Monday, March 9, 2015

Finding Balance: The Life of a Working Fit Mom

When I was pregnant with my first son in 2011, my husband and I made the decision for me to stay home with him until he was at least old enough for preschool.  I couldn't have been more excited to leave the job that I was terribly unhappy with, to get to be home with my bundle of joy.  I had envisioned my home being perfectly clean at all times, laundry always done, and a new recipe to make every day.  I would work from home, and of course be able to work out often because I would have all this time in the world to accomplish all these things.  Boy oh boy was I ever WRONG!!!  Little did I know this whole parenting thing wasn't as effortless as initially thought.  Not to mention I had the world's most colic-y baby who screamed all hours of the day and night for the first six months of his life, and around the time he stopped crying all the time, I found out I was pregnant again!  Life with a toddler and a newborn was even more hectic than I could have ever imagined!  I could barely find time to exercise, let alone cook, clean or get any work done.  Trying to do it all left me with little accomplished and a lot of headache.  For the first several months after my second son was born, I did not care one bit about work, my house was sanitary but not immaculate by any means, dinner was edible, and if you didn't mind rummaging through a hamper there were clean clothes to wear in it.  My focus was on my babies and I will never regret that time in my life for one second!

One thing I did for myself after my second was born though, was I got back to running.  I was far from my marathon running days, but I knew getting out on the trail, even if I slow as molasses, but just being out there, I would find Christina again.  I know that may sound a little silly, but it's so easy to lose yourself craziness as well as loneliness of being a stay at home mom.  Being a healthy and happy person, in my opinion, was one of the best things I could do not just for me, but for my whole family.  Having 30 or 45 minutes to myself just a couple of times a week was, at the time, all I needed to feel refreshed and energized, to be the best version of myself.

When my second son, was about 4 months old, I ran my first long distance race is almost 3 years!  It was the slowest half marathon I had ever ran, but crossing that finish line was such an accomplishment.  I felt so alive, proud and humbled all at the same time!  I knew I was a long ways away from where I wanted to be with my fitness, body and running goals, and I knew I no longer had the luxury of time and energy I once had.  But crossing the finish line that day made me realize that with dedication, determination and most importantly, some balance, anything is possible!

Fast forward 2 years, several half marathons, a pair of marathons and countless workouts later, my life has evolved so much.  I am still a stay at home mom three days a week (I work two full days at our gym now), an entrepreneur, self proclaimed fit mom and of course, a runner.  Unfortunately though, I have to admit my house is still a mess, but I'm tackling the laundry and recipes a little better now.  An average "work day" for me typically starts a little after 5am and doesn't end until around 9:30pm or so.  Finding time to get everything done in the day is quite a challenge, so finding balance is so incredibly important in my life.  Below are a few things I've picked up along the way to help me keep my sanity as a working fit mom of two that will hopefully help some of you out as well.

1. Prioritize
With a business to run, kids to feed, a house to clean and of course getting my training in, it's hard to get all that done in a 24 hour period.  Everything seems so important and yet it never fails, something always ends up neglected (though not my kids of course).  We all have our own different responsibilities in life, but one thing can remain constant in any busy mom's life, it can get overwhelming!  Prioritizing your responsibilities is incredibly important to find balance in your days.  Determine what responsibilities must always come first, for me it's family, work and health.  Next, what can wait until the important things are complete and that is laundry and housekeeping.  And last are the things that I enjoy doing and can even be helpful, but must wait until all the other important things have been completed, this includes things like social media and finding new recipes.  Of course your priorities may differ from mine, the important thing to remember here is that your responsibilities must be prioritized.  Prioritizing will save you time, headache and stress and allow you to be much more productive.

2. Schedule 
Now that you have established your priorities, consider making a schedule of your day, week and month.  Even the days I do not work at the gym, I still have a schedule I (mostly) follow.  I know when I will write my blogs, follow up emails, workout, meal prep, fold laundry and of course plan activities with the kiddos.  Having a routine has helped not just me, but my family as well.  Plan your days according to your priorities.  Keep in mind that unexpected things can and do pop up, but having a schedule to follow will help most of your days run much more smoothly.

3. You Time
Taking time for yourself every now and then, especially when that time is used for your health and fitness, is by no means being selfish.  It is very important that as busy moms, we engage in activities that bring us joy and improve our well being.  This gives us the opportunity to reconnect with ourselves, strengthening our bodies, and refreshing minds and souls.  Whatever it is you enjoy doing, make sure to carve out some time consistently to have some you time.  It may take a little ingenuity and the help of your spouse (and other family members), but trust me, you will be so appreciative for this time alone! 

4. Recruit Help
I used to stress out so much for my long runs during marathon training because I worried my husband wouldn't be able to handle the boys himself.  Even though he is perfectly capable of watching his children, I would always get nervous when I wasn't there.  Letting go of that irrational fear and appreciating his willingness to take on that task made my runs so much more enjoyable! One of my biggest struggles in the beginning was realizing I could not do it all, especially not alone.  If you're anything like me, you find it hard to let go of the reigns, no body can do it better, right!?!  So, though maybe no one can do it better than mama, letting people help will help keep mama sane!  It has taken some time but I have learned to let people help, not just so that things can get done at work and home, but so I can have that "me time" we busy moms desperately need.  So don't be afraid, or too proud to ask for help whenever needed.

Some nights, after I get the kids down for the night, I come downstairs and trip over the toys that need to be put away, look at the dishes piled up in the sink and hear the buzzing on my phone reminding me how many emails I need to respond to, I just want to cry.  But then I turn on the monitor and see my sweet babies sleeping safe and sound, I am reminded how precious and special life truly is.  Even though the days are long and hectic, I have a beautiful family, am fortunate to love what I do for a living and I get to engage in activities that bring me such a joy.  It's easier said than done to sit back and relax during our crazy busy days, but it is so incredibly important to take some time to reflect on all the wonderful things we do have to be grateful for.  When times get stressful, take a moment to breathe and think about at least three things you have to be grateful for.  This should help you keep perspective and keep moving forward.

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