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Making Exercise a Priority (& a little thing called “self care”)

Self care?

Self what?

Several months ago I would have asked what “self care” was too. But the tide’s a shiftin’ over here. In a very good way. I have managed to make three major changes that have majorly turned things around. I:

…joined a gym again (& I go!).

…hired my first babysitter. (so I could…)

…go to counseling.

Life. Changing. Choices.

Turns out, I am terrible at taking care of me. I have this guilt–my major issue. I don’t let people help me. I don’t take time for myself. I don’t put myself before much of anything or anyone. & that (I found out the hard way) is not a recipe for success.

I had a little light bulb moment in therapy one day. [Side note–I have always been a firm believer in therapy. Even happy people can work on self improvement, so I applaud the decision for anyone to attend therapy. I think it is a very important part of a balanced life. AND…military mamas…Tricare covers it 100%.] My therapist said this:

We have this antiquated way of thinking about the family. [he laced his fingers together] We think it looks like this. Mom and Dad as this intertwined unit of two which becomes four or five as the children come into the picture. Tangled. Everyone relying on everyone for everything. & that just doesn’t work. What we really have, is you [he held up one fist] and all of the others that you have in your life  [he wrapped his other hand around the fist] and they add to your joy, but they do not create it.


I can get on board with that idea. If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, right? & if no one can make mama happy, then how does she make herself happy?

Well, she focuses on self care. According to my therapist. (Who specializes in military families with lifestyles a lot like mine.)

What that self care looks like for each person is different. But for me, a big part of that was figuring out how to exercise again. The #1 thing I can do to help me in every aspect of my life is exercise. It makes be feel better mentally (break from children! reminders to breathe!) and it makes me stronger, in so many more ways than one. You all know that I parent alone about 90% of the time, so finding time for me is always a challenge. But that time at the gym is great for all of us. The kids love it. I need it. It really is the best possible situation for everyone.

But he hardest part of this change was setting a new routine. I think that is all that it takes (once you find a place that inspires your desire to exercise). It took a good three weeks for it to feel normal. But I shifted the way I look at the gym, too.

I used to make my own workouts and lift and do cardio & I went through my crossfit phase. But right now, I have no time for that. I need the classes. I want to show up, see familiar faces and have a teacher plan everything about my kick-ass workout. I tried a bunch of the classes that fit my schedule and chose three that I love and don’t want to miss each week. I treat them just like my kids’ activities that I pay for. I’d never miss those, so why would I miss my own classes that I am paying for too? They are on my iCal and the time is blocked off. Nothing gets in the way. No playdates, appointments, nada. That is my time. I have my iphone alarm set to go off with scheduled reminders for each of the classes so I never miss them. They are now a significant part of my life. At a minimum, I go to my two yoga classes and my weights class, weekly. If I can do more, (yay!!) I do more. But never less. Those three days are for me. & we run our errands or go the pool at the gym afterwards. (During the school year, my gym time happens on the days that caroline is at school; she does come with me on the weekend.) Each of my babes have a scheduled activity on one of the other days of the week. I leave one day open for socializing (I am an introvert by nature, so that is all I need!) and then we have Church Sundays. So if you do the math, I keep pretty busy. Just the way I like it.

Like anything in life, it’s all about priorities. I’m learning it is okay to put myself first. I’ve had plenty of eyebrows raised at my busy schedule, but you know, not many people live the kind of life I do. I have to get out of the house within two hours of getting up or my kids LOSE it! (or I lose it, seeing as though there is no one around to give me a little help or break up my day!) We’re just busy bodies. :)

So while my Losing the Baby Weight article is far & away the most visited page on my site, the role exercise plays in my life is far more significant than for vanity’s sake. Yes, I think muscles are hot. But I love being strong. & even more than that, I love being happier for the sake of my family. & for me. Exercise makes me a HAPPIER mom. a BETTER mom. & I can only hope that modeling it as a priority will help shape my children’s values for a lifetime of healthy living.

& if not, well. At least I was a lot less grumpy during their childhood. ;)

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  • Kelsey - Shawna,
    Thank you for this post! I recently became a mom of 2 (my youngest is 2.5 months) and I’m really learning this idea of self-care. I feel like I’m a better mom & wife when I exercise as well! Thank you for the affirmation!ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - Shawna,
    Thank you for your transparency! I think that we all need to take care of ourselves by exercising, going to therapy, church, having a little fin with our friends, etc. I recently learned that unless I exercise I get VERY anxious, and I don’t have kids (but I’m in grad school…)

    Keep doing what you’re doing :)ReplyCancel

  • Amber Berkoski - I’m a true believer in therapy (and not just because I’m a MFT) but because it really does open a new perspective. So glad you’re taking time for you! Exercise is the best part of my day and I can give more to my kids as a result. :) Keep on keeping on!ReplyCancel

