Working out with kids in tow: the SAHM fitness dilemna

5 Ways to fit in working out, even with kids | Conscientious ConfusionI finally “got around” to working out again when my second child was 18 months old, after taking a break for a little more than 2 years. Part of the reason it took so long for me to get back on board with fitness was my own confusion after becoming a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM): how could I work out regularly when I have two children with me all the time? It’s been a little over 2 years now and I’ve developed several sneaky ways for sneaking in fitness. To save you the time and experimentation, here are my hacks for working out with kids in tow!

1. At home workout videos

While this is the most-touted and perhaps glaringly obvious choice, I have to caution that this option only works long-term for those who are extremely self-motivated. If we work all day in the home, it is extremely difficult to snap out of “work mode” long enough to commit to exercise. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve put on workout clothes, set up the DVD, and then spent an hour doing laundry and cleaning the kitchen instead. Then of course, there is the random child walking in and interrupting, the baby crying, etc. etc., etc. Workout videos are great in a pinch, but they probably should not be the mainstay of your exercise routine, because they are unreliable at best for a SAHM. If you are up for it, my recommendations would be: Cody App for iPhone/iPad (which allows you to purchase as many specific workouts as you want) and Sara Ivanhoe yoga DVDs.

2. Bring the kids into the workout

There are several types of fitness workouts specifically designed to include your younger children. For organized instructor-led workouts, search for Mommy & Me yoga, Stroller Strides, and Baby Boot Camps. These classes work best if you have a child under the age of 3 who will stay in one place on the ground or in the stroller for short periods of time. A cheaper options is to walk or run with your child in the stroller, which is free and very flexible when it comes to time! Unfortunately, once your child reaches about 3.5 years old, they aren’t usually interested in these integrative forms of exercise anymore and will start to throw fits and become truly difficult to contain, so you’ll have to switch at that point or you’re basically wasting your money.

3. Fitness facilities with childcare

You’d actually be surprised how many gyms, yoga studios, and boutique studios offer babysitting. Make sure you’ve checked the studio web site for these offerings. If you are in North Dallas/Richardson, the YMCA locations in this area are known to have great babysitting, as well as several of the nearby 24 Hour Fitness locations. I have been told by Valerie that LifeTime Fitness in Plano has an excellent kids care area. Yoga studios offering babysitting include We Yogis in Dallas and Samatone Yoga in Addison. Many yoga studios also offer kids yoga classes at the same time as adults classes for children 3 years old and up.

4. Small boutique studios that are tolerant of children 

If you have an ongoing relationship with a small boutique studio, they’ll often allow you to take a child into a corner of the workout room or the glassed-in waiting area (where you can see them) with an iPad or book to read. This works best for children over the age of 4 years. We have several moms at our studio who do this and it works perfectly fine!

5. Lean on your partner – early morning workouts

Early morning workouts are best maximized by taking group fitness classes specifically designed to pack an efficient workout into an hour or less! There are hundreds of 6am classes at gyms, boot-camp style workouts, yoga, Pilates…the entire world of fitness is open to you, if only you are willing to be there by 6am and you’ll get home by 7am to allow your partner to go to work! Will your significant other cuddle the baby or change a diaper the exact same way you do? Maybe not, but that’s what’s special about his or her bond with your kids. It’s different. And they need that time together, just like you need your alone time. Let go of your inner control freak, go to bed a little earlier the night before, and start the day energized and refreshed from your workout! Warning: you might end up foregoing a shower and being in your workout clothes all day. Utilize nap times for showers!

 

There are probably more options that I’m missing right now, but the point is that you keep fitness in mind as one of your goals. Work to fit it into your schedule where you can, and let it be something that you do for you, with or without your kids. They will see your commitment and internalize health as something important as they grow older.

There is no “microwave safe” or “dishwasher safe” plastic

Heating Plastic: there is no "microwave safe" or "dishwasher safe" plastic! Why and how to avoid heating food in plastic | Conscientious Confusion

Our trusty old dishwasher finally died lately, and I am super excited to have a shiny new one. Those 2-3 weeks handwashing dishes were no fun! But, regardless of whether we have a working dishwasher, there are always dishes in my sink. Why? Because I always hand wash plastics.

Why handwash? First of all, plastics are made out of chemicals. Yep, there is no natural substance out there which can be harvested to produce plastic in it’s final form. It’s all created in a lab. Most plastic is made flexible by PVC, a chemical that is well known to be toxic. Even plastics that are made without PVC are made of other chemicals. You can pick plastics that are “safe-r” to hold food by using this handy list, but there are no completely non-toxic plastics.

Here’s the thing: those chemicals are made active again when the plastic is heated. By default, any plastic that is heated will be releasing some of it’s chemical components. That is why plastic dishware degrades, gets spots, and warps over time. The chemical components of the plastic are slowly breaking down (read more here and here and a more technical study here. Relevance to cancer from chemicals in plastic.). When it comes to dishware, the heat allows those chemicals to mix with our food. Do we really want to be eating a side of chemicals with our meal? Remember that the FDA does not approve chemicals used in houseware (they only oversee Food and Drugs) — there is no regulation of the materials being used in your plates/bowls/sippys/storage containers.

