Oh fellow moms. Let's take a second to sigh together. A sigh of satisfaction for all the amazing things we do for our kids (finding ways to disguise quinoa in baked goods, mall-hopping to find the hottest toy, making them that complicated Halloween costume when they turn down your simpler "puppy ears and a brown sweater" option), and a sigh of fatigue for all the things we don't do for ourselves or our heart health (eating fruits, veggies and good fats, exercise, hanging with our girlfriends). In our ambitious list of things to do, we humble canuck moms often leave ourselves off completely. That was my story, and I'm NOT sticking to it any more.
A few years ago, when my kids were about one (him) and two and a half (her), I fell prey to the guilt of the working mom, feeling that I had to be everything to everyone, and do a mistake-less, regret-less job of mothering, wife-ing, working and looking presentable-ish while doing it. Cue the laugh track, cause we've ALL been there.
I was driving miles to organic farmers markets to get fresh veggies for my kids' homemade food, yet I was eating cold, leftover pizza on the run, and lucky if I even ate a carrot myself! I spent hours ensuring maximum sleep for my kids while I often cried at work over from my own exhaustion (doing comedy on three hours of sleep is an accident waiting to happen -- especially when it's destined to be captured forever on TV)!
One day I realized no one in my family was benefiting from my hectic race for perfection. And would I even be healthy enough to enjoy my kids' future considering I was anemic, sleep-deprived, out of shape, and kept alive by fast food and diet soda? Um, don't answer that.
My grandmother passed away too early from heart failure, so I wised up and looked at the big picture: my kids benefit the most in the long run if I'm actually around, so I've gotta find some balance. Heart disease and stroke is a leading cause of death for women in Canada, with nine in ten of us gals showing at least one significant risk factor.
Fortunately, I discovered that risk factors can be reduced by up to 80 per cent through healthy lifestyle choices, so I paused, sighed, and looked at the big picture -- the best gift I can give my kids is to be around in the long run! But, could I possibly take care of everyone else, AND myself? Yes. Yes there's such thing as being a great mom AND being balanced.
For me personally, the answer came in small, sustainable, fun lifestyle choices. I had tried and failed before when making zero-to-60 resolutions like "I'll lose five pounds this month" or "I'll run a marathon by spring." I started to look at easy ways to incorporate the good into my life. Here are some things that worked for improving my heart health and making me feel great:
o Focusing on a diet that is low in saturated and trans fats (goodbye chips, hello celery)
o Walking the kids to school instead of driving, even though it costs me an extra (GASP) five minutes each morning!
o Instead of trying to diet and avoid anything tempting, I look for balance in my meals and try to eat more vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and good fats.
o At restaurants, I still order whatever main course I had in mind, but FIRST I order a plate of veggies as an appetizer (it's never on the menu, but every place I've been to will honour this request and create a little masterpiece). It helps curbs your appetite.
o Getting friends on board with workouts -- now I'm on women's basketball and soccer teams with my pals and we're all feeling the benefits our fitness has on our mood, health and kids...and sex life (I know, TMI -- but it's true)
o Eating smaller meals throughout the day so I don't have energy peaks and crashes.
o Instituting Meatless Mondays are a great way to have variety -- do grilled veggie burritos or tempeh with applesauce instead of the same old same old.
The result? I'm balanced. I can actually say that without it being some sarcastic punchline. My kids are the DJs for my living room exercises. Instead of free weights, I dead lift them. They take turns on my back while I do plank. They hold onto my legs and I drag them around the main floor in a core workout/floor sweeping combo. And we're usually laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. I don't treat veggie sticks like they're for the under-five crowd only. I don't apologize for taking "me time", because when I put all the pros and cons down on paper, the kids are better cared for when I'm at my best.
I'm shouting from the rooftop/internet, encouraging all moms to take time for yourselves too. The payoff is enormous, for you AND your family and so much more! In the long run, what the kids want is for you to be around. Watch this really, really sweet video to see what the REAL priority is for your family. Then share the video with all the moms you know. We're in it together ladies -- so let's stick around for each other, our kids, and ourselves.