In my previous life, I was a gym junkie.
By ‘previous life’ I mean the time when you could enjoy a HOT cup of tea and go to the toilet alone – for as long as you wanted/needed. Before children.
By ‘gym junkie’ I mean I could wear crop tops with no padding, and do two classes a day as well as weights – whenever I felt like it. I had no responsibilities. All I had to do was make sure I had petrol in my car, got to work on time and had sussed out what to wear to the pub or club on Saturday night. Before children.
Life was certainly different then. I say ‘different’ because I would never dream of having it any other way now (well – MOST days).
With children in my life, finding time to exercise, eat well and sleep enough was a challenge. It was hard enough to ensure I didn’t leave a kid behind somewhere (it’s only ever happened once), let alone double-checking I had balanced out my macro-nutrients with each meal and washed it down with a kale, spinach and wheatgrass infused green tonic.
There are four children in my life. My gym junkie days turned into ‘What the?!’ days when, at nine weeks pregnant, my husband and I found out we (MY body) had triplets on the way!
Yep! One proposed heartbeat turned into three. Three of everything. Three babies. Three placentas. Three foetal sacs. Three lives that would turn my gym-obsessed, little black dress wearing world into chaos.
Utter, naïve chaos.
What’s more, nineteen months later, we had another! Just one. To add to the naïve chaos that had somehow turned into a well-oiled, team based machine, we had baby number four.
So with four children under two, how does one find the time to look after oneself?
How do you sleep well? How do you eat nutritionally balanced meals and how do you exercise? How do you make healthy choices when all that’s going through your head is a Wiggles song and the fact that men just shouldn’t wear skivvies – let alone bright coloured ones!?
Well it took me ten years or so to maneuver my life so that I could spend a little more time on ‘me’. I’ve learnt some tricks along the way and as is life – I’m still learning! Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.
Don’t eat the scraps!
They say ‘abs are made in the kitchen’. Yes. Yes they are. But at the same time, they are often ruthlessly destroyed when your toddlers are also in the kitchen.
When your little ones don’t finish their meal you’ve worked tirelessly for (and which they’ve probably thrown around, regurgitated or given to the dog), don’t eat what’s left on their plates.
I know it’s an easy option to get some food into your stomach and you’re tired and hungry but you deserve better!
It’s a small habit which adds up over time. If you feel compelled to scoff the left over nuggets and sauce, give it to the dog before you have time to think that ‘one won’t hurt’.
Do the food shopping online.
Any mum is time-poor so take advantage of using a screen (while you still have control of your devices).
Write a list and set up an online shopping account. You can even store previous lists and purchase similarly again. This also stops impulse buys. Just because kelp supplements are on sale doesn’t mean you need them.
Most supermarkets offer online purchasing and delivery now, otherwise there are also private companies offering the same service although they may be a little more pricey.
If you have a toddler (or four), I’m guessing you hang around home a lot, so a delivery window of three hours isn’t such an issue.
What’s more, you’ll get to have an adult conversation with the delivery man if he isn’t talking to someone through his ear phone while unloading your nappies, bread and wipes.
Cook up in big batches.
You see it in all the body building info out there. Sunday is ‘cook up day’. We mums clearly have different goals for our week like say, just surviving, but it’s not a bad idea to cook up big batches of meals.
Sundays are great because it means you have a great cue to be consistent and balanced nutritionally for the week. You may also have hubby home to take the reigns/be on bandaid duty/dance like the Wiggles while you cook (put some headphones and music on, you are conveniently ‘unavailable’).
Cook big batches and freeze individual meals. This way, when you’re too tired to cook, you can grab one out the freezer instead of eating the leftover, regurgitated nuggets and sauce.
Another strategy for time saving is to use the slow cooker. You can put it going in the morning and by the evening the house smells amazing, dinner is ready and you truly feel like you’re leading a somewhat normal life.
Be a scout. Be Prepared.
Pre-chopping vegetables and fruit can save a lot of time and stress.
After the delivery man has delivered your food, chop up the veggies straight away and store them in airtight containers for future meals or those weak-leftover-appealing-moments!
You can also pack a small container for your handbag/car or nappy bag for when you’re out and about.
It doesn’t have to be vegetables, it can be nuts and seeds or dried fruit. Just think ahead and be prepared.
‘I don’t have time’.
Believe me, I know how you’re feeling. Like I said, we’re all just trying to survive but doing some exercise will make you feel better.
You could incorporate time with your little one(s) with catching up with other mums and walking. After all, who wouldn’t want to be pushed around in a pusher for an hour (or a half hour), listening to the sound of a happy mum’s voice while gently being rocked to sleep?
There are many ‘pram fitness classes’ around now which you can do in a local park.
Mums and bubs pilates and yoga classes are available in some areas, as are swimming lessons.
