As we struggle through our daily routine, as we seek to negotiate some semblance of a treaty between ambition and family, we often forget a little something called exercise. And by 'we', I mean ME.
In addition to taking care of the kids and writing and cleaning and sleeping and taking out the garbage and mowing the lawn and reading and eating and ridding an abundantly filled litter box of its litter, I MUST exercise. Once upon a time, I was a Big Ten collegiate athlete. Six percent body fat. Sleek, ripped, well-conditioned. And I like to think I still am, but, like a superhero, I've disguised my leaner self with a layer (or many) of tissue that's a little less lean. Okay, it's a LOT less lean. Okay, fine, let's put it this way: if I was beef, the supermarket wouldn't stock me.
So now I must find time to exercise. 60 minutes a day. Doesn't seem so hard. Let's look for a gym. Hmm. Only one gym within 10 miles. And it costs $40 per month. And I can only exercise between 8am and 7pm. That means I need to bring the kids. Oh good, they have babysitters. Only $2/hour per kid. Okay. So, if I work out four times each week, that's $16 additional dollars per week. That means the gym will cost $104/month. That's a bit much.
Forget it. I have a treadmill at home. I shall run/walk for 30-45 minutes each day. Toss in a shower and that's only an hour of my time. Not so bad. But my kids don't nap, and my wife's in school, so I'll have to wait until after the kids go to bed. Okay. Now it's 9:30pm. I run/walk. I shower. Okay, now it's 10:30pm. And I'm tired. But I still have to work, and I still have to rewrite my newest novel, and I have to e-mail all the kind people who contacted me about my blog, and I have to continue my agent search, and I have to finish editing a video for my friend, and I have to print out the newest kid photos as requested by the relatives, and I need to finish reading that book I started eight months ago. Oh, and I need to speak with someone about extending the days from 24 to 36 hours. Maybe then I'll have enough time to accomplish ONE of all those many tasks without being too exhausted to chase a crawling infant around the house the next day.
When does it end? How many sacrifices must we make? How do you choose between exercise and dreams? Because you can't decide between exercise and your kids. And you can't decide between dreams and your kids. Kids always get top billing. So we must choose between health and happiness. Health must win. But without happiness, how healthy are we? What's more important? A healthy body or a healthy mind? How do you choose?
Take The Naptime Predicament and multiply it by a hundred, and then you'll begin to understand how all these desires and ambitions torment the soul of an at-home parent, how every day is a struggle to maintain sanity and composure. Something must always give, and it's usually the thing we enjoy most.
Still, it's a sacrifice we make for the benefit of our children, and to that end, it's a noble one. As my mother constantly reminds me, they won't always be children, and if you ignore them now, you'll regret it forever. Probably a lot more than you'll regret not advancing your career. Probably a lot more than you'll regret delaying your dreams for their happiness. Probably a lot more than you'll regret anything in your entire life.
And so we sacrifice. One look at their smiling faces and, despite the anxiety and frustration, you'll know it's all worthwhile. Just hang in there.
(sorry to ramble. it's been a busy day. and a productive one. i should probably go exercise. )
This post was originally shared on my at-home parenting blog, The Daily Writer, which has long since vanished. I’ve migrated many of the posts to this site for sentimental reasons.