The last week has been tough for me. My husband was away on vacation for 10 days and I had to be a 24/7 parent. The hardest thing about solo parenting is not having time to yourself. My kids are 3 and 4. Neither of them are in full time school. They need constant attention, help with dressing, eating, and getting to sleep. Going anywhere is a challenge. Going to a grocery store becomes an event when I have to bring them along. They have their own minds and their own agendas, which in most cases don’t align with mine (unless my agenda is to go to the toy store, eat ice cream and watch Star Wars Clone Wars). Getting from point A to point B effectively takes patience, persuasion and usually gum.
When you are tired and your patience is all but gone the last thing you want to do is pack up their ski stuff, drive to a ski hill, get them all geared up and psych them up for a full day of skiing in -20C weather. The only thing I wanted to do on day 8 of solo parenting was get a coffee, a good book and lay in bed. The greatest lesson I have learned as a mother is to be positive and energetic when I all want to do is crawl under a rock and sleep.
I recently read an article or book (I don’t remember the source) that said “as long as you are doing your best, you are doing fine”. But what is your best? My best when I am well rested, organized and have time for myself is to make healthy food, do fun things with the kids, go to the gym, and be SUPER AWESOME mom. But what about survival mode? What is your “best” when all you want to do is get through the day without harming the children (or jumping off a bridge).
For the last 3 years I have been in survival mode. There are moments that I feel the fog is lifting but the minute I think to myself “things are getting easier” something happens that reminds me that I am not out of the woods yet. Survival mode doesn’t only happen to people with young children. An illness, a death in the family can have the same effect. Survival mode puts you in a state that makes it hard to “be your best”. So, how do you judge that you are doing your best? I used to beat myself up when I put the kids in front of the TV because I was exhausted. Or I used bribes (usually junk food) to get them to do something I wanted them to do, or get somewhere I wanted to be. But in survival mode, anything goes. You can throw “being your best” out the window.
It is all about priorities. In survival mode, you need to think of what is MOST important to you and do those things first, and let the less important things go. For me, exercise is on the top of my priority list. I know that if I don’t go to the gym, or for a run, my already dark world can get even darker. It is how I survive.
In the context of health and fitness I guess I am lucky. I need exercise to survive, and to be sane. But what if you don’t? What if exercise is the LAST thing you would do? If it isn’t your priority, then when when life gets hard, you should not beat yourself up for not succeeding in that part of your life. And even for me, when I had a 2 year old, a baby, chronic pneumonia and a terminally ill mother, going to the gym was hard to do. And I LOVE it. If I hated it, it wouldn’t have been something I would make time for.
We all have priorities. Caring for my kids is #1 but exercise comes in at #2. I watch in envy my friends who take time to bake or do crafts with their kids. No. I take mine to the gym.
There is so much we WANT to do, and so little time to do them all (especially with young children). We need to choose what is important to us and then let the others go. For now. Until the log lifts. So to the people (usually moms) who ask me how I do it… I say… Instead of taking the kids to the museum. I take them to the gym. Instead of baking bread from scratch. I go to the gym. Instead of sitting, resting and relaxing. I go to the gym. Because that is where I get my strength to get through the fog.
So don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t lost the baby fat, or you can’t muster up the energy to work out. If other things are the things that are keeping you sane then you need them. However, if you really really want it, then you need to make it your priority.
I really want to bake, but I am not willing to take away from my gym time, my ME time. At least not yet. I am doing the best I can. And I can’t do it all.