If you still don’t have time, break it down. You could do three sessions of ten minutes in a day. Climb stairs, jog on the spot (pelvic floor in tact!), skip with a rope, march with high knees – or my fave – punch a bag for a few minutes.
There is always something you can do for exercise.
Make sure you do something you enjoy.
If you don’t enjoy the exercise you’re doing, you won’t stick to it.
Just because lots of celebs ‘appear’ to love running, burpees and hill sprints – doesn’t mean you have to!
There are no rules on what exercise you should do! Just make sure you raise your heart rate, that your toddler(s) are safe and that your top is not inside out (from sleep deprivation).
Pick an activity you look forward to, rather than thinking ‘I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than go for a run’.
I couldn’t have come this far without routine.
Be it feeding, changing, floor time or sleep time, our triplet-plus-one lives run (and STILL run) on routine.
When it comes to exercise, the same rule applies.
Once you have picked your preferred activity, schedule it in! Just like a doctor’s appointment or an episode of Dr. Phil (is he still around?).
Put your exercise in the diary for the same time every week.
Sure, things happen. Babies get sick, we get sick, the dog needs to go to the vet (probably the nuggets and sauce), but you can re-schedule.
I run my own personal training business, and I have a studio at the front of my house.
Do you think I use it every day? Nope!
I, too, need to be accountable to someone, so I see my personal trainer twice a week. I answer to him. If I don’t feel like training, I have to explain myself to him. It makes me ‘step up’ to the plate where normally the excuses would get the better of me.
If you don’t want to travel, there are businesses now where the trainer comes to you.
If you don’t want a PT, schedule workouts with a friend. You will have to answer to them. In actual fact, venting with a girlfriend is extremely important when you have children. It will help you feel like a normal adult (either that or we are ALL crazy!)
If you want to work out alone, you can be accountable to an app (of course if you still have the device control).
Sleep like it counts
You know the song ‘Let it Go’ from the movie Frozen? Let it go…..let it goooooo. (sorry, it will be stuck in your head now….better than a Wiggles song).
I believe the more you can let the little things go, the easier it will be to sleep. It’s something I’m still trying to practise and something I would love to be able to do completely.
I got a tip from a midwife once and still to this day I use it.
If I’m in need of a solid sleep, I put my ear plugs in. Amazingly this is actually very calming.
Baby might cry in the night?
Sure. Baby/ toddler/husband with a cold probably will cry in the night and you will still hear them. Especially as the volume escalates. Don’t worry, taking an extra twenty seconds to hear them isn’t detrimental. If they’re crying, they’re breathing right?
If at all possible, try and have a night totally alone to catch up on sleep. You will need gorgeous people to support you for a night and look after your children/husband with a cold but to have a solid uninterrupted night of slumber is refreshing and at the same time feels just a little bit creepy. Like you’ve forgotten something or someone!
If you’re not able to have a night off. Sleep when your little one(s) sleep. Don’t use the time to do the washing, cooking and cleaning. Those tasks will always be there and they can still be done when it’s not nap time.
Same rules apply. Wear the ear plugs!
Look after yourself
I know – easier said than done right?
Well like I said before, you deserve it.
It’s so hard to let go of the ‘mother guilt’ and actually think about yourself sometimes. But it is highly necessary. Not only for you but also for your family.
Like they say ‘If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy’!
Take the time to do the things that make you smile and feel content. Even if it’s 10 minutes a day.
Have a bath.
Listen to your favourite music.
Eat chocolate (my favourite).
Have a coffee/champagne with a friend.
Read a book/trashy mag.
Paint your nails.
No matter what, take the time for you, your thoughts. Your dreams and your wishes.
So where am I now?
My brood is becoming more and more self-sufficient now. Even though I still need to provide a taxi service to and from school, sport, parties and play dates, I do have more time to think.
Routine is still the golden rule for each of my days.
I have an ‘old school’ diary in which I write down what I’m doing for every hour. This includes client training sessions, meal times, pick up times, times to do bookwork for my business and time to write (and light a candle and listen to Tibetan music, like I am now).
I have a white board in my kitchen showing a timetable of each child’s week and what they have to remember.
I am a morning person so I make sure I get up super early (5am) so that I get a couple hours for me.
I have my own PT scheduled for twice a week and I look at these sessions as an outing for me.
I schedule coffee dates with friends and I get a power nap (with ear plugs) if I’m overtired. I actually have a pillow in my car so that when I’m waiting at school pick up I get there early and grab twenty minutes sleep time. Amazing how even this peps me up for the rest of the day.
So when my bundles of joy arrived, I thought life would never be the same again. True. It’s not. But now my life is completely full in so many gorgeous and precious ways. I would never change it. I would like to discover a vaccine for ‘man flu’ but for now, I’m looking after myself and can assure you there is light at the end of the Vegemite (I hope) smeared, snot encased, convoluted tunnel.
Do you have any tips to help? Share with us in the comments.