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Home Family Parenting Advice Fitting a mommy workout into a busy day — Good Parenting

Fitting a mommy workout into a busy day — Good Parenting


Dear Dr. Debbie,

How can a busy mom with a full time job, a husband who frequently travels and two kids under age 3 find some personal time to go to the gym and work out?

Need an Energy Boost

Don’t miss last week’s column Use positive reinforcement instead of time outs — Good Parenting

Dear NEB,

Let’s be realistic. Unless your full time job is at the gym, and your children’s child-care is on-site, you’re looking at no less than a two-hour chunk of time per workout. You might just have to wait until your children are older or your husband stops traveling. Or you cut back on your hours at work.

Two children under the age of 3 is a challenge for a stay-at-home parent, or a professional nanny for that matter, let alone someone in your shoes. Very young children demand vigilance for hazards — choking, tottering off the stairs, falling into a toilet, etc. They want to explore everything by tasting. They regularly need to be held and comforted. When hunger strikes — which is often — they can fly into a tizzy if the food doesn’t come quickly enough. Or, in the case of some, if it doesn’t come at the right temperature or in the right cup. Hunger can strike in the middle of the night, as can teething pain, a scary dream or just needing a cuddle. Limited language further frustrates them and their caregivers. They need your help for reaching and opening things, changing clothes, getting clean, anticipating the consequences of waking the cat or rolling a heavy toy truck toward a precarious potted plant. Their inability to be patient can exert a toll on the patience of anyone around them.

With a traveling spouse it would seem that running the household — groceries, laundry, bill paying, house cleaning, etc. would rest heavily on your shoulders as well. Who has time for the gym?

Here are some suggestions for making your busy days more satisfying. And hopefully squeezing in the exercise your body is craving.

Let’s say that working out is something that is very important to your physical and emotional well-being. If time for this activity is lacking, then something else needs to be moved down on the priority list. For example, immaculate housework. Really, how tidy do rooms need to be until visitors are expected? (Even then, which rooms can stay shut during the visit?) Another example, stunning work outfits. Highly successful people, research suggests, stick to a simple and repeatable formula for career wear. A classic look can be maintained for years with a very few pieces, saving you time on clothes shopping and deciding what to wear each day.
Consider your typical work days and weekend days to see what other time suckers could be reckoned with. Can you telecommute and give up rush hour radio? Let the scruffy-looking hedges go wild for another year or two?

Reduce time loss and frustration by thoughtfully arranging the placement of your essentials. Morning food has its own shelf in the fridge or pantry. Keys are kept on a hook. Children’s shoes and outerwear are parked by the door. Specific toys that are played with in the car stay in the car.
Respect the day assigned for each weekly or bi-weekly task — grocery shopping, cooking ahead, taking the little ones to the library to return last week’s check outs, putting out the recyclables, laundering sheets — so that you can keep up and feel accomplished. Rather than, “oh my gosh, do I have to fit that into the day?” get in the habit of planning the day around it.

Set limits on unnecessary demands on your time and attention so you can embrace those priorities you’ve set. The beauty of a one-pot meal is fewer pots have to be washed. A grocery list that sticks to staples makes shopping and meal planning a breeze. (Save the indulgence of adventurous cooking for another chapter of your life.) The simplicity of a “family room” is that it has furnishings and entertainment strictly for the purpose of being with each other. A leisurely stroll in the neighborhood is a perfect family outing — no driving, no parking hassles, no admission fees. As much as you can, put a limit on work that comes home. Stick to a work schedule that gets the job done, adequately, so that in your off-duty hours you can strive for excellent parenting.

If getting everything done that needs to be done is impossible, figure out who else could do some of the things. Between you and your husband, divvy up household chores and other shared obligations that can’t be handed off to others. Maybe your children’s grandpa relishes tending your garden. Maybe a retired neighbor is happy to be needed to accept a package delivery. Maybe you have a childless workmate who would be honored to accompany you and the little ones on a weekend errand. Every family can benefit from the expertise and delight of close friends and relatives. Source out other tasks to deserving high school kids or professionals. Why clean gutters/paint the front porch/wash the car when you have young children to tend to? Home cooked meals may be another unnecessary time drain for you, so let the burgeoning industry of prepared food give you a hand.

The main requirements for executing an exercise plan are: the desire to do it and some obliging clothing. The rest of what you need to do can sometimes be done at the same time. Can you: flex your abs to music during your drive in? Bring shoes for climbing stairs on your way to a lunch break? Swap your desk chair for an exercise ball? Take the kids for a quick stroller run before dinner? Have a family dance party before story time? Sign up for a parents and toddlers fitness class?

A solo gym workout may elude you for the time being, however, see if you can’t fit some regular exercise into your very busy life.

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com

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