Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Real Importance of Exercise

Nowadays we are inundated with ads and health professionals and even the First Lady all telling us how important exercise is. As a former college athlete, no one really has to tell me that, however, as a mom, I am realizing that they have left out one key, important reason.

See yesterday was a pretty lazy day here. I have a lot of those now that I'm as big as a house, and I feel I'm entitled. However, I want my children to be active, and I never want to get them into the habit of watching TV all day. Yesterday was an exception for a couple of reasons. First, because of a busy weekend and a long day on Monday, yesterday Elijah slept until 9 and Chastity slept until 10. I really only had two things on my list of to-do's for the day, but they were pretty long things, and I couldn't start either of them until the kids were up. I had to strip their beds and wash their blankets, and I had to finish the braids I had started in Chastity's hair on Monday. That, itself, takes hours, at least for me, because I am not practiced in tiny little braids.

Sesame Street was already on when Chastity came bouncing down the stairs. I had spent an hour with Elijah who couldn't seem to grasp the concept of volume control, and could not sit still or stop talking. I got the beds stripped and began the first load, then sat Chastity down in front of me where she could see the TV, and began this long, painful process. When Sesame Street ended, Sid the Science Kid came on. I was still working on a row of braids, so I left the TV on, but once that show was over, I had to switch the laundry and give ants-in-her-pants Chastity a break.

I thought she might sit still better if she were watching a movie she picked out herself. So she picked out Horton Hears a Who to finish because she'd been watching that the night before, when I began her braids. Unfortunately that ended all to quickly and I still had many braids to complete. Then she graciously allowed Elijah to pick the next movie, which was of course, Cars 2. We sat through most of that while I finished the braids. It was now after noon and I still hadn't showered, so I allowed them to finish the movie while I showered quickly. Then all we had time for was lunch, a book, and nap. The kids hadn't seen the light of day but through the windows, Elijah was still having problems with volume control, and when he's bouncing off the walls he does this thing where he asks nonstop questions while throwing his head and arms into you. He never stopped moving.

I thought that reading would get them to settle down for nap, and I was determined that this nap was going to happen. I may never be as adamant about outdoor activity as I am about nap. That's just the truth. So I picked out Dr. Seuss' ABC Book, and began.

"Big A, little a. What begins with A? Aunt Annie's alligator a...a...a"
"Why is she making that face?"
"I don't know. Big B, little b, what begins with B? Barber, baby, bubbles, and a bumble bee."
"What is he doing? Is he getting a hair cut? Mommy, bees sting."
"Yup." I vowed to start turning the pages faster. "Big C, little c. What begins with C? Camel on the ceiling. c...c...c."
Elijah's mouth was ready to form words the second I uttered the last 'c'. "Why is the camel on the ceiling? That's funny!"
It was like this every single page, and I believe asking questions and being an inquisitive child are wonderful, but he never really stopped so that I could answer. He just wanted to hear himself talk, I suppose. So I read as quickly as I possibly could, because at one point I learned that if I paused for a comma, he would interject before I could even finish the page. Our time of winding down was useless.

I got them down for their nap though. SUCCESS! I was able to crochet and watch Monday night's The Bachelorette (don't you dare judge me), and since Jelani was then home, I ran out the door to run a few errands before they woke up. I came home to extra excited, extra exuberant, extra loud, extra everything children. Most people have only ever seen how well-behaved my children can be in public, so they would never believe what I'm about to say, but they were downright obnoxious. I couldn't talk to Jelani without yelling and repeating myself constantly. When I would try telling them they needed to do something, like wash up for dinner, Elijah never stopped talking or moving. He would ram his head into any part of my body he could, and tell me "no" at every opportunity. He thought he was being funny, not disobedient. Daddy and Mommy didn't see it that way. After dinner I wanted to get them out of the house and agreed to take them to a local pet store just to look around, and then maybe hit up a park on our way home. Jelani wanted to make his peach cobbler, and I could tell he needed some time to himself, so off we went. The excitement of the pet store strangely calmed them, at least for a little while. I think that's only because they knew how fast I'd yank them out of there if they didn't listen to me. As we left though, we were running low on time before they'd have to take a bath and go to bed. I stopped at a park along the way anyway. It was one we'd never been to before, and though we only had about 15 minutes there, boy did they ever make the best of it. They ran in circles around that place. "Mommy, look at this!" "Hey, this is cool!" "Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" They were beside themselves. They were good when I told them it was time to leave, but I could tell their energy level was still high, and the task ahead of getting them bathed and ready for bed was going to be a frustrating one.

