As it does for most women, becoming a mom totally changed my life. Before that, things were all about me. I exercised when I wanted, stayed out late on the weekends and slept in the next morning if I chose, and didn't have to think too much about anyone but my husband, my dog and myself on a day-to-day basis. Don't get me wrong- I've never been someone who likes to sit still for long, so I've always kept busy. But taking care of a newborn became a new kind of 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week busy. It definitely took some getting used to.
Since becoming a mom one of the things I've struggled with most is balance. My kids are four and two now, and I'm still not good at it. Rarely will I say to my husband "I'd like to go out with the girls tonight. Can you watch the kids?" Okay, let's be honest: I've probably said that once in the past four years. I get extreme cases of what I like to call "mama guilt". I feel like I need to be the one to do everything for my kids, all the time. Rationally I know I need a better balance. I know that what makes me a better mom and a better wife is making time for me. But putting that idea into practice has been much more difficult.
Exercise (specifically running) has always been an outlet of stress for me. Even when my life was totally changing from being all about me to being all about someone else, running was something that stayed consistent. It was the one thing I kept for me. If I have to get up early and exercise before the kids start their day, or do a quick workout while they nap, I will. Exercise makes me a happier person, which is why sometimes my husband comes home from a long day at work, sees the frazzled look on my face and says "Why don't you go out for a run?" He knows I'll be in a much better mood when I return.
Many moms I know don't have the same feelings towards exercise and being healthy. Exercise and eating right easily take a backseat when you're caring for a new little person who needs everything done for them. You've been up all night with a newborn that won't sleep, so the last thing you want to do is get up early and find the energy to exercise. A new study in the journal Pediatrics found that mothers of young children tend to exercise less and eat more than those without children. The study followed a group of ethnically and socioeconomically diverse participants from high school into their 20's as they became parents for the first time.
Mothers tended to have higher BMIs and consumed an average of 400 calories more per day (vs. those without children.) Moms were more likely to eat less vegetables, more saturated fat and consume more sugary drinks. When you're a busy mom, planning a healthy meal for yourself is not always as simple as grabbing something fast on-the-go. Interestingly, no difference was found between dads and men without children. "When it comes to exercise, raising kids appears to cut into workout time for both parents. Each week, moms and dads lost about 60 and 90 minutes of physical activity, respectively, compared to other young adults."
I think it's important for couples to make a plan of how they are going to find time for themselves and their health once the new baby arrives. It can be difficult to predict what life is going to be like, but starting the discussion early will make it much more likely that health takes a priority when life begins to change.
What do you think? If you are a parent, did your eating habits and exercise routines change when your child arrived? Looking back, would you have done anything differently?
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