Motherhood Made Me Soft!
Before I became a Mother, I had a long track record of successful endeavors. I was driven by an internal force that was more powerful than me. When I set out to do something, I would not stop until it was done. My identity was tightly knitted by my attachments to hard work, discipline, goal setting and an I Can Do It mentality. I studied to become a Personal Fitness Trainer because I loved working out and I wanted to inspire and motivate others to take good care of themselves, too. I started my business when I was 19. I was young, energetic and I had rock hard abs. My body was my billboard. Getting clients came easily to me. This was in 1997, before the Hard Core Yoga Craze and Crossfit Nation had taken over the fitness industry. Mostly, only Body Builders and Fitness Competitors stood out in the fitness world. I would get approached at the gym several times a day by potential clients saying, “I want your arms or I want your abs.” It was an easy sell for me. I would introduce myself, “Hi, I am Erin. I am a Personal Trainer. I can help you to get abs like mine.” (It’s sounds really cheesy now as I think about it but it worked!) After the initial introduction we would set up an appointment to meet one on one and then our commitment to each other would begin. My client would pay me and I got to tell them what to do. It was a really nice set up! It is safe to say that my identity was deeply rooted in my physical body and my ability to control everything.
The majority of my clients were Mothers with children of all ages. At the initial start of a training session a Personal Trainer does a fitness assessment. I would work with the client to establish their starting point. We would discuss their present reality and their current exercise patterns, nutrition, goals and time commitment to their health. We would go over any pre-existing medical conditions and postural impediments. Then, I would measure their body-weight; body-fat, strength, flexibility, blood pressure and a whole lot more. In the beginning, I loved this initial assessment. I loved using the skin calipers and doing the mathematical calculations to figure out the magical equations that would help them to reduce body fat and gain lean muscle tissue! As far as I knew at the time, everything my client needed to do could be computed by figuring out how many calories they needed to burn over a specific amount of time to lose the extra fat. As a very general formula, not taking into account genetics, water loss and re-distribution of lean muscle tissue, 1 pound of fat is equivalent to 3500 Calories. So, if we built a program around a sound nutritional plan and added physical activity, it was highly likely that a Caloric deficit of 500 fewer Calories per day times 7 days in a week, would result in a loss of 1 pound of bodyweight per week. Sounds easy, right!
Once the initial assessment was complete the next phase of training would begin. I gave my clients a detailed fitness and nutritional program to follow. Most clients would meet with me a few times a week and then they were expected to follow the program I designed on the other days. I loved getting to know new people and hearing about the story of their lives. As I continued getting to know my clients, I learned about their behaviors and what was going on for them in their lives. I was amazed to hear about the shifts in their awareness and attention from themselves to something else and usually to someone else. I was also amazed to hear about all that my clients were doing on a daily basis at home, at work and in the world.
At the start of each session I would ask my clients about their week and whether or not they worked out on their own. Often the answer given was, “no.” The number one excuse was always the same, “I didn’t have time.” I tried to be understanding and compassionate while at the same time giving them a little push to do something more. After all, they had told me, “I want abs like yours.” I knew that working out for 1 hour a week would never get the job done. My abs were made from blood, sweat and tears. I worked out on average 2 hours per day and survived on protein shakes and nutritional bars. Sipping Coffee and eating donuts at the PTA meeting wasn’t going to cut it. I tried many approaches to inspire my Mothers to increase their activity level and make more time for themselves. Sometimes, I felt like I was successful and every once in awhile someone would follow the program I designed and get the results they wanted but more often than not they would make very small changes and get minimum results. Often they would report feeling better and having more energy but the rock hard abs were off the table. I knew that my clients were improving their overall health and fitness level but they were not achieving the goals that they had set at our initial meeting. I knew that they needed to work harder and eat less to really make their goals a reality but I wasn’t sure at the time how to give them what they really needed. My Mommas would usually show up exhausted, without eating before the workout and often a few minutes or more past their session time. I started to realize that their goals were not realistic for their life as it was. For someone who is existing on 4 to 5 hours a sleep per night because they are nursing or caring for a baby, barely having a chance to go to the bathroom on their own and completely devoted to the care and upbringing of at least two other lives, it didn’t seem right for me to push them even more to get something that wasn’t going to significantly improve the overall quality of their life. I was quickly starting to realize that “Rock Hard Abs” were over-rated, over-sold and highly unattainable for the average individual. I went to several Personal Training Conferences looking for some answers but nobody seemed to address why it was so hard for so many of our clients to maintain a fitness program. There was always a constant theme of pushing harder, getting stricter and motivating them to move more.
