Life as a loving homemaker
I just read this inspiring book written by Pamela Hansen, Running With Angels. She has been through some terribly rough times as a mother, but has so graciously shared what she learned about keeping herself as a priority among all the people she cares for.
I remember a time, just a few years ago, when I used to wake up at 6am every morning, exercise for 30 minutes, get ready for the day, and then do some scripture study before heading out to work. I did that consistently for 18 months! Then circumstances changed, my focus changed, my location changed, my roommates changed, and I lost that schedule and those good habits. I still want to pick them up again, but even if I do, the whole thing will have to be modified. Why? Because everything changes when you become a mother.
Perhaps it is vain to admit it, but I never thought of myself as vain before. The truth is that I never spent a lot of time in front of the mirror doing makeup or fixing my hair. I always spent just long enough to feel presentable and then rarely had a day where I looked in the mirror again. I suppose that attitude came as a response to the severe acne I suffered all through my teen years. There was no amount of makeup that could cover it, so I learned I was best able to function if I could ignore it. In other words, try not to look in the mirror more than necessary.
It wasn’t until after my first pregnancy, and giving birth to my first child, that I started to wonder if I really had been kind of vain all along. I suddenly missed things about my body that I had always taken for granted before. I hated the stretch marks, the flabby skin, the changes in shape and size that I’d been through. I missed the comparative effortlessness of feeling that my body was attractive and beautiful. I missed having enough time and energy to shower everyday!
But worst of all was realizing that most of these changes were permanent. I’m sure people have tried to find all sorts of ways around it, but there really is no amount of exercise or good eating or other healthy habits that will erase stretch marks or return skin to tightness or put hips back in place once a body has been through the processes called pregnancy and childbirth. I hope this truth will cause any overly eager young girls to take the decision of becoming a mother a little more seriously. Having a baby is nothing like dressing and playing with a doll.
What does all of this have to do with Running With Angels? Well, it’s all about self-image and learning to love yourself. I can easily see how Pam would turn to food to comfort herself when times were hard. I can see how caring for small and sick children can become an excuse for a mother to ignore herself. After enduring the changes that come with motherhood, it can be hard to feel motivated about getting back into shape when that shape is never going to be what it once was. Besides, childrearing is so demanding, won’t the pounds just slip away like your energy does?
Well, this was my mindset until pretty recently. My baby was only 5 months old when I became pregnant again. Five months of being a first time mother, just barely at the point of being able to sleep through the night, is no time at all when talking about shedding the pounds gained by 9 months of pregnancy. Because of that, I was already overweight when my second pregnancy started adding on more pounds. And I was too worn out still to even consider watching my gain to keep it to a minimum. Needless to say, by the time my second baby was born, I had never been bigger and I felt huge.
At this point, realizing I wasn’t going to have any problems with fertility, I took precautions to make sure our third child would not come quite as close behind as our second had. This gave me time to get used to having two small children in my care and to start thinking about getting into a new routine of exercise. The results were small and seemed slow in coming, but I borrowed Wii Fit Plus from my parents to keep it entertaining, at least. And over the months, I did lose a little weight. A lot of it just came off naturally, but I did try to make wiser decisions in food choices, and I tried to take the opportunities that came to go on walks and such. After realizing how much it helped me just to have a system, I purchased Wii Fit Plus for myself so my parents wouldn’t need to keep lending me theirs. I got into a nice routine and started to feel a lot more positive about my image. And more importantly about my possibilities.
Even though some things about me will never go back to how they were when I was single, I can still make progress toward an image that I can feel good about. Reading this book about Pam’s journey from obesity to a marathon finish line has given me added confidence at a crucial time. I am now pregnant again with my third child. I hadn’t lost all the weight I’d hoped to before becoming pregnant again, but this time I am more confident in my ability to keep my weight gain healthy, stable, and to a minimum. That way I’ll still see the light of a healthy BMI at the end of the weight-gain tunnel of pregnancy.
Several times in her book, Pam mentioned her astonishment at how forgiving is the human body. I am also amazed by our bodies. It is a miracle how we can create new life, and after all the changes, how we can still pick ourselves up and care for those new lives and for ourselves. I would never give back my children for the body I once had, but I am willing to prioritize my life so that both I and my children can benefit from a healthy and happy me.