After finally getting them to bed, battling all the questions, the "comedic" defiance, the flailing about, and the constant repetition of what I had already asked them to do, I sat and realized the true importance of exercise.

Doctors and specialists will tell you that it is good for you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Their goals are to keep kids away from video games and TV, and keep them fit and active, so that they have healthier habits when they are older, as well as the fact that activity stimulates so much more growth for young children than the TV or video games ever could. And I agree completely!

So this morning, as it is now after 9, and my children are still not up, I only have one thing on my to-do list. See, I think everyone knows why it is good for us physically, and even mentally, and maybe we even understand some extent of the emotional aspect as well, but what I learned about exercise yesterday is very simple...very basic: if my children don't get at least one hour a day of activity, mentally, I will lose my ever-lovin' mind. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mama Bears, Retract Your Claws

Maybe because it's Monday, or maybe because it's been raining for days and I've been cooped up with two overly energetic children; who can tell, but I am particularly irritated by a particular, ongoing topic of discussion these days. Who has the tougher job; the stay at home mom, or the working mom? Why is it important that this even be debated? Mama bears from all angles get their claws out whenever they feel threatened, and it seems, anyone doing it differently is a threat.

Allow me to digress a little here. What is it about girls and their absolute need to tear others down in order to feel better about themselves? It starts in elementary school, and, as I've been learning, it apparently never ends. In elementary school it is used as a tactic to make oneself appear "cooler" in front of friends and, more importantly, boys. In high school the same rules apply, but it goes a little deeper, and is used to tear down those who are working hard and excelling at something so that you appear cool and their hard work appears lame. As adults, I'm learning that women use these same tactics as a means to feel better about themselves in various areas; working, parenting, cleaning, managing finances, cooking. However, the working and parenting seem to be the most prevalent among idle gossipers. Most of us ladies have all been victims of this at one point or another, and most of us have also participated in it at some point as well. Why is that? Why, instead of focusing on ourselves and the job we're doing, do we have to point fingers and judge someone else in their performance, in order to feel good about our own endeavors?

How does this apply to the topic at hand? Well, over the years, as my generation has gotten married and had children, I have witnessed so much negativity (on facebook, mostly) directed at moms who might do things differently. While I am sure that some stay at home moms have said or done nasty things to working moms, most of what I've seen has been working moms trying to put down stay at home moms in one way or another, in this war to prove that working moms have it harder. STOP IT. This is not a war, and if it is, we are all on the same side! We are all moms working toward a common goal of raising up good and decent human beings in a world that is making that more and more difficult by the second.

Let me be clear, I am not at all arguing that being a stay at home mom is more difficult, and I have no misconceptions about the difficulties of being a working mom. I was raised by one of the hardest working moms I've ever met, who woke around 3 or 4 am, loaded trucks all morning, and then walked anywhere from 5 to 10 miles a day with a 75 lb bag of mail to deliver, and THEN came straight to whatever basketball game, tennis match, or other school activity my sister or I was participating in on any given day. If there was no said event, she'd come straight to the gym and chase after balls in her postal uniform while we shot in order to spend time with us and help us practice. To this day, she is the reason why I am much more inclined to argue the side of the working mom. However, as a stay at home mom myself, I have learned about the other side, and I have learned that though the hardships and challenges are different they are still just that; hardships and challenges, and I don't appreciate, nor do I take it lightly, when working women try to make me feel lazy for staying home. It took me a long time to realize that my negative feelings about staying home with my children weren't my own, but rather projected on me by others over the years, and I shouldn't feel lazy for choosing to stay at home. How would they like it if I tried to make them feel like less of a mom for leaving their children? I would never! People just do things differently, under different circumstances, for different reasons, because of different situations. 

