Here’s the deal. I’ve totally been judged for trying to exercise regularly and eat healthfully. I’ve heard people say I’m vain or that I’m a bad mom for taking time away from my son to selfishly lose weight.
(By the way, have any of you ever not been judged for being selfish in some way? It’s the ultimate mom-shame insult, I swear.)
But the way I look at it, it’s anything but selfish. In fact, my health is even more important now that I’m a parent than it was before: because I have a little boy who’s learning everything he needs to know from me.
Kids learn more from what you do than from what you say.
You know what always astounds me? How good of a copier my little boy is.
I mean, seriously. He copies everything (except for “please” and “thank you”… unless he’s desperate, of course.) But seriously. If I say anything, he tries to copy it. If I sing, he belts it out, too. If I swear at the driver in front of me, he unfortunately echoes my sentiment.
I’m constantly being watched by this little sponge. He’s learning all about life.
My health habits are no exception.
I realized this a few weeks ago when our apartment was temporarily unlivable and we were in a hotel. And not an extended stay type hotel, mind you – just a regular one-room hotel with a mini fridge that froze anything we put in it. So we pretty much subsisted on fast food for 3 weeks.
In that time, the little boy whose eating habits I usually raved about went right down the drain. He ate nothing but chicken nuggets, Frosties, and drank chocolate milk. The boy who would bang on the fridge yelling “Crunchy!” because he wanted a carrot now wanted nothing to do with fruits or vegetables. And he stole way too many sips of my stress sodas (including like half a 20 oz Coke because I needed to fill out a loan application.)
It wasn’t pretty.
And I realized a big issue was – he wasn’t seeing me eat the way I normally do, either.
Because when we’re at home, if I choose to chop up broccoli or a cucumber for a snack in the middle of the day, he wants to be just like me and eat it, too. If I choose a donut instead, well, likewise.
If I grab a soda and suck it down like it’s the best thing in the world (because let’s be real, sometimes it is), he’s going to want to know what’s so great about it and have some, too.
The thing is, my little two-year-old has no concept of “normal” yet. I’m creating that concept. If I want “normal” to be snacking on fruits and vegetables, I have to model that. If I don’t, his concept of normal is going to be something else.
The same goes for exercise. While I love getting my workouts in before he wakes up in the morning (lest I have an extra 25 pound weight to “help me” with my workout), I kind of love when he sees me bust my butt to get one in. Because again – he’s seeing that working out is important to me. And he’s seeing that it’s a normal, regular part of my life.
One day he might question why that is, and I can explain to him why I work so hard on my own fitness. Until then, it’s enough for me to set the example and help him understand he needs to take care of his body.
Plus, it’s pretty cute when he grabs one of my super light weights (I’m talking my baby 2-pound weight) and tries to mimic me. I joke that he’s trying to show off for the ladies in nursery.
So the next time someone tries to call you selfish for the time and energy you put into your own health, remember what a difference it can make in your kids’ lives.