I've been under the weather all week, and it's given me a chance to reflect on how much better care I take of myself because of my toddler. I might not get to have as much alone time, as many date nights, or mornings to sleep in, but in many ways, my physical health is so much better off because of my kid's influence.
1. I eat better, and more consistently.
I've always been a meal skipper, and when my depression takes hold, convenience foods are often all I feel I can manage. Even before Mo started eating real food, I started prioritizing my nutrition because I was breastfeeding and knew I needed enough fuel to feed both of us. Now that he's older, I have far fewer excuses to skip meals, or to eat the kind of weird pseudo-meal I used to eat pre-motherhood (hello, single baked sweet potato.) Now that I am preparing balanced, healthy meals for my kiddo, it's pretty hard to validate not making enough to eat myself. He's also more likely to eat if I sit down and eat the same thing with him. I also eat less processed food and sweets, because I have to hide them from him if I'm going to eat them, and that's pretty hard to do in our open shelving kitchen. Overall the pressures to help him build good eating habits and a healthy relationship food have pushed me to clean up my act.
2. I get a lot more exercise.
I wrote about the slow conditioning strength training that is carrying a toddler just a couple weeks ago. In addition to that, there' is so much up and down in life with a toddler. It's pretty rare to get a substantial chunk of time to sit in one place. I am definitely in the best shape of my life from chasing, playing with, lifting, carrying, dressing and checking on this excitable human who lives in my house. Now we've started a routine of exercising together in the morning, something I felt pushed to do in large part to model the kind of active lifestyle I want for him.
3. I think about self-care.
Before having a child, it was easy to drift along living my life, and not schedule things like date nights, baths, or time with my friends. My husband and I may have gone out to eat more, but we certainly didn't enjoy it as much or commit to the time together in the same way. Now that I have a toddler and I have to plan everything if it's ever going to happen, I find I am making a more consistent effort to care for myself, my marriage, and my friendships. Not only do I schedule these activities, but I appreciate them so much more when I'm doing them because it's not an option every day of the week like it was before I had a kid.
4. I don't have late night snacks or drinks most nights.
Since my son has been brushing his teeth, we go to the bathroom together when he's getting ready for bed, and brush our teeth together. This new routine means I switch to water and stop snacking for the night when he goes to bed most nights, which I know is better for my sleep and digestion.
5. I remember to wear sunscreen.
The same as modeling healthy eating habits, toothbrushing, and an active lifestyle, there's no excuse for me not to slather on the SPF when I am getting my toddler ready for some time in the sun, and I always use the non-toxic stuff because of course I worry about him more than I would myself.
6. When I do get sick, I take the best care of myself that I can.
I admit that as a single girl, I may not have always taken the best care of myself when I was sick. I can't really take time off from being a mom, so now when I'm sick I really do my absolute best to get better; making sure to stay hydrated, following all the best practices, because I want to be up and about (and not depending on screen time to save our butts) as soon as possible, for both of us.
Having a young child can get a tough rap, and I certainly have more grey hair than when I was childless. Before my son starting sleeping through the night, my health definitely suffered from lack of sleep, but now that I get a good night's sleep 90% of the time, I think having a kid has brought vast improvements to my health, even if I can't take sick days anymore. What about you? Does having kids help or hurt your health? Do you feel like you try harder in order to model good behavior for them, or is it too hard to feed yourself when you have other people to worry about?
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