You’ve seen the plastics labeled “microwave safe” and “dishwasher safe”, right? What does that even mean? The definition of “microwave safe” and “dishwasher safe”, as far as I can tell from online research, comes from appliance manufacturers. Both terms mean that your dishes won’t be visibly damaged, melted or broken in the appliance, not that the dishware won’t leach chemicals into your food. In other words, there is no “microwave safe” or “dishwasher safe” plastic.

Ideally, it would be fabulous to own no plastic food containers or items at all, but I have two preschool children. I do still use a microwave. With children this young, I still do not have the bandwidth in my food prep time to forego the microwave altogether for quick meals like leftovers and lunches, so stainless steel isn’t always practical. When using the microwave to reheat even something small, transfer the food to a glass container.

Tip #1: I bought small glass bowls from the dollar store specifically for reheating. I have about 4 of them so that there is always one clean. I just pop whatever I want to reheat into these open bowls and toss them in the microwave. The bonus is that I can also safely put them into the dishwasher.

Tip #2: To make storing and reheating from the refrigerator easier, I have replaced all of my formerly plastic storageware with glass food storage (affiliate link). These sets are easy to find at Target, Walmart, Amazon, and even Costco. I replaced it slowly, over time, when I could find sales and coupons. It can be pricey to do it all at one time, although Costco will frequently have good deals on glass storageware.

We have been working on teaching the kids to use glass responsibly. I still don’t allow them to have glass containers unsupervised, but they are getting much more mindful. Soon I hope to transition completely away from plastic cups and bowls for them and to ceramic and glass, which is what we use for the adults in the family.

For more information on the toxicity and environmental impact of plastic, I highly recommend my friend Beth Terry’s book “Plastic-Free: How I Kicked My Plastic Habit and How You Can Too” (affiliate link).

How do you avoid plastic in your home? Do you have any favorite products that you like?

Where does a SAHM part-time worker fit?

image via memgenerator

When someone asks me “What do you do?”, it isn’t an easy answer. Do I answer, “I stay at home with my kids” or do I list off my various part-time jobs as a fitness instructor and blogger? Usually I do both. It’s such a weird place to be, a SAHM part time worker, right in the middle of both “mom” categories.

As someone whose significant other earns almost all of the income for our family, are my part time endeavors even significant enough to call “working”? Even combined, none of the jobs pay much. As someone who only works part time, I am definitely thankful for the flexible schedule that I get in exchange for the lower pay. I love that I can work a few days a week at 6am, part of one weekday, and then a few hours on the weekends doing things I love. It is all a huge blessing.

But there’s also the parenting part.

As a part-time worker, I don’t get the financial benefits or structure of full-time professional childcare I would have as a working mother. I know, because I’ve been a full time working mother. When I worked full time, we had a nanny who came during set hours. If I worked full time right now, the kids would most likely be in preschool. In both situations, they would benefit from the experience and training of a professional educator and childcare expert. Someone who would teach them to read before they even go to kindergarten, most likely. They would be taken care of during set hours, during which I would be free to do my work (unless they or the nanny were ill, of course — been there, done that!).

Instead of a professional educator and childcare expert, they have me. Well, part of me. Because I spend the majority of my “spare” hours in part time work, I am not using that time to scour Pinterest for worksheets, set educational goals, read about the developmental milestones they’re supposed to be hitting and target their activities accordingly, as most of my other mommy friends do. We have fun together, sure! We go somewhere almost every day, but it’s most often the pool, the museum, the zoo — somewhere that they can run freely and play, not learn specific things. The goal is to be physically tired so they’ll take a nap. My poor second child still doesn’t know any of her letters. Neither of them understand the days of the week. I think about what it takes to do all that, the extra hours that I can’t seem to pull from thin air, and I just want to take a nap too.

It’s only due to our food intolerances that I spend as much “homemaker” time as I do: making our own bug repellant, soaps, bread, and toothpaste. In fact, that’s probably how I am using the time that I should probably be teaching my kids valuable things like Scripture memory or full moon intention-setting. That illusive time goes to hand-making things to keep Little Sir from getting diarrhea due to stomach irritation. Driving to the chiropractor. I have to make a conscious choice every day not to feel bad about how much more I should be doing.

There’s the mommy guilt, but there’s also the career guilt.

As a part time worker, there are a ton of opportunities to take it a “little further”. Getting my RYT200 is one of those. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about it, but I also know that it’s just not realistic right now. Taking that kind of time and financial resources away from our family while my children are this young is not something we are in a place to do at this time. But then another client or friend asks me to teach them what I know about yoga and I just want to do it SO BADLY!

If I am honest with myself, having one foot in the working world provides some welcome gratification in contrast to the endless energy suck that is my precious children. Not once will they say “thank you” to me (except when Daddy makes them!), but my clients and friends do say positive things about my part-time work. It takes a conscious act of the will every time to step back into those unappreciated Mommy shoes and away from the seemingly fulfilling fitness instructor/blogger shoes.

As I was writing the first draft of this post, my daughter came into the room three times asking for me to sing songs. It has taken me about 3 days to complete this post, due to interruptions of the same kind.