  • Nicole - Yup, I completely agree with you on all counts. We are not military, but husband works a lot and I stay home. I NEED to get out of the house everyday… I go crazy and the day is just so long otherwise. I’ve been doing the gym thing for awhile, but I just recently purchased 12 sessions with a personal trainer… first significant thing I’ve done for myself in a long time! Good for you for seeking help and putting yourself on the priority list!ReplyCancel

  • Nicole Dyk - So so so happy you have made these changes on the inside and out. Love the new look. I am so excited and proud of you!!!

    xo. NicReplyCancel

  • Alison Bickel - Yes! I schedule my exercise like it is a part of my day, very little gets in the way of it. Mentally it is so key for me…it leaves me happy, healthy and strong. It’s all my boys have known, and now that they are older they have a respect for it as my time, they just know. So happy for you, glad you are finding your groove mama!ReplyCancel

  • Kayla - This is always refreshing, as a Military wife to a man who is NEVER home I can defiantly relate to finding the “me” time unfortunately were stationed at Mt.Home AFB in Idaho but will be venturing off to North Dakota in January and there is TONS more to do. I have a 8 year old son and a baby girl due in 7 weeks and my world is about to be rocked so I feel this is great reminder, to find the me time so I can be there for my kids. * quick question because I am not sure how to contact you other wise aha, but I know you have the Summer infant Monitor the older version I was given the newer version and HATE it but I wondering if yours with the video part turns off ” to save power” or is constantly out of range even though I am right outside the door? I am contemplating selling this one some may like the battery saver of the video turning off but not the sound but I do not. I can not find any reviews on it about it so I thought I would ask. Thanks again for this post from one military wife to another !

  • Sarah - Great post. I wondered what that yoga book Caroline has in the pictures is called?ReplyCancel

  • Annie - LOVE this!!! Thanks Shawna!ReplyCancel

  • Colleen S - Love your post. Who watches the kids while you have class? Sitter at home or do you use the gym sitter? I want to exercise more but struggle with using a gym sitter.ReplyCancel

  • kristy - Thank you for this! In the summers I am pretty much a solo mama as well (teacher). This year I have been terrible about taking care of myself and it shows, I’m easily stressed, overly tired and I’m sure my little monkey can feel it. Thank you for reminding me it’s time to rearrange some priorities!ReplyCancel

  • Tameeka - Fabulous Shawna! totally agree! self care has been on my mind a lot of late too. i am still working on how it looks with my life at the moment but little by little i am figuring it out :)
    thanks so much for sharing what is working for you and your journey to get there

  • Lindsey - Good for you! I remember telling my sister to take care of herself first when her children were young, too. Well, now that I have a one year old and a three year old, I know it’s easier said than done. I’m also curious, do you use the gym daycare or an at home sitter? I’ve stayed home with my boys all their lives, and I know they would have a hard time with me leaving them at the gym… ooor with a sitter they hardly know. Any tips? Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • -shawna- - Our favorite gym worker has become a home sitter. We have been really lucky to have amazing care at our gym! & going at the same time every week provides stability!ReplyCancel

  • An Easyworld - Ah Shawna, you’re back to your inspirational best. I too need to keep busy and as I’m currently expecting my second I’m wondering how I’m going to manage it all. But yes, as soon as possible I will factor in some me time. No excuses.ReplyCancel

  • 33 days | Losing the Weight, BABY! » styleberry BLOG - […] Making Exercise a Priority (& a little thing called self care) […]ReplyCancel

  • Anne - Shawna, this spoke directly to my core. I work outside the house full-time and have about an hour and a half commute each way and I always feel guilty for every minute I spend away from my little ones. I used to feel that the bus ride commute was “me” time but I’m always catching up on emails and just doing stuff to keep our household running – it really isn’t “me” time. So your post reminds me of this – I need to find time and schedule some much needed gym time. I enjoy the structure of classes so I’m hoping to find a few that I can go to. Thanks for being so transparent and honest. It really does help to know that other moms feel the same way despite the differences in our lives. :) Keep up the great work!ReplyCancel

  • Isabeau - I LOVE your blog, and this post! My first child is due in October, and I am all about fitness- but I have never been in competition shape. There seem to always be 2 types of moms out there: the ones who start working out one day postpartum and are ripped by 6 weeks, and the ones who gain lots of weight but are okay with it because of the beautiful baby they got out of it. It’s so encouraging to see someone like you who is somewhere in the middle, who is motivated to make time for exercise on a healthy timeline without sacrificing your experience as a mom. Thank you for sharing!! You’ve given me hope that I can achieve my goals in a healthy way.ReplyCancel

  • Sofia - I love this post! Thank you for writing it. I feel the same way and once I started hitting the gym and taking care of myself my home life got better. I love the way your therapist put i, it makes so much more sense. I’m still trying to learn self discipline and am really bad at it but I hope someday I’m able to figure it out. Thank you for your encouraging post!!ReplyCancel

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