Understanding how ‘Mum Guilt’ can affect your training.
Why you won’t ever train at 100% - and that’s totally fine.
If you are a Mum doing any sort of structured exercise, chances are you’ve had to sacrifice something in your life to spend the 30-45 minutes with your trainer. And extend that to at least an hour if you’ve had to travel to the class. And it’s okay to be feeling guilty about this sacrifice, despite knowing that it is for the best.
Urban Dictionary quotes Mum Guilt as being: ‘Guilt a mother feels anytime she takes time to do something for herself, outside of work, that does not involve her children.’
After barely seeing my children all week due to work, I had horrible 'mom guilt' when dropping them off at the sitter so I could go to the gym.
And understanding that, REALLY understanding that, is going to help you work with your trainer and yourself to help you get the results that you are going to them for.
‘Mum Guilt plays a nasty game,’ says mum of four Belinda*. ‘She whispers in your ear that you should spend more time working and that you’re selfish for taking time out to exercise. You listen to her. She then whispers the exact opposite to you. That you’re working too much, are unfit and need to prioritise exercise in order to be a better mother.’
Firstly, are your kids with you for the session? If they are, great. But don’t underestimate the tug of war your attention is undergoing as you attempt to listen to and understand your trainer’s instructions and conversation, alongside trying to listen out for any discourse from your children that may indicate that tyranny is about to break forth. Understand that you will be feeling guilty for being unable to give all of your attention to either your trainer or your children – and that’s okay.
And if the kids are not with you? Where are they? What strategies have you had to implement, who have you had to rely upon, just to get this 30 minutes to yourself. Have you had to leave a sick child with the Grandparents? Or are you missing your child receiving a school award at assembly to be at the gym? Understand that the welfare of your children will be at the forefront of your mind for the time you are in the class. And that you will be feeling guilty about leaving the kids with someone else – even if it is someone who loves her kids just as you do. And that’s okay!
Mum of three Kate* says, ‘My kids are resilient and are fine with me leaving them to go exercise. In fact, they expect it and are used to it. But while they’re little I need to rely on other people to help me out and I hate that!’
It is a strange conundrum. And one that modern society has exacerbated. The modern mother is expected to have it all and do it all, to lead an Instagram perfect life. Becoming a mother causes you to question every single decision you make. It is no longer just yourself that you have to think of, in any given situation. You have the life and the feelings of your children to consider in everything! Sarah* says, in regards to her PT session, ‘I think my Mum Guilt comes from the debate of whether I take an hour for me or an hour for my son.’
So, what steps can you take to understand these feelings of guilt that you may be feeling?
· Acknowledge that you have sacrificed something to be exercising. ‘If it was easy to exercise,’ starts single mum Eleanor*, ‘I’d do it. I love it. But being a mum takes priority’. And it’s not even just the fact of spending time away from your children. It’s that you feel wholly and completely responsible for their emotional wellbeing at all times. And that’s okay.
· Check in with yourself. When you go to the gym after a sleepless night, understand that you physically won’t be up for an intense program. That the sleepless night has likely involved carrying a child around the house, or sitting in an awkward position on the nursery floor, or ‘sleeping’ on the futon in the spare room. That you still chose to spend your time exercising, because you’d feel guilty if you didn’t. And that’s okay.
· Understand that your attention will be not 100% with your trainer. That your trainer needs to be vigilant on your form. Because you won’t be. And that’s okay.
· Understand that your compliance to a recommended nutrition plan won’t be 100%. Because there will be days when you are operating on four hours of broken sleep, and preparing a complicated meal will feel like climbing Mt. Everest. You will feel bad for deviating away from the suggested meal plan, but when your toddler has had a Stage Five meltdown for the fifth time that hour, eating the crusts of toast is probably all you can handle. And you’ll be disappointed with yourself for doing that. And that’s okay.
· Understand that you are likely to be the one with the family calendar in your head. That you are PA to four or five other people. That being asked to up and change your whole routine to suit a complicated training program is not going to suit. Know that you will feel guilty about this – you were the one who went to the trainer for help, after all. And that’s okay.
The truth is, we can’t have it all and be it all. If we are killing it in our gym programs, it’s likely something has gone by the wayside at home. If we are at our child’s assembly presentation, we’ve cut short or completely missed a gym session. If we’re preparing perfectly weighed and calorie-controlled meals for ourselves, our kids are eating plain pasta again just to keep the peace (or, we’re hiding the measuring and weighing from our ten year old daughters, because we don’t want them growing up with the same issues we have).
If you really want to help your progress, Mums, see yourself, hear yourself and work with yourself – from session to session – without any pressure or expectation. Because you’ll do enough of that for yourself!