We Need To Stop With The 'No Excuses!' Approach To Fitness And Exercise
Recently, I was at the Harlem Y leaving the women’s locker room with my baby. A woman stopped me and said, “Aw, he’s cute! You look great. Free childcare at the gym — that means no excuses right?!” I walked past her, baffled. I was furious at this well meaning, smiley, complimentary, and I’m sure very kind woman. I repeated to myself what she said: No excuses right?! No excuses!
No! Yes! Yes, excuses! All the excuses! Buckets full of excuses. All the excuses in the world!
This sentiment that since there is free childcare at a gym a mom has no excuses to not workout is utter bullcrap. Besides the fact that I was not there to work out but instead to take my baby to swimming lessons, I still have all the excuses.
Want to hear a few?
I don’t do my laundry. I don’t have time. I wash the baby’s clothes but not mine. Going down 14 floors carrying a 16-pound person on your front plus multiple bottles of liquid and dragging bags full of clothing behind me is a perfect storm for not doing laundry. And then there’s always that magic moment when the baby falls asleep for his nap. I plop him into his crib and breathe a sigh of relief until I remember that the washing machine will be done in five minutes, and I don’t want all other 452 people in the building to hate me for occupying the machine when not in use. At times, I have actually considered where I would land on the bad parent scale if I left the baby alone for five minutes while I transferred clothes to the dryer. Then I have visions of getting stuck in the elevator for hours while my child screams upstairs. So no laundry, it is!
How about working full-time and parenting full-time? What is more than full-time? Double-time? Full-double time? Double-full? Sounds like I’m considering the size of drink I’m going to have when the baby goes to sleep. How about having the babysitter drop the baby off at my work multiple times a month because I have workshops to lead and events to run and I’d rather do those with a baby in my arms than not do them at all. This doesn’t leave much time for those magical workouts that I am supposed to participate in.
How about pumping? Is pumping an excuse? Pumping what seems like all day, every day. What about a baby who can now crawl and so pumping has become a game of plug in, unplug, catch the baby, carry back, plug back in, unplug, grab baby from danger, and repeat for 30 minutes, four times a day. And let’s not even speak about when I’m out and about in the middle of a weekend day and have to find some cold public bathroom and balance on the toilet to use my battery pack and pump away. I have pumped in so many places I suppose I could do it while running on a treadmill — said no mom ever!
Let’s talk showers, and you can tell me if that is excuse enough. Living alone with a child means showers are limited. So, tired as I may be at 10 p.m., if the baby is asleep and my pumping is done, I better jump in that shower and slide into bed before the silence becomes too good to be true and he begins to cry. On the days that I need to shower in the morning, I have now taken to having my child sit on my bath mat surrounded by toys, with my shower door open and water spraying him like he’s playing in a New York City fire hydrant on a hot summer’s day. I rush out dripping wet whenever he does something slightly hazardous, but I get the job done.
Let’s talk baby proofing! How the heck do you do that? Turn your small apartment into a place where a baby can go around and about without getting hurt? Who can do this? I don’t know about everyone else’s baby but my child seems to be able to turn everything into something that can hurt him, even the floor. Can you baby proof a floor? Perhaps I don’t even need a spectacular excuse to not workout. I’ll just start my own gym class called “Catch That Baby” where we let a baby loose and give participants household tasks to complete while also keeping the baby safe in an un-baby-proofed house, aka a regular apartment.
Or how every time I blink, my dog seems to have thrown up or pooped somewhere, or she’s eating the baby’s toys or barking at the door asking someone to come save her from her brother who has gotten very fast with his little fur-grabbing fingers. Her bark is much worse than her bite, but it is probably maddening enough to actually make me want to run out of the house. Perhaps I can use her as an excuse to get me to the gym!
There’s this great activity called cooking dinner. Have you heard of it? It’s where you mix ingredients together, and bake or fry or heat them up, and eat! It’s great. Everyone should try it sometime! I get Blue Apron delivered. It’ll help me learn to cook. It’ll ensure I eat healthy balanced meals. It’ll make enough for me to bring leftovers for lunch! Never did I realize the reality would be that it’ll cause me to waste more food than I ever have before! I actually love the Blue Apron meals as the food is quite delicious. But they don’t come with childcare. Perhaps if I brought my Blue Apron box to the gym they could watch the baby and let me use their kitchen. They really need to expand this free childcare idea!
What about books? Reading? I seem to have abandoned that ship even though it is a constant item on my ‘Things I’d Like to Do More” list. Could I bring my son to the free gym childcare and take a book into the sauna for two hours? Hmm, a plan might be brewing right now.
I’ll read and relax while they watch my child and cook my Blue Apron meal.
How about sometimes I feel like sitting in my bed and eating all the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream while watching The Big Bang Theory during my half hour of free time. How’s that for an excuse to not workout?
I am sorry you’ve had to endure so much sarcasm and annoyance from the depths of my own mind, but it’s time we stop judging each other. I have love for all you moms who work out and whose tummies don’t still look like dough a year after having the baby. I love all you moms who have sat around for 10 months eating carbs and playing with your baby or whatever else you’re doing. I love moms who went back to work and those who stayed home or any matter of in-between. I admire you moms who say no screen time until the child is in college, and I pat you on the back moms who sometimes have to turn on Peppa Pig for a half hour to wash dishes or pump (me!) or just because you have a headache. We are so quick to judge, so quick.
So, to the No Excuses woman: Yes, yes excuses. I do actually work out sometimes, but I have boatloads of excuses not to — despite the free childcare at the gym. Most of those excuses have to do with keeping my brilliant 9-month-old safe, stimulated, and alive, and I’d choose that over a flat tummy any day.
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