Fast forward, 18 years later…now, I am a Mother to three little ones. Over the years, my personal nutrition and fitness endeavors have taken a huge back row seat from what they once were. My number one priority now, is meeting the needs of my family. I am still relatively fit and very healthy but I am lucky if I make it to the gym once in a week. I do manage to get in my daily run for 6 miles and do some yoga with the kids but that’s small potatoes in comparison to the way I used to train. I could do more but I know that every time I try to do more of one thing, I have to do less of another. It’s basic
Economics 101 = Opportunity Cost =Assuming the best choice is made, it is the "cost" incurred by not enjoying the benefit that would be had by taking the second best choice available. For me to work out like I used to and to have the rock hard abs that served as my personal billboard for Health and Fitness, I would need to hire someone else to watch my kids. My husband works really long hours and we don’t have any relatives around for free babysitting. I can pay someone to watch the kids, which costs $15 an hour. Transportation time would be 30 minutes, 5 minutes to put my stuff in the locker, 60-120 minutes working out, another 15 minutes to shower and drive back home. So, to work out like I used to, I would need to pay someone close to $45 per workout. I always thought "I don't have time" was such a ridiculous excuse but now I understand the legitimacy of it! We all have the same 24 hours in a day and It comes down to choice. If I choose to go to the gym, I would have to take time away from folding the laundry, cleaning the house, washing the dishes, driving the kids to practice, watching them at practice, volunteering in the classroom, reading to them afterschool, helping them with homework, playing with them in the backyard and the list goes on and on. If you are a Momma, I know you can relate to the list! Now, don’t get me wrong, I would so much rather work out than fold the laundry! And let’s not even talk about the dishes. But if I don’t do the laundry someone is going to be screaming in the morning when they don’t have any clean socks to wear. So, for me, I get a greater return on my investment by making sure the needs of my kids are taken care of.
Now, please, please do not get me wrong here, I am not promoting Self-Neglect. I am however, promoting a healthy and balanced view of what is possible for you to accomplish at this time given your unique circumstances. And to really exam how what is most important to you and what you need. More often than not, we fall into a habitual response of trying to fit into someone else’s mold based on major misinterpretations of reality. I am promoting taking good care of yourself. I am promoting Self-Love and Understanding as you exercise. My suggestion would be to learn to love your form as it is and do your best to be kind to yourself especially on those days when things get in the way of you making it to the gym. I also want to add that wanting to look like the 19-year-old Personal Trainer at the gym or fitting back into your skinny jeans from the 1970s, might not be in your best interest.
Like most Mommas, over the years of Mothering my identity has shifted. The girl that could control everything and served as a walking advertisement for Health and Fitness has grown up into a Woman and a Mother who understands that sometimes their are simply more important things to do than go to the gym. I am now able to fully understand what an accomplishment it was for all my clients to simply get out the door and show up for their session with me. Sometimes, I wish I would have known better then and if I did know what I know now back then, I would understand that what my Mommas were really needing back then was a gauntlet of love to run through where a team of women would cheer them on just for showing up! Then, they would gently whisper, “You made it here, Hooray! You Did It! I am so proud of you! And then we would hug them and say, “You are beautiful as you are!”
It’s this awareness that I have now that has inspired me to create Enlightened Mommas, Inc. I want to give back to all the Mommas who are struggling to keep all of the balls in the air. I am encouraging all the Mommas out there to celebrate your body in its miraculous form. On those days when you fall into the habitual negative self-talk, look at yourself in the mirror and change your conversation. Thank your body for what it has gone through and endured for another human being to exist. I want to assist Mother’s in letting go of some made up image of what their body is supposed to look like and learning to accept themselves in the moment. I want to give Mommas the tools and resources to be realistic with your fitness goals and be honest about how much time you really want to devote to your fitness routine and then work around what’s possible for your unique life model.
I still love fitness and nutrition. I know we need to take good care of ourselves inside and out so we can be our best selves. I still promote going to the gym, going for a walk and any kind of movement that you can do. In fact, I wouldn’t mind getting my rock hard abs back. But the truth is for now; motherhood has made me soft! It has allowed me to let go of control, to surrender and to be more loving toward other Mothers who are trying to find themselves, too. Once you become a Mother, you are never the same. It’s easy to get lost. So, if you are a Momma who loves being Hard Core or you are a Momma who is Soft and Sweet or maybe you are somewhere in between, celebrate your body in all her magical forms. You are a bringer of life and blessings. Your body has the evidence that miracles do happen.
One very wise Momma said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” And she said, “The special power of loving that belongs to a woman is seen most clearly when she becomes a mother.” (Mother Theresa)
So, take time to love yourself in all your splendid forms and in all that you do, both big and small things!