Baby Steps: Finding a Healthy Balance
“Five little monkeys jumping on the bed!”
I sing this in a high-pitch Disney character tone on repeat to my 6-month-old son, Sawyer, as I scrub old milk and whatever else out of my hair. The goal is to get the conditioner rinsed out by the time the fictional doctor is called on the last monkey.
That’s about the limit to the amount of time that my son can handle sitting in a bouncer pulled up next to the bathtub. Truth is, that’s about as long I can handle him sitting by himself, essentially doing nothing. I sing nursery rhymes to make myself feel better about my seven-minute rinse-off. In hindsight, the attempt at compensation not necessary.
Let’s call it my first taste of the infamous “Mom Guilt,” that looming feeling that tends to resurface when I’m stopping playtime to put on makeup or placing him in his bouncer to dry my hair. Why do we feel like we’re doing something wrong by tending to ourselves? It’s a sentiment that all of us parents have shared at one point in our children’s lives.
I can recall vividly thinking, “I’m never going to stop working out,” and, “When Sawyer’s born, I’m going to the gym everyday,” before and during my pregnancy. My past optimism is proof that this whole motherhood thing is easier said than done. The fact of the matter is that I’ve only been to the gym twice since my son was born; I never anticipated what It took to get out the door. Full stomach, empty diaper, semi nap: let’s call it the perfect storm. He’s typically matching from head-to-toe, while I’m lucky to have on socks. Sound familiar? I think I burn more calories trying to get to the gym than I would on the treadmill.
It’s not that I lost motivation; I gained Mom Guilt. As a morning news anchor, I wake up at 1:00 a.m. daily. That means I go to sleep hours before Sawyer goes down. Don’t get the wrong impression; he doesn’t really sleep, but you get my point. I typically leave my driveway at 1:30 a.m. and return home in the afternoon. My love for fitness is a priority that somehow got lost in the mix of news stories, diaper changes, and, oh yeah, Mom Guilt. It’s hard for me to pick up my son from his grandma’s house after a ten-hour workday and then just pass him onto a stranger in a workout facility’s childcare area. It’s hard to focus on lifting weights when I’m imagining him sitting in a rocker that was last sanitized who-knows-when, chewing on toys once gnawed on by the masses. It’s something that I’m working on. I understand children have survived before mine.
As any working mom can tell you, making the decision to stay working fulltime can feel like you’re choosing a career over your child. Months after returning to the station from maternity leave, that’s no longer the case. While there are days where I pull out of the driveway feeling guilty that I won’t be able to nurse my crying son in the middle of the night, I know that, in the long run, my happiness is just as important as his. It’s possible to have both.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed; there are so many things to tackle in such a short period of time. I found myself looking at Sawyer’s toy shapes the other day and thinking, “How will I ever teach him all of these?” I apply the answer to that question to my everyday life: one shape at a time, one thing at a time, one moment at a time. The older he gets, the more I’m learning that it’s not that serious and that everything can be managed if we break it down into small pieces.
When I try to explain my thinking on the subject to others, I always come back to the example of an airline flight. In case of an emergency, the attendants remind us to put the oxygen mask on ourselves before tending to our children. Taking care of my son also means taking care of myself first, because how can I accomplish the former without the latter? Whether it’s singing Disney songs in the shower or sending emails with a bottle in my hand, I’m working on balancing it all, knowing there are so many moms out there trying to do the same. •