similar situations. Every other comment was telling her oh, don’t exercise. You can exercise in a year or you know when your kids start school. She came back and said that she wanted to exercise and just needed suggestions on how to make it work. More comments about not sacrificing time with the kids to take care of herself kept coming because that’s what ‘good moms’ do.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always heard happy mommy, happy baby. I have excuses.  I even use them on occasion. I like most moms, especially working moms, do not want to miss a moment with my kids when possible. I want to be there to play with them, cuddle them and help them develop into their own persons. I’ve felt guilty for taking time for myself to do frivolous things like getting my hair done or going out for drinks, but I will not feel guilty about taking care of myself, nor should any parent.

I exercise when the kids are sleeping. Sometimes I only have the time or energy for 20 minutes. That’s 20 minutes better spent exercising than sitting in front of the TV or working on the laundry that will still be there to do over the weekend. Taking care of myself, helps me take care of my kids. It gives me energy, keeps me healthy both mentally and physically and sets a good example for them.

Now, do I think that women should be expected to rapidly lose baby weight and be back in their skinny jeans within months of giving birth, nope. After all they say, nine months on, nine months off. I’m lucky in that, though not all my clothes fit quite right yet, I’m within a few pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight. I definitely would not be if I hadn’t been in shape prior to getting pregnant, continuing to exercise during my pregnancy and without doing some form of exercise several times a week.

These mommy wars seem to affect every possible facet of our lives. Stay-at-home mothers vs. working mothers, breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, exercising vs. not exercising, it’s ridiculous. Look, if you’re doing the best you can, providing your children with nutrition, clothing, a healthy home, love, affection and attention, you are doing great. Taking care of yourself is good for you and your family, don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about it. Overwhelmed or not into exercising right now, don’t feel guilty about that either, but certainly do not tell someone who is making a different decision that they are any less of a mother than you because they take a little bit of time to exercise.

Being a mother, hell being a parent in general, is hard. It’s rewarding, but it is hard. Instead of focusing on the external and letting it get to you, just focus on you and your family, it will be fine. Other people can only make you feel bad if you let them.

4 thoughts on “Taking Care of Yourself = Bad Mom: What?

  1. I am SO with you! I’m a much happier, more effective, patient, loving, and simply better mom when I take care of myself. We make it a priority as a family to make sure everyone gets their exercise pretty much every day, including the kids. We also follow a plant based diet and, yes, my kids eat broccoli for an afternoon snack. Getting 3 kids (ages 4, 2, and 5 months) out of the house is hard, pushing a 160+ pound jogging stroller is hard, pulling 2 trailers at once on my bike is hard, cooking healthy food is hard, consistency is hard. But how can we teach our kids to take care of themselves, to persevere, if we don’t model that behavior? Thanks for stepping out on a limb!

  2. Amen. I am in a much better mood and a much better mom when I have taken time for me. I do my best to get up before they do, fit it in at lunch or, if all else fails, after he sleeps. It’s true that I have one child but if you really want it, you make time. I am not going to flaunt my routine in a sports bra and booty shorts but I’ll proudly show off some muscles as I haul Miles around. I think a part of the problem is that it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like we are not doing this or that for our kids and not exercising is one more thing some aren’t doing. Reminding them puts them on the defensive.

    P.S. I sort of hate you. I’m still six pounds off pre-preggo weight … 2.5 years later.

  3. Wow! I completely agree with you. People get so defensive to change because it makes them feel bad about themselves. I exercise and try to eat healthy for my sanity. I also feel that its important for me to model these behaviors for my kids. And when they get older (almost 3 and 5 months now) I will make sure that some of my workouts are when they can see me working out. Most of my workouts now are on my lunch break, evenings or on the weekend when they are napping. BUT, it is so crucial for children to know that exercise is important and to know that mommy needs to take care of herself to better take care of them.

    Wondering how you fit in workouts at night? Do you have a treadmill or equipment at home, or do you have to drive to the gym? Also, I tried to find the question on the working moms board that you were referring to, but didn’t see it. I would love to hear the suggestions you gave her about fitting it all in with a two year old and a baby. I am struggling with it all too.

    Thanks for having such a great perspective on everything. It is refreshing to read your posts.

  4. Wow. I follow that birth board and I missed that post! I can find a lot of reasons to feel guilty in a day (too much TV for the kids? Not enough patience?) but working out is NEVER something I feel guilty for and my children certainly do not suffer because I work out for 30-60 minutes every morning. And, gasp, I even do it while my older two are awake!
    Not only does it make mommy feel better emotionally and physically, but did anyone point out the kind if example it sets for our children?
    I think most people attack or make excuses for their behavior because its not a priority to them, and they are jealous that some of us fit it in to our equally hectic lives.
    Now, I am super jealous that you are closer to your pre-preg weight than I am! I ran my whole pregnancy and have been very consistent since a few weeks post birth. So, I’m going to make my excuses now and blame it on my age and that its my 3rd baby 🙂 but good for you and you should be very proud of yourself!

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