Mommy Guilt

by Gen Matchette 5

I don’t care if you have children with two feet or four, if you have “children” you have mommy guilt. It goes along with the territory. It’s in your goodie bag when you leave the hospital, adoption center, or wherever your baby came from. Alas, it’s not something visible, tangible or something they tell you is in there. It’s kinda like those “boxes of love” that one gets as a bridal shower gift that you’re supposed to keep by the stove to “sprinkle” onto your cooking.

Gen Matchette and FamilyYou know about the love, the sleepless nights, the expense, but the guilt? Most likely not. The vast majority of us don’t think about the guilt until after our precious little darlings have gotten a death grip around our hearts. And then, it hits… the first time we go out without them, to work, to shop, to play. The accusing stare, the tears, the crying… how dare we?!

I was as guilty as the next new mommy. Our oldest daughter was only a few weeks old when my husband and I went out to dinner to celebrate our second anniversary at a restaurant less than ten minutes from the house. I was a nervous wreck and felt horribly guilty leaving her alone for <gasp> less than two hours with her doting aunt. Thankfully, that baby is now a teenager and is as normal as most teens. Had I known then what I know now, we would have gone to the movies as well!

My husband and I made the conscious choice to have one of us stay home full-time when our kids were small. Since my husband’s earning potential far outweighed mine, I won the stay-at-home parent lottery. For years, my life revolved around the kids and their needs.  I fit exercise in when I could – exercise videos while they slept, walking around the neighborhood or zoo with the kids in their jogger stroller…

With the first two, I waited until they were off at Montessori school before I ventured back into the gym. I couldn’t bear the thought (translation: guilt) about exercising without them attached to me somehow. With my third and finally little one, I’d developed some thicker skin and the need for some sanity in my crazy spilled-sippy-cup and Goldfish-strewn life. As soon as she was one, we headed back to the gym. My wee one loved it and I tempered my guilt of leaving her by relishing in the fact that she really seemed to enjoy going to see the sweet lady at the gym nursery.

And then I started triathlon.

Thankfully, the gym I went to had a pool so instead of doing aerobics or yoga, I swam while my littlest sweetheart hung out in the nursery. I ran with her in the jogger stroller. Biking was my biggest difficulty. I had to either rely on my hubby, my only training partner in the beginning, or hire a babysitter. Ah, the mommy guilt! Not only was I relying on someone else to watch my babies while I went out and did something that I wanted to do, but I also had to shell out the precious cash to do so.

My husband was the one who really pushed me to look past the money and the guilt, telling me the money was inconsequential – my well-being and physical fitness were more important. I resisted for a really long time, but eventually, my desire to push myself physically and mentally won out. And, a funny thing happened. I realized that despite the expense and the time away from my babies, I was a better mom. I was definitely fitter, but I was also happier. I realized that I needed that time away, especially when my husband was deployed or out of town with his job in the Air Force. Just like my daily phone calls to my other stay-at-home mommy friends, my workouts became a necessity.

Yes, I still feel that mommy guilt and yes, I still reschedule or forgo my training if it interferes with the kids’ schedules. I even get up at “O’Ungodly” (as we refer to it in our house) to get workouts done before the kids get up when we have a busy day ahead. Through the years and with the wisdom that comes with age, I have greatly reduced the amount of mommy guilt that I carry around with me during my workouts. Having training buddies who are also mommies helps. If I’m too hard on myself, they’ll rein me in, and vice versa.

Thankfully, the babysitters that I used to have to spend precious cash on are a thing of the past. The baby that I couldn’t bear to leave with anyone, to do something as frivolous as workout, is now old enough to watch her siblings. The arrangement works out well for both of us. I get some exercise and build up a store of wonderful endorphins that help me deal with her teenage angst while she earns some cold hard cash. The best thing is, I get a family discount and I can run a line of credit with her as long as I need to.

So, Happy Mother’s Day to all of you mommies out there, be you moms to kiddies with two legs or four! I hope that you spend the day how you wish; doing something you love with your babies or solo. Don’t let the mommy guilt drag you down. You truly are a better mom when you take the time to exercise. Besides being able to keep up with your babies, remember, you’re setting a wonderful example for them. And, with any luck, one day you’ll be able to share the joy that exercise brings to you with them.  :0)

Gen Matchette has always been active, participating in a multitude of sports from running to gymnastics and soccer as a child, to yoga, aerobics and kickboxing as an adult. At the urging of a friend, she competed in her first sprint triathlon shortly before her thirty-seventh birthday, at a time when her youngest child was not yet out of diapers... more »