Balancing family life and fitness

Getting in shape is hard when you’re a working mom


Abigail Raymond


Essays from moms So I’m a working mom. Although I can run an errand at lunchtime in a fraction of the time it took me when I was home with my kids, my life is all about balance. How do I balance my job with my 7-year-old and 10-year-old? How do I balance time for me with time for housework? How do I balance time alone with my husband with time for my job, my kids, the housework and me? I am constantly readjusting, keeping myself steady as the sea shifts.

One of the more startling aspects of returning to full-time employment was the weight gain that accompanied it. Here I had deliberately sought a job within a mile and a half of our home so I could walk to and from work, thinking that would cover my need for exercise—it’s that balance thing again—but no dice. I am getting fatter by the minute. I resolve to do something about it.

Dive right in

Being a good American, I do what all good Americans do: I start paying dues at a health club. In my case, the club is the local YMCA—a comfortable kind of place where I can work out with older men clearly there on doctor’s orders, with nary a shred of spandex in sight.

Of course, this assumes I actually work out. The first month, I did. I went a few evenings after work to swim. It was pleasant. Naturally, there was the horror of the post-swim reassembly. As I said, I walk to work. So, each night, I had to shower out that chlorine smell from my hair, dry off, put back on as few pieces of my business suit as I could manage and walk home.

Oh, and I won’t dry my hair. It violates some deeply held belief of mine. The business suit/wet hair/red goggle marks on the face combo is very attractive. I was only completely mortified once—which isn’t a bad track record for a month—when I bumped into the president of my organization as he walked home.

The problem was, I arrived home at 7 p.m., a mere hour and a half before my kids go to bed. Although there are days when that might seem like a major plus, on a regular basis it activates my “Bad Mommy!” guilt ray. After a few weeks, the workouts stopped altogether, although I continue to pay dues. Somehow, it would be un-American not to.

Tune in, tone up

I am going to have to do something different. And I do. I start doing an exercise video in the mornings. It is only 30 minutes—that’s all I can squeeze in—but it will have to do. Of course, mornings are my time with my children and my husband, but never mind. It will have to do.

And it does. I work out and assorted members of the family come in and out. Or, I should say, my husband and the dog come in and out. The kids settle in. And watch. And offer commentary.

“Mommy, why aren’t your hands on the ground? His hands are on the ground! Bend over more!”

“Mommy, why did you put your foot down? He didn’t put his foot down!”

“Oh Mommy, you can do it faster than he can! He’s still in that position and you’re already out of it! You’re better at this than he is!”

If I’m really lucky, the dog will pick this moment to come in and lick me on whatever body part he can reach from my current position. He prefers my nose.

No one said getting—or keeping—in shape would be easy, but I somehow expected it to be easier than this. I was in shape once. I tell my husband about it, since it happened before he met me. I still assume that I will return to that form one day, even though it hasn’t happened once in the 18 years that have followed. Two pregnancies have pretty much placed this assumption in the realm of fantasy.

Until then, I do what I can. 

Abigail Raymond is a writer in Evanston and the mother of two children.


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