When I lost my job last year, we made the decision I’d become a stay-at-home mom rather than look for another job. I’d finally have time to run daily. I could workout whenever I wanted. My house would always be clean. It was going to be awesome!
If you’ve ever stayed home with kids, you know how foolish I was.
There’s this preconceived image of the stay-at-home mom most people, including myself, have before joining the field. Think Peg Bundy with smaller hair and a functioning brain. This mythical person exists in a magical realm where everyday tasks like laundry and dishes complete themselves. Children are seen, not heard, without any psychological side effects, and they certainly don’t knock over laptops in the middle of an article being written (thanks, kids!).
I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for one year and two months and I can tell you, without a doubt, that my house is just as messy as it was when I worked full-time. Projects I meant to complete before last Christmas are still unfinished. I haven’t run in a week. My children are usually bathed, sometimes dressed, and always on the run. The only aspect of my life I have control over is my ability to workout whenever I want, and it is a victory I fought long and hard to achieve.
My husband is a geologist-turned-personal trainer. He works weird hours and has a self-care regiment that includes working out upwards of two hours a day. For a long time, we struggled to mesh our schedules so that we could both fulfill our self-care needs. My needs were never ignored, but it was difficult for us to reach them consistently. He works at a gym, so fitness is literally within his reach immediately before and after work. I work at home, and carting two children under two and a ten-year-old back and forth to the gym is mentally exhausting on a good day and impossible on a bad. I hated going to the gym when my husband got home from work because that was sacred family time. Sacrificing it wasn’t a sustainable option but neither was giving up.
Most of my life has been spent being unhealthy. I grew up in a household full of love and togetherness and downhome cooking. (That’s code for Food That Is Delicious but Goes Straight to Your Ass…and Arteries…and That Place Under Your Chin That Makes You Look Like a Turkey. Gobble gobble!) Once I left the nest, I joined the ranks of the chronically drunk and bloated, sobered up and lost weight, had a beautiful baby boy, and joined the ranks of the chronically drunk and bloated once again.
Addiction is a helluva drug.
It took me getting pregnant with my second child to turn my life around. My husband prodded me and my oldest into eating better and getting off our asses and out into the world. He showed me that, no, I wasn’t too busy to workout. Scrolling Facebook for hours at a time wasn’t vital to my life, and carving out even a portion of that time to work on me wouldn’t be the end of the world. The memes would live to see another day without me.
Finding the time and doing the damn thing are two different things though. When I worked, I’d stress about making it to the gym before the kids went to bed. After I stayed home, I stressed about getting to the gym without losing what tiny bit of sanity motherhood had left me.
Finally, I discovered workouts on demand. It was a brand new world full of sweaty people and cheesy music I’d never experienced before. I could easily switch from cardio to yoga from the comfort of my home. I didn’t have to worry about being called over the loudspeaker because my child had lost his mind and attempted to take over the kid zone. There were no self-inflicted expectations while I flailed ungracefully in front of strangers. It was something I could control, and I latched onto it with the power of a parent whose life is spent telling two human beings to stop peeing on each other.
Staying at home may not be the fantasy I’d expected, but it’s made my reality far richer than I could imagine.