Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Go, Mama. Go!

Welcome to the February Carnival of Natural Parenting:
Parenting Essentials!
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared the parenting essentials that they could not live without. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

There are lots of things I cannot live without as a parent - my Ergo, my community and supports, or my washing machine to name a few - but the thing I rely on the most as a mama...is exercise.  I know it may seem like a strange parenting essential, but since Ella's birth, exercise has played an important role in our lives.

It has been my experience that after having a baby it takes a long time (as in months and months) to feel comfortable in your body again, to feel "normal."  It's not just the changes in weight and organ placement (babies take up a lot of space!), but also a change in your sense of self.  There is a period of role integration - though pregnant for months, there is an undeniable shift when that baby comes into the world and you become a parent (in addition to the many other hats you wear.)  

(Ella at 6 months joins in on the fun!)
After Ella was born (and I got clearance from my doctor) I started working out again. We would go for walks, Ella snuggled in the carrier, me chatting with new mama friends we were meeting.  These walks would get us out of the house, and being in the sun and fresh air made me feel more like myself.  With every step, Ella and I constructed our new reality as mama and child.  When it got colder, I would workout at home - jumping around while Ella slept.  We even tried mom-and-baby yoga classes.

When the spring came around, Ella was old enough to go into a jogging stroller, and at the invitation of another mom, I started joining the weekly "chicks-only fun run."  Those first months were hard and I would not have made it without the continued support of my otherwise very speedy friend!  She would patiently jog with me for a half-mile, me panting, and walk the rest of the 3 mile loop.  I'm not sure why I kept going back, week after week.  But after a couple of months, I worked up to being able to jog 3 miles, and found out that my friend was one of the fastest women in the group (even with a kiddo and jogging stroller of her own!)

(keeping cool in the park)
It was around this time that I also joined a workout group with other moms in the park.  Led by trainers, it was exactly what I was looking for, exactly what I had loved in my life previously.  I would go two to three times a week and we would run all over the park, kids in their strollers or crawling over us as we pushed and pulled (and sweat...a lot!)  In the winter months we meet indoors where Ella has been able to form friendships with other little ones - they run around the room in little packs of young toddlers - playing while we mamas do our thing.

But how is exercise a parenting essential?  As a mama who follows the principles of natural parenting, including many attachment parenting principles as well, it can be difficult to carve out "me" time, instead feeling like all of your time and energy is being channeled to your child.  For me, this was especially true when Ella was a newborn, I felt like I was all mama all the time, with no place for my other roles as woman, wife, artist, etc.  Because we exercise together (rather than putting Ella in childcare), I am able to attend to her needs along with mine, teaching patience when appropriate or pausing whatever I'm doing if needed.  As Ella grows and develops, new challenges continue to arise, and through our routine of physical activity, I continue to seek that balance.

(jogging with Savannah)

On a personal level, I once again feel comfortable in my body, have the energy I need to chase around my increasingly active little one, and have been able to stave off many new-mama ailments like back pain.  Ella has another community of mamas and kids she is comfortable with, friends that she is growing with and other moms who know my daughter's personality and who are not afraid to step in if needed.  And on those days where I am not able to workout, there is a noticeable difference as Ella seems to be more restless and I feel listless and impatient. 

(napping after a recent run in the park)
Exercise gives our week a familiar rhythm of running or classes, a routine that is healthy and consistent for both of us.  But most importantly, it is through exercise that I have been able to establish a sense of self that can happily coexist along with (rather than instead of) my role as mama.  At heart, I think it is this ability to comfortably wear multiple hats at the same time, to be myself which includes my role as mama as well as my other roles, that is the true parenting essential!

 (Go, Mama. Go!!!)