I have spoken with several moms who have spent time doing both. Some have gone from working to staying home, and others have gone from staying home to working. I have received the same feedback from both. There were, of course, challenges on either side, but the general consensus was that perhaps the work for a working mom was slightly greater because of working a job and still coming home to manage a household, but that the emotional and mental toll of staying home was much greater and more exhausting. It seemed that no matter how much they may have disliked their job, and no matter how much they loved their children, it was still nice and refreshing to be able to get out alone, and it made them, as well as their children, appreciate the time they had together more. However, that may not ring true for everyone, but as you can see above, the key word today is different.  

Speaking from my own personal experience, allow me to give you a glimpse into my circumstances, but understand that I am not complaining, merely stating the facts:

              I do not have anyone to drop the kids off with on any given afternoon or day, let alone a whole weekend, so this little thing that I do is literally 24/7. I do not get sick days. I cannot ever call in sick to work and have some time to rest before the kids come home from school, daycare, preschool, or the sitter. Also, because I "don't work," my husband has to, so he cannot take a sick day to care for the kids while I stay in bed. I do not have a car. We are a one-car family, so rain or shine, I am here with the kids, by myself all day, at least 5 days a week. Because we are here all day every day, there are constant messes. Dishes are 2,3, maybe 4 times a day. Clean-up is all day. I am not able to leave in the morning and returning to the same house in the same condition later that day. Also, because I "don't work" we can't often afford the luxury of eating out or getting take out whenever I'm far to exhausted to make dinner, so I am also a full-time chef to a growing family. Lastly, because I am a stay at home mom, and I do consider it my "job," I alone am responsible for my children if they need anything during the night. Though he has voluntarily done it on occasion, I do not expect my husband to ever get up in the night to tend to a crying baby when he has to get up and work the next morning. We have never alternated nights or taken turns with a sleep schedule for that reason. But keep in mind that just because I don't get up to go to work in the morning, does not mean that I can stay in bed. I have children that will need me the next day regardless of how rough my night's sleep was.

None of this is to say that other, working mothers don't go through some of this same stuff. Single mothers especially have to deal with all sides of a situation. What I'm trying to point out is that everyone has different circumstances and different challenges. (There's that doggone word again). For example, some single mothers might have really tough and tiring weeks, but occasionally they still get a weekend when the child is with the father or father's family, and as much as that child is missed, it is still time for refreshing and rejuvenating an exhausted woman. On the other hand, you might have a stay at home mom with a participating husband and father, who has no outlets, and no time to herself, and she might wish she worked, at least part time, just to get out of the house.

I once had a friend on facebook who is not a mother at all, write a very long rant on how stay at home moms who do not home school their children are lazy. What an awful, judgmental thing to assume! Now that my children are approaching school age, and I have been considering home schooling, I have had to really evaluate myself and my intentions. I will be adding teacher to my list of full-time jobs, and I had to ask myself, am I just doing this because I will feel lazy and judged by my peers if I don't? I concluded that the answer was, no. I am doing it because it is what I and my husband, feel is best for our children at this time. All of the negative rants in the world won't keep me from doing what I feel is best for my children, so I have learned not to take them personally.

To conclude my personal rant:), ladies, a little competition is healthy, I believe. I am a huge advocate of competition, and I believe strongly that it makes us all work harder towards being and/or doing better, but this is not a competition. I am not here taking a stand for stay at home moms. This isn't "stay at home moms unite!" There is no need for segregation. From the mom on welfare who's going back to school to make a better life for her family, to the stay at home mom with a husband pulling six figures, to the mom working 2 jobs to make ends meet, and everywhere in between, we are mothers. We should all be united in this war together, not fighting to prove our own righteousness. Pray for each other, listen to each other, and understand that our challenges are different, but that our rewards are great.

Although I am nearly a month late for Mother's Day (woops), here's to all the mothers out there, working or not, in school or not, single or not; doing the best they can do to raise up the next generation!