For most people, and I assume you, there are three main priorities as an adult after children: Family, Work, Health. (Priorities being different from the responsibilities everyone has- like laundry and cooking.) We tend to put them in the previously stated order, and that is what I am urging you to change. I hear it all the time, mostly from my friends and their co-workers- you are far too busy taking kids here and there, making dinner, doing laundry, caring for everyone, etc. that you therefore eat McDonalds on the way to work, after all the drop-offs of course, and spend time on the internet perusing the latest diets, pills, wraps, supplements, whatever, that will waste your money and not get you any closer to where you were before kids...and get judgement from these oh-so-lucky CrossFitting people who, while not having kids, are going to the gym daily. I hear it in my mom-group... women who have "lost themselves" after having kids...they are stuck in a body and lifestyle they don't recognize and don't know how to start again...
Here's how. You need to put YOU before your family. YOU need to be a priority. Selfish? Let me explain...
First of all, I am by no means saying that in a dangerous situation you should not take a bullet for your child or protect them from harm. I am also not saying that you should abandon your home and work priorities and do whatever you want all the time- skip your kid's baseball game to go to the gym- etc- that is misinterpretation of "putting yourself first." I am saying, on a weekly basis, you need to rearrange your priorities to allow, and honestly demand, that you get 20-30 minutes of exercise minimum a few days a week, and have time to prepare and eat something not frozen, from a box, or from take-out. If you can't manage that with your partner so you can be alone, have your kids be a part of it... some days may go better than others with stopping to give snacks and getting in less time and whatnot, but either way I know you can do it... your health needs to be first. Am I suggesting you drop everything you are doing and join the local CrossFit box and immediately start a Whole30 challenge? No. (Although honestly I for one would definitely recommend CrossFit as a great way to get in and out of the gym in an hour or less with a whole-body weight-training-cardio workout, meet great people... but that's neither here nor there :) What I am saying is that priorities need to be rearranged- Health, Family, Work. It is amazing what we have time for when we make it a priority- for example that weekly TV show you never miss.
My Mom with Charlie at the Gym
The second major reason you need to put you first is for your mental health. Arguably as important as your physical health. I have noticed (and my husband would agree) that I am a much better wife, mother and teacher when I have worked out. My mood feels stabilized, I have more patience, I am less stressed and I have more energy. Research has repeatedly shown a positive correlation between fitness and increased mental health. When I was a single parent, and now watching my brother go through something similar, it is mentally fatiguing to never get a break. FYI- Work is not a break. There is no partner to relieve you at the end of the day, share the house work with and that is so exhausting. There is so much to be said about the reset you get mentally from just a little bit of time to yourself- a good sweat on a long run, uninterrupted, a relaxing stretch at yoga, whatever it is you like. You owe yourself and your kids that, to be the best you mentally.
Speaking of the children, the third main reason you should be first is the precedent we set for them. When you are pregnant the main thing you want is a healthy baby. We want our children to grow up smart, healthy, and happy. Setting the example that exercise is important, the goal setting, lack of quit, and healthy eating that usually goes along with it is equally as important. It is easier to teach by example, so be the example. I remember growing up watching my parents train for marathons, watching my Uncles and Aunts get ready for annual road races... and that sticks with you. I fail to understand how we want our kids to be healthy, but then step aside, still saying that to them, and allow ourselves to fall apart.
Now I know I fall on the extreme side of things... I work out quite a bit and it is easy for a fit person to judge others- I only have one kid so people tell me "just wait"... but I will say something I have said many times- you really don't know how good you can feel until you really feel good- and I won't let that go. Will I continue to train as much, get up at 4:30am to not miss a day, keep competing? Maybe not. But I will keep my health a priority because I owe that to my family, and so do you.