Working mothers have it rough. If you’re one, you know how hard it is to hold down a demanding job and still be the primary caretaker of your kids.
Without some prioritization of your time, you can find yourself literally sick and tired. You need ways to reduce stress, eat well, and exercise to stay healthy.
The idea of the “supermom” doing everything well still resonates, but you have to carve out time for yourself or it probably won’t happen.
First, exercise. "I always say that when you have kids, you have to rethink what your workout looks like," Erin Whitehead of Fit Bottomed Mamas tells Bodybuilding.com. “Though many moms would like to continue their hour-long workouts at the local gym, having kids can make that option unfeasible. That's when creativity comes into play.”
Another fit mom, bodybuilder Jennifer Blake, says she has to schedule training on her calendar or it won’t get done. “For me, balancing work and kids isn’t very difficult. It’s balancing work and workouts where things get hairy,” she says.
If you find it hard to fit in longer stints at the gym, schedule a short 15-minute workout on a workday that will still give you energy and relieve stress.
Blake suggests taking time out of Sunday to plot your exercise schedule for the week. You don’t base that plan on what you believe you need to accomplish, but on what you can accomplish given your work schedule and at-home demands.
To get proper nutrition, pack your lunch at the same time you do it for the kids in the morning before you leave.
You should also drink water first thing in the morning to speed up your metabolism the rest of the day, and take a whole-food multivitamin to supplement for what you might be missing while you whoosh through your week.
Also, say no to social eating at work, says The Humbled Homemaker, which adds that much of obesity lies with that habit. Tell your co-workers you’re trying to get healthy, the site says, even it you get teased about it.
“Taking a few minutes on the weekend (with my husband) to think what meals we might like during the work week helps make those meals happen,” says Brooke Anderson. “I’m honestly too tired at the end of a work day to want to think about planning meals. A weekend grocery run is helpful, and prepping food for the week to come goes a long way to quicken and simplify meals.”
You also have to keep the stress levels down. No matter how much you think you need to do, there’s only so much that one person can do.
When Anderson says she feel her blood pressure rising she stops and practices deep breathing at work to refocus and regroup.
Try to always breakup your workday and get moving as much as possible to keep stress from building and get some movement in. Studies have found that being sedentary for as little as 90 minutes can increase your cardiovascular risk. None of us are built to spend long stretches of time at a desk, doing work.
“Think of ways you can add movement or at least decrease the amount of time you are sedentary,” says the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. “Try getting out of your chair more, standing during your calls, or alternating your chair with a yoga ball. And if you have to drive to work, try parking at the far end of the lot, taking the stairs, and going the long way to the bathroom and break room.”
You also need to pencil in adequate sleep, kids or no kids. Between you and your spouse you can get the kids to bed and still get enough sleep. You might miss some one night (kids are unpredictable), but you can try to make up for it the next night.
Reprioritizing those three areas alone will go a long way toward maintaining your health no matter the demands that await you at home.
That means you have to let go of the constant guilt some mothers (and fathers) have over the amount of time they spend with their kids. One new study found it’s quality over quantity every time for well-adjusted kids.
Conversely, the study found that parent time can be harmful to children when the parents, particularly mothers, are “stressed, sleep deprived, guilty and anxious,” reported The Washington Post.
“Mothers’ stress, especially when mothers are stressed because of the juggling with work and trying to find time with kids, that may actually be affecting their kids poorly,” co-author Kei Nomaguchi, a sociologist at Bowling Green State University, told the Post.
So lighten up. You’re probably doing a great job all around, but perception often becomes reality.
Love yourself, says the Humbled Homemaker. “You are the best mom in the world to the most wonderful children, don’t forget that,” says author Devan Kline. “Sometimes you may put yourself on the back burner due to all of the other responsibility in your life, but don’t forget to make time for number one.”
April 28, 2016
Janet O’Dell, RN