Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Pounds of Parenting

Last week I officially hit the five years of parenting milestone. In that time, I have been to a lot of playgroups, parks, beaches, school events and birthday parties and I have had the privilege to meet and observe many, many mothers in action. All of these mothers are incredible, hard working, selfless people, but beyond that I noticed many of us have one thing in common: we're fat. I know that is a rather unpopular word these days with all the body affirmation jazz and fat shaming that is happening all over the internet, but before you get out your pitchfork and gather the mob, hear me out. Seeing all of these overweight mothers made me wonder if motherhood itself is expanding our waistlines.

Here are six reasons maintaining a healthy weight is harder for mothers:

1. We are sleep deprived. I've read countless articles lately on the correlation between weight gain and sleep deprivation. How many mothers get eight hours in every night? I can personally attest to overeating when I'm tired. I can't think straight and it's almost as if I can't figure out what's wrong with me. So I eat to try to fill the void the lack of sleep left.

2. The baby weight, obviously. We gain 20-40 pounds growing another human being inside our bodies then rip ourselves to pieces evicting that small human. Not only do we have to heal and figure out how to care for our beautiful, crying, bundle of joy, but we also have to figure out what to do with our new bodies. It's no small task. Learning to balance my son's needs with my own was very difficult, especially in the first year.

3. We are beached. Somehow, dads always seem to end up with the more active jobs in parenting. The next time you go to the beach take a minute to watch what the moms are doing vs. the dads. Frequently, I see the dads splashing around in the water and throwing big kids into the waves. The moms, on the other hand are sitting on the beach, preparing a meal, reapplying sunscreen, nursing the baby, or just reading a book because they finally have five minutes of peace. Some moms don't even bother to wear their bathing suits; maybe because they hate the way they look in them, or maybe because they've just resigned to being the beached parent. If you aren't going to have an opportunity to go in the water, why wear a bathing suit?

4. We are too busy to eat or eat well. I can't tell you how often I am absolutely starving by the time I sit down and eat lunch because between feeding the kids, swapping out the laundry before it mildews, stirring dinner in the crock pot, changing the baby's diaper, letting the dog out, then breaking up a fight, the one hour window between school pick up and nap time blows by and I didn't even get a chance to make myself something, much less eat it. And of course when I am starving I choose fast, easy, bad-for-me food and I eat too much.

5. We are inherently self sacrificing. Now I am no Mother Teresa, but I feel like I am frequently putting my own needs aside in order to care for the needs of others. If I really want to exercise I have to make time to, which usually means I have to choose exercise over something else, like clean my house. More often than not I will choose to do something that benefits my children or husband over doing something just for myself. Unfortunately, there is never a shortage of things to do in this household and so I constantly give myself the short end of the stick.

6. There is cake everywhere. Birthday parties, play groups, PTA meetings and of course every holiday. Every time I turn around there are donuts and cookies, cinnamon rolls, or chips. I have a lot of will power, but I usually break down after the fifth temptation.

If you add a pound or two for each of these, that's an extra TWELVE pounds! While all these things may indeed make it harder to maintain a healthy weight, I don't think it's impossible. I'm not trying to say that we have to accept that these are the facts of motherhood and we should learn to love those love handles. It's an uphill battle and we have to make conscious choices to be more active all the time.

Choose to hand the baby off to dad and go splash in the waves or swim a few laps. Don't settle for being the beached parent. Make yourself a healthy lunch the night before when you pack the kids lunches. Leave the dishes in the sink and go to bed early. Choose YOU, sometimes. You don't deserve the short end of the stick all the time.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off the exercise extreme will power at a PTA meeting.

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