For a long stretch of years when my kids were in grade school, I stopped exercising completely. As a single, working mom I felt too guilty about taking that time away from my kids. When they were teens, I was finally able to take up running, and now I regularly participate in 5k's and triathlons. And I'm watching a whole new generation of moms struggle with the trade-offs between looking after their own health and maximizing their time with their kids. These days, moms are lining up to race or run — with their kids by their sides!
At first, this struck me as a great idea: when kids run, bike, or swim side-by-side with their parents they really learn the health benefits of exercise and the empowerment of crossing the finish line. If mom can do it, I can too. What a great experience to have when you're young! And, bonus, mom gets to stay in shape without the guilt.
But is it really that pat? When my triathlon training partner started showing up for sessions with her third-grade daughter, I began to understand what was really going on here. In many cases, moms are bringing their kids not because they want to motivate them to be healthy, but because they feel guilty, as I did, about leaving them behind while they take time to work out.
As Circle of Mom member Bradi N. points out, we moms desperately need to find ways to restore ourselves, and to do it without all the misgivings:
"When was the last time you took time out for yourself? Now, when was the last time you took some time out for your self and didn’t feel guilty? It’s the guilt factor that gets even the most sophisticated self-nurturer to forgo their much needed time to replenish themselves.”
Frustratingly though, the kids aren't really having that triumphant experience I at first imagined. Typically, by the time we all get to the 2-mile marker they are whining, crying, and begging their moms to quit. They’re pooped! The moms stop mid track to tend to their kids. They cajole, prod, beg, and even force them to keep running. The scene is anything but triumphant.
I applaud moms who want to introduce healthy exercising habits to their kids. But arriving at a 5k starting line with a grade school-aged kid who really can't go the distance is not likely to be a win — for anyone.
Are you pushing your kids into activities you like because you feel guilty?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.