As moms, we always have lots of things to do, keep track of, enforce, and remember. Our regular routine involves keeping little people alive! This is no doubt a huge task, and it’s one that never lets up. Kids have lots of needs, and they are demanding. I’m sharing a few ways to set boundaries and make time for exercise while parenting.
Setting Boundaries & Making Time for Exercise
As a mom, I so often feel myself being pulled this way and that by the demands of the moment. Change this diaper, clean these dishes, text this person, etc. etc. – and on and on it goes until I realize the day is almost over and I haven’t done anything for me. At first this sounds selfish – as moms we’re supposed to be selfless, right? But I’m talking about reading my Bible, praying, eating a proper meal, exercising, and taking a shower. Some days I put my toddler down for bed and realize I haven’t done any of those things yet. I’m so busy taking care of other people that I haven’t stopped to take care of me.
If this sounds familiar to you, you’ve probably already found articles on Pinterest about “Quick Workouts for Moms” or “How to Exercise with a Baby”. You’ve already found workouts that might work for your fitness interests and goals, but you can’t get over the hurdle of feeling like you can’t work out. You have found the information you need, but you feel like there is never a good time to use it.
One of the greatest barriers to exercising for moms (and most people) is time. I’ve heard lots of people say, “just make time to exercise”. But how do we “make time”? We can’t create more hours in the day, and there are some duties that take priority over exercising. One thing that’s unique about the job of a stay-at-home mom is that we can’t leave our work at work and come home – our work is at home! So, if we let it, our work (kids, home, etc.) will drag us from one task to the other.
I have found that you have to create balance and boundaries in order to make time for exercise.
The balance is found by distinguishing your child’s needs from your child’s wants, by determining whether something has to be done today or done this week, and escaping from the demands of the moment in order to identify the needs of the whole. There is a book called Freedom from Tyranny of the Urgent by Charles E. Hummel. When I am under the tyrannical reign of the urgent, I feel like my creativity is squashed, perspective darkened, and relationships hindered. In his book, Hummel says, “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.”
Now, there are some seasons of life where the demands of the moment must be met. The urgent and the important are not always mutually exclusive. If you have a newborn, you can’t just deny her the next nursing session in order to go exercise. But as your children get older and become less dependent, hopefully you will find you have more flexibility to exercise. Notice I said less dependent, not less demanding. ☺ If you give your kids an inch, they will take a mile.
A way I have recently created balance in one area of my life is that I prioritize eating a good breakfast over being on time to an event or job (most of my jobs are pretty flexible). Being punctual used to be so important to me, but now I realize that I should choose eating a solid breakfast over being right on time or early. I used to get really anxious about starting things on time, leaving on time – watching the minutes tick by as I frantically rush out the door. Since I have decided that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, I make time for it. Most days now I don’t have to be late to something in order to eat breakfast, but when I am faced with that decision, I always choose breakfast.
Another example is choosing to remain present while playing with your child instead of answering text messages. I still struggle with this one frequently. I have to keep my phone on me most of the time for work purposes, but whenever I get a text I feel like I have to read it and respond right away. If I do that, I’m constantly switching back and forth between my child and my phone, which doesn’t give her the quality time she needs and it’s harder for me to focus on my responses to the messages anyway.
If the balance is found by distinguishing the urgent from the important, then I think most of us as moms realize that exercise is important. So how do we keep the urgent things from “crowding out the important” – our exercise? We must create boundaries to protect the goals most important to us.
I think of the secret service escorting the president through a mob of paparazzi and reporters. The secret service is there to protect the physical and emotional well-being of the president, while the mob feels that each of their individual concerns are of paramount importance. It’s not that the president doesn’t care at all about their individual concerns, but he has more important matters to attend to, matters that will hopefully benefit the very people who are pressing against the barrier to address concerns that the president is already dealing with. The secret service provides boundaries for the president’s reach and influence. In a way it keeps everyone on task with what the president’s ultimate job is.
Now, as moms our job is in no way as big as the presidential office, but it is of similar importance. We must create boundaries in order to push past the urgent to reach the important, for the urgent will not let up.
One way that I create boundaries is that I create time blocks within my day. I don’t schedule every minute, but each time block is about 2-3 hours with 3-5 activities or tasks to do within that time frame. For example, from about 6-7:30am is my time to stretch, read my Bible, make breakfast, and work on my blog. If I wake up later than 6 and I don’t have time to do all of those things, that’s on me. But if my husband or toddler wakes up before 7:30am, I don’t just skip to the next time block (which would be eating breakfast and getting ready for the day). I may get my child some milk and some books so she can sit beside me while I read my Bible. I may talk with my husband while I make breakfast. There are ways to accommodate changes in your schedule without forfeiting your time.
If you have a plan for the day, it is easier to say no to the urgent. Create a plan that isn’t too cramped and allows for flexibility, making sure exercise is always in there somewhere. That plan becomes your boundary from the onslaught of the urgent.
Getting exercise in as a mom is hard. Keeping a balance between the urgent and the important will give you time to exercise, and setting up boundaries to keep back the urgent will keep you accountable to use that time to exercise.
If you have any ways that have worked for you in making time to exercise, please comment below! Or if you have questions about how I manage my exercise while working part-time and mothering my toddler, please ask!
Grace Anna Lane is a wife and mother who blogs at wholesoulhomemaker.com. She seeks to encourage, empower, and enlighten young moms in their calling within their home.