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Not Without Him — The love Starr at Taking Time shares with her husband is the foundation of her parenting.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without B(.)(.)bs — From an uneducated dreamer to a breastfeeding mother of a toddler, nursing has forever changed Kristy at Strings to Things's relationship with her daughter and her outlook on life.
  • Raising a Child in the Internet Village — When Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction has a question or concern about parenting, she turns to the Internet. What did parents do before Google?
  • Partner in Crime and ParentingBethy at Bounce Me to the Moon can't imagine parenting without her husband's sense of humor - he brings her laughter and love every day.)
  • I Make MilkPatti at Jazzy Mama can't imagine trying to mother her babies without her breasts, but she could do it if she had to.
  • New Perspectives Bring New BeginningsMJ at Wander Wonder Discover, who is a former authoritarian mamma, has gained perspective via parenting.
  • Time Out!Mrs. Green at Little Green Blog explores how time apart can increase your capacity to give unconditionally.
  • Unimaginable Without HimKristina at heyred designs is celebrating her amazing partner, without whom none of her parenting experience would be possible.
  • My Parenting NecessityClaire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl needs "me time" in order to be the Mama she wants to be.
  • Babywearing As a Way of LifeDarcel at The Mahogany Way talks about the benefits of babywearing in everyday life.
  • Parenting Partnership — Sometimes Abbie at Farmer's Daughter doesn't appreciate her husband enough, but she definitely couldn't imagine parenting without his help.
  • Parenting EssentialsMomma Jorje loves her parenting products, but she needs you even more.
  • My Parenting Must-Have: SupportJoella at Fine and Fair wrote a letter to her daughter about the role that support from friends and family plays in her mothering.
  • It's More Than Just Hair — Think doing hair is full of fluff? Too girly? Useless? Karli from Curly Hairdo Ideas used to think so too.
  • The Minimalist Parent — The parents at Living Peacefully with Children embrace a minimalist perspective when it comes to baby gear. A good sling is all they need.
  • Without My BreastsCharise at I Thought I Knew Mama can't imagine parenting without her breasts; here's why.
  • Loves Books, Loves PeopleSeonaid at the Practical Dilettante discovers that the library is a perfect fit for her family's needs.
  • An Ode to the Maya WrapRevMama's next child might be named Maya, because of her fondness for the sling.
  • Avoiding the Padded RoomPecky at Benny and Bex is here to testify that it takes a village to raise a child.
  • My parenting essentials, from Tivo to battery-operated monstrositiesLauren at Hobo Mama presents a list of parenting essentials you didn't even know you needed (and probably don't…).
  • Attachment Parenting Through Separation: It Makes It a Little BetterJessica at This Is Worthwhile talks about how she couldn't survive her separation without attachment parenting and the bond it's afforded her with her 3 year old son.
  • Parenting EssentialsDeb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares the principles she used to parent her children from infants to adults.
  • My Parenting Essentials — The things that are truly essential to Kim at In Desperate Need of Entertainment aren't things at all.
  • I'm No One Without My Sling — How baby carrying is essential to the parenting of Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without...Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about what she needs to raise her children.
  • February Carnival of Natural Parenting — Through her experiences over the last five and a half years, Casey at Love What Is has discovered her most important tool for parenting is using her instincts.
  • CNP: I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without __________.The Artsymama discloses the one thing that gave her back control of herself as a parent.
  • Laugh Until I Cry — Laughing with her sons keeps Acacia at Fingerpaint & Superheroes connected and grounded.
  • I Cannot Imagine Parenting WithoutLuschka at Diary of a First Child realizes what the one thing she can't imagine parenting without is, and it turns out it's not a thing after all.
  • It Takes Two — Here are a few of the reasons why Jenn at Adventures Down Under cannot imagine parenting without her fabulous husband.
  • Stopping to Listen — Though it wasn't easy at first, Knocked Up - Knocked Over cannot imagine parenting her daughter without listening first to what she is telling her.
  • The Essence of Parenting — There are many wonderful resources that make life easier for Michelle at the Parent Vortex to parent, but the essence is the relationship between parent and child.
  • What I Cannot Live WithoutSybil at Musings of a Milk Maker considers her computer to be a parenting lifeline.
  • True Blessings: White Noise and GrandparentsKat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment can't live without her white noise machine and the support of her parents.
  • The Necessities! — What "stuff" does a natural parent like Lily, aka Witch Mom really need? Not much, it turns out.
  • Mama Showed MeMama Mo at Attached at the Nip writes about how parenting wisdom is passed on by example.
  • Ode to the Loo — For Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch, the bathroom is her safe place, where she can take a minute to calm down if she is feeling touched out.
  • Go, Mama. Go!Andrea!!! at Ella-Bean & Co. has been able to integrate her many roles through her get-up-and-go parenting essential, exercise!
  • My Other HalfBecky at Old New Legacy realizes what a relief it is to have her husband parent alongside her.
  • Grace, Love, and CoffeeMrsH at Fleeting Moments realizes that lifelines can take the form of the profound, or the mundane. Both are ok.
  • Supportive Spouse, Check! — There are so many parenting tools and gadgets that are superfluous, but the one essential, for Danielle at born.in.japan, has been her supportive spouse.
  • Why I'm a BabywearerMeredith at Becoming Mamas reflects on the ways babywearing has enhanced her mama baby relationship...and made life easier to boot.
  • It's Marvelous Out Here, Kiddo!Rachael at The Variegated Life can't imagine parenting in the big city without the marvels of Prospect Park to share with her Critter.
  • Yes, Thank YouAmy at Anktangle offers tips on how to ask for and accept help, an essential for successful parenting.
  • Parenting Essentials Checklist: Mom’s Inner Rebel and Her Kids’ VoicesOlivia at Write About Birth reflects on raising global citizens and saying no to societal norms.
  • Eco-Mama Online! — An Eco-Mama living in the mountains of a nature island, Terri at Child of the Nature Isle finds it essential to connect to nature and to connect online.
  • Sorry, We Just Sold the Last OneNev at The Adventures of Lime confesses she missed out the day they handed out patience.
  • LaughTashmica at The Mother Flippin' Blog reveals her super power, her talisman agains mean mommy.
  • My Priceless Parenting Resource — What do books, a magazine community, my mother and the local playgroup have in common? Lucy at Dreaming Aloud tells us...
  • The Gift of Shared TimeTree at Mom Grooves strives to experience the world from her daughter's perspective.
  • Follow the GigglesDionna at Code Name: Mama can’t live without the sound of her child’s giggles - come watch her video and you’ll agree!
  • Can I Mommy Without Boob?Emily at Crunchy(ish) Mama shares her fears about weaning and losing part of that the mother/child bond.


Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

Your exercise class sounds SO fun!! I wish we had something similar in our area - what a great way to incorporate AP with striving for balance - especially for mamas of babes! Tom and I very recently started a consistent exercise program, and I am loving it - I should have done it earlier. Thank you for motivating mamas to take care of themselves!

Lauren Wayne said...

I had that same experience when I went to ballet class again for the first time after giving birth — this sense of becoming myself again, apart from who I was as a mama. Not abandoning that part, but integrating the two. I love the inspiration your post is giving me to keep active now during this current pregnancy and to figure out a way to get back into the swing of things afterward!

MJ said...

I've been on a 6 month break from exercising. Not sure why. It ebbs and flows for me, but it always has played a huge role. Thanks for the inspiration, I think I need it:).

Curly Hairdo Ideas said...

Ugh! You are inspiring! and frustrating at the same time! LOL! I wish I loved to exercise. and since I don't I find it SO hard to fit into my life now. It was hard before, and it's double hard now!

That said, I've joined a class in the mornings recently and it's SOOOO good.

Thank you for the inspiration to find a way that Q and I can excersize together. :)
Curly Hairdo Ideas

Becky said...

That all sounds fun! I have worked out, with either VHS or DVD, in the living room for the past year now. It has made a big difference in my mood and sleeping better at night. I can't wait until the summer because this year my daughter is old enough to run around outside! That will be more motivating for the both of us to spend time outside. It's important for mothers to take care of themselves and stay fit. You're a great example!
P.S. Thanks for commenting on my blog.

Kat said...

Oh gosh, I totally agree with you...exercise is so essential to feeling "normal" again. Even so, I have such a hard time making the time to do it...uuggg...one thing I was able to start doing was to go to a yoga class on my own. Which was amazing because I got alone time, replenished my soul, plus a great workout. But I do so love exercising with the kiddos too...playgrounds, walks swimming, skating, we try to do a bit of it all :-) Love the pics too!!!

I Thought I Knew Mama said...

Great post! You're right: exercise is so important for mamas' me time and to keep up a sense of balance. I can't wait for the weather to get better so we can get out and do the same level of outdoor exercise we were doing before the snow arrived.

I'm your newest follower. :-)

MrsH said...

How wonderful that you found that group, it's amazing how we sometimes just stumble into things like that. Great!

Nev said...

Great post. I'm so lazy but I force myself to go out at least once every day. I blame it on winter too..can't wait for summer. *sigh*

mrs green @ littlegreenblog.com said...

I love how you have found something that is great for all of you together and meets all of your needs. And we all know we should do more exercise, so thanks for the reminder!

teresa said...

absolutely brilliant!! I so wish I had done more of that right away. I think it's a great parenting essential, especially as you've integrated working out with attachment parenting.
I really admire what you've done.

Joella said...

Reading this couldn't have come at a better time for me! I have struggled to get back into a groove with exercise and my success with that has been spotty. I deal with the challenges of staying true to the attachment parenting principles while also working part-time and going to school part-time. It feels like there is no time or energy left for exercise, but you have inspired me to make time for it in my busy schedule! :)

Casey said...

That class sounds great! I think so many new moms would benefit from something like that. I know I would love it!

I have a baby who is 4 months old (and two older boys), and I'm just now getting into the routine of exercise. I can tell the days I exercise I am much happier, more patient, and a better mom. I think this is a great post.

Unknown said...

What a great post! (I came over here because of your comment on my Body Image, Pregnancy, and BMI post.) I'm so glad that exercising has been such a healing and life-giving activity for you. It is definitely important to take good care of our bodies as they do so much for us and our little ones. Thanks for writing this!

Darcel @The Mahogany Way said...

Great post. Once we get boxes unpacked and more space, I'm going to start exercising in the mornings. I have always felt better when exercise is a part of my life.


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