I know in my heart that these are the best kinds of interruptions. That singing all the songs is what life is made of, and not the Facebook-ing, the Pinterest-ing, the 6am classes, the handstand practice, the Sanskrit pronunciation.

My friend Janelle was speaking today of a kind of selfless support, of having a job that consists of supporting others: being the wind. I love that analogy. As a feminist, it’s important for me to remember that I can choose what work I do, and that one kind of work is not exclusive of another kind. I CAN be a SAHM and a part-time worker, and neither one is “not enough”. Both are exactly what works for me right now, regardless of how I answer the, “So, what do you do?” question.

Packing with food intolerances

Packing for kids with food intolerances | Conscientious Confusion

Even though we are light years away from where we started on our journey with our naturopath for my son’s food intolerances, his body continues to attack certain foods and have trouble absorbing the nutrients from common foods. We’ve also had to do a lot of travel recently, and often spontaneously. I think this is the third time in two months that I’ve packed all our gear with less than a day’s notice. That sounds like a lot of time, but not when you consider that I wasn’t able to stop any of our previous social engagements/school/playgroups.

So, because I was packing again when I wrote this, here’s a list of the things we typically bring for our dairy free, gluten free boy:

  • shelf stable coconut milk or almond milk
  • gluten free snacks
  • dried fruit
  • squeezy food like these or these  (affiliate links & I know disposable is bad but we are looking to have to refrigerate as little as possible and if we use our Squooshi pouches, we have to refrigerate them)
  • peanuts
  • our homemade low-gluten bread (I use our wheat bread recipe but substitute part gluten-free flour)
  • probiotics (we all use these – affiliate link)
  • digestive enzymes (he uses these and I use these – both affiliate links)
  • cultured coconut milk yogurt (example here)
  • liquid vitamins, since he doesn’t absorb nutrients from the chewables (we use this one – affiliate link)

Aside from clothes and bathroom essentials, these are the things I throw into bags and insulated coolers when we travel. Piece of cake, right? (um, wait, we can’t really have cake regularly…)

How do you pack healthy easy snacks for your allergic or food intolerant family members?

Book review: Hannah, Delivered by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

NOTE: I was given an advance copy of the book Hannah, Delivered (affiliate link) in exchange for my honest opinion. Review and opinions below are my own.

"There's three things to learn about labor. It's work. It hurts a lot. And you can do it." - Hannah, Delivered by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

When I got an email from a publisher with the subject line “Midwife Fiction”, you know that I was in! I am a bit of a natural birth junkie. I just love to hear how women learn to trust their bodies and how they discover their strength through childbirth. I actually visited my midwife just last week for my annual checkup and fell in love again with the entire practice. The old Victorian house, the cloth robe and cover, the corner of the exam room filled with toys for the kids, the comfy chairs I sat in while we chatted, with the sunlight streaming in the huge windows…So far removed from what I’ve heard about OB/GYN offices. I just love sharing the stories of my first natural birth and my second natural birth.

The mind-body connection espoused by midwifery is not so far removed from what we practice in yoga. The book that I was given a chance to read definitely delivered (if you will excuse the pun) on that reality. The book is called Hannah, Delivered by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew (affiliate link) and it is about a young woman on her journey to become a midwife. She has built a safe, secure life for herself working in an administrative position at a hospital and one evening is called to assist in a birth. She accidentally ends up catching the baby and BAM! catches the midwifery bug. She will have to leave everything she knows: her job, her relationship, her state, and her security to train as a midwife, only to return to practice in a town where midwifery is only barely legal. Is that how this really happens? BAM!, just like that? To a woman who has never been a mother herself? I am not sure. I didn’t know much about birth, myself, until I read the book Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born by Tina Cassidy (affiliate link) almost 10 years ago. Shortly after, I also read Taking Charge Of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler (affiliate link). To say those two books shook up my idea of what my body was capable of and how our society has treated women would be an understatement. Some of these same injustices, mistrust, and misinformation are touched on in Hannah, Delivered. It is plausible that activism is a response to correct a wrong. But more importantly, Hannah’s journey to midwifery is a journey that has a goal of creating what is right: assisting women in the positive aspects of birth and allowing them to be free. The book is about how Hannah delivers herself from her old ideas of what she “should” be or isn’t, and allows herself to be born into what she is meant to be. She struggles with her place in the world as well as her own spirituality and the spirituality of her parents. It’s definitely not a Christian book, as the main character remains agnostic throughout the book. But I did not feel uncomfortable with it as a Christian, either. The Christ-followers in the book were presented in a positive and loving way.

The characters in the book were believable and I found myself caring what happened to them. There was enough of a twist for me to wonder what was going to happen, but enough of a reassurance that I didn’t feel the need to skip to the end to keep from getting anxious (not that I ever do that…) . I also found the end satisfying, unlike some of our recent Book Club books. I would happily recommend this book to anyone who enjoys good fiction, whether or not you are a natural birth junkie.

Hannah, Delivered by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

So if you’re getting ready to build your summer book list, add Hannah, Delivered — and let me know what you think!