One of the questions that comes up frequently on our Facebook page by other moms is: How do you balance fitness, family, and work? I’m grateful that MyFitFamily is truly becoming the place I hoped it would be–where people can share and learn from one another in our fitness journey. My talented friend, Deb is our guest blogger today and she is weighing in on the topic of how working moms can and should take care of their physical health all while being successful in their careers while enjoying motherhood.
Balancing Work, Family and Fitness
I’m a New York based HR consultant to start-ups, a classical singer, a wife, and mother of 3 boys age 7 and under. I love to run, and just ran a big personal best in a recent 10K race. I’ve got the next fitness challenge in my sights: my first half marathon, coming up in September.
I get the question, “How do you do it all?” pretty often. I am really proud of my fitness accomplishments, and I’m humbled that people think I’m doing an OK job of juggling the jobs that I love, caring for my spouse and kids, and working out. So, when Nicole at MyFitFamily asked me to write a post about how I find my balance, I figured, OK! I’ll share what works for me, knowing one size definitely does not fit all, and giving the disclaimer that I sure don’t get it right all the time.
As moms, we do a great job of being responsible for our kiddos, and taking diligent care of them – but our own needs tend to take a back (rear-facing car) seat. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you set out to find the balance between work, child care, and self-care. One caveat is that I don’t think this advice applies to moms in that first year of parenthood. That first year is about the feed-change-laundry hamster wheel, snatching as much sleep as possible, and easing back into the workforce. Good for you if you manage to work out every now and again!
Make a Realistic Plan and Start Small
Sounds simple – but you need to make a tangible, specific plan that goes beyond, “I need to get back into shape.” Start with something realistic – if you work out zero days a week, you won’t succeed if you jump right into a brutal five-day workout schedule (even if you did that easily pre-kids). It’s not going to work with your job to do that anyway – you’ll exhaust yourself and burn out quickly.
Start with small changes that are compatible with your work week. You could try walking for 20 minutes two to three days a week at lunchtime, and then increase the frequency and intensity over time. Many of us don’t take lunch because we’re eager to jam as much work into the day as we can in order to get home to the kiddos faster. If that’s you, try incorporating something into the beginning or end of the day by adding short walks to your commute.
Once you make your fitness plan, get a partner in crime or two. Tell someone about your goals. You need someone in your corner who will understand and support you, and who wants to hear you talk about your successes and challenges.
Get a workout buddy – maybe even a colleague. Hold each other accountable. You’re less likely to miss a workout if you know someone is counting on you to show up.
Start a friendly contest. Progressive companies are getting with the fitness program, and making the connection between fit employees and increased productivity. The Global Corporate Challenge is a really fun way to cultivate a culture of fitness.
Plan On It
Plan your weekly workout schedule with the same diligence that you plan your work and children’s schedules – and be as determined to stick to the plan as you are about attending work meetings or taking your child to the doctor. You wouldn’t leave scheduling babysitting or play dates to chance – why not take the same care of your workout schedule?
I use Google Calendar so that I can see my work and family calendars in one place. And I put workouts on my work calendar, so they’re visible to my boss.
Add Time to Your Day
Like many other parents, I find myself wishing that I could add more time to the day – 24 hours doesn’t seem like nearly enough time to get everything done. Sad truth is that it isn’t. But you can add time to your day by waking up before your kids do, and working out then.
I live with 3 Extreme Early Risers, so at first, the idea of waking up even earlier than they do a few days a week sounded like torture. And it was. But I’ve now come to look forward to some quiet alone-time before the chaos of the day gets started. This is a tough one to start doing, especially if you have a long commute to work, but it’s worth it. You’ll need to get to bed earlier at night, but let’s admit it: who of us isn’t passing out at 9pm (OK, 8:30) on the couch anyway? Stop resisting, and just go to bed.
Make Self-Care a Priority
I struggled with this as a new working mom. I had this nagging guilty feeling every time that I did something for myself – whatever it was. There was this little voice inside my head chastising, selfish, selfish, selfish… Thing is – taking care of yourself is pretty much the opposite of selfish, even though that might feel counter-intuitive.
Prioritizing working out will help you stay healthier and more energized. You’ll get sick less frequently (really!) – resulting in better work productivity, and more quality time with the family. If you need more convincing, check out my Top Ten Reasons Working Moms Should Work Out.
Get Professional Help
I didn’t run a great 10K race alone. I started working with an amazing running coach a few months ago. I made room in my budget for it by giving up the gym membership I was paying for but not using.
Self-investment is as important as self-care. If your budget allows, try getting a personal trainer, signing up for early-morning Pilates classes, or joining a gym (if you’re more diligent about going than I was). Or, just give yourself permission to hire a babysitter – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with hiring someone to look after your kids for an hour or so while you work out.
I hope these work/life balance hacks help you on your fitness journey!
Deb Feldman is an HR consultant and classical singer living in New Jersey with her husband and 3 sons. She and her husband love to incorporate fitness into family fun. She spent years saying she wasn’t a “real” runner. But she is. Check out www.debfeldman.com for more information or to contact Deb.
Thank you, Deb for these great tips!
If you are a working mom, what would you add to this list?
Never Give Up,