Staying Active Post Baby Part 4: Excuse #1: I don't have time.
Well, since I can’t even count past three at this point (my last two posts were both Part 3…), I will just reiterate that I am by no means an expert on anything. I will therefore continue my extreme non-expertise with one of my least-expert topics: time management.
I’ve already written about my main excuse for dragging my feet to get out and exercise (post-baby or -babies) in my last post—that would be the overarching excuse of them all: mom guilt. But there are so many others, some real and some invented, constantly threatening to derail maternal outdoor enjoyment. The main one simply comes down to time.
Between working, snatching the baby off of whatever super sketchy highpoint she’s climbed to, nursing, pumping milk, trying to get babies and small children to nap, preparing and cleaning up food, trying to sleep, attempting to have an average of one somewhat coherent conversation with my husband per day, grocery shopping, loading up everyone in the car, turning the car around because we forgot the toy baby stroller (and THERE WILL BE NONSTOP SCREAMING UNTIL WE HAVE IT), changing diapers, wiping bottoms, and then of course cleaning up dog barf (because whenever it’s the most crazy busy the dog inevitably barfs on the carpet, I think he’s allergic to frenetic household energy), I feel very proud most days for having managed to scrounge up the time to brush my own teeth. I’ll thank you to not remind me about the thank you notes I’ve been wanting to write from the 18-month old’s first birthday gifts.
Telling a mom to just “make sure to take time for yourself!” is like telling a pregnant lady “wow, you’re huge!” Easy for you to say! And also, duh! And also she probably wants to punch you now. But here I am, encouraging us all to take time for ourselves, precisely because when the to-do list gets too long and it all gets to be almost too much, the one thing that helps me the most is some perspective. Nothing brings perspective like snow in the face, or aching legs on the trail.
My number one counter-strategy for when I feel like I don’t have time to be active is to just phrase it differently. It sounds silly but it makes all the difference to me. If I say “I don’t have time to go for a run today,” then I probably won’t. But if I say “I haven’t made time to go for a run today,” or “I’d like to find the time to go for a run today,” it totally changes the way I think about it. Suddenly it’s up to me to make the time or find the time, and then I feel more power to go ahead and do just that. My other main strategies are enlisting help (parents, partner, friends, kid-swap, neighbor, babysitters, just DO IT) and re-examining priorities.
Yes, I have a very supportive husband and a flexible schedule. Yes, I have parental help. No, we do not have the cleanest house in town. Yes, I run out the door sometimes when both kids are crying, and I want to cry too, and sometimes I do. (Turns out “running and crying" is a great life skill, really comes in handy occasionally!) And yes, many times my activity for the day consists of taking a stroller walk with the kids (the toddler insists on pushing the baby for most of the walk, which is both painfully slow and also terrifying) and doing a 30 minute workout on the porch while they are napping. But I’ve made it a priority and I’ve let go other things to do that, such as clean laundry and a clean car and taking showers.
For serious though, many days now my biggest adventure is summiting Laundry Mountain, and I’m okay with that because it’s a choice I am making. And when I frame my time as a choice, it reminds me that maybe I actually can get up a few minutes early and sneak out the door for a quick skate ski while my husband feeds the kids before he has to leave. When I feel that little bit of autonomy of choice, it fortifies me to take fifteen minutes before bed to do some pushups and core exercises (although I am not willing to give up any more sleep than that because I do have SOME priorities, here, people). Then, when ski season rolls around I’ve been practicing making time, taking time, and finding time, and I will definitely be there on the powder day. Probably in stinky long underwear.