Why We Need To Keep Mum Guilt Out Of Our Workout Space
Whether your kids are three months old or thirteen, you’re probably all too familiar with the concept of mum guilt. This phrase refers to the very unique and pervasive strain of guilt that makes mothers feel like they’re not doing enough as parents, or a sense of guilt they experience when they prioritise their own acts of self-care - especially if it means spending time away from their children.
But we are here to tell you that mum guilt has no place in your workout schedule. Taking care of yourself and making time for the activities that improve your health and make you feel good (physically and mentally) and more like yourself is something that shouldn’t just be prioritised, but celebrated.
So whether you’re feeling guilty about asking your partner to take on the daycare dropoff so you can squeeze in a quick HIIT session before the workday begins or want to carve out some alone time in the evening for a bath because it helps you to destress, we want to tell you it’s okay. If you want to show up as the best version of you for your family, taking care of yourself is essential.
While dads certainly aren’t immune to experiencing feelings of parental guilt, research has found working mothers tend to feel guilt more intensely due to internalised gender stereotypes. Other studies also suggest that within heterosexual relationships women experience a gender exercise gap whereby men “borrow” time from their female partners, allowing them to exercise more regularly.
We know that no matter how young or old your children are when you have a family, finding time for fitness can be a constant juggle and, let’s be honest, a bit of a struggle at times.
In fact, a survey by Sport England found that six out of ten mums feel guilty about taking the time to exercise, with a lack of time stated as the top reason for inactivity and almost a third of mums having less than an hour to themselves each day.
Trainer Kelsey Wells knows that guilt is something many women struggle with, recognising that mothers are more prone to mum guilt when it comes to finding moments for their own self-care practices and time to exercise.
“I want you to realise that self-care is not selfish,” Kelsey says. “There’s nothing you wouldn’t do for the health and wellbeing of your children, so why is it that our own self-care and wellbeing falls to the bottom of our priority list? Caring for yourself is going to allow you to be healthier, to run and play with your kids and have energy to be with them.”
Why prioritise your health and fitness? Kelsey reminds us that it will make you a better partner, mother, sister, daughter and friend and is a brilliant way to set a positive example for your family. And don’t forget, the relationship you have with yourself is so important.
“Taking care of YOURSELF and your health IS what is best for your babies.”
Not yet sold? According to an Ohio State University study into burnout amongst parents, finding the time for self-care (no matter what that looks like for you) is also a great way to reduce the risk of parental burnout. The research from Sport England also highlighted how mums influence their children’s approach to physical activity, saying that seven in ten mums recognise that it’s beneficial for their children to see them exercising.
What about the days when you truly can’t find the time or energy? As a mum to two young children including newborn Jax, Head Trainer Kayla Itsines knows just how important it is to give yourself grace and understanding during those early days of motherhood, saying you’re on autopilot survival mode in the beginning.
For her, saying no to mum guilt applies just as much to not feeling guilty when you can’t find the time to exercise.
“You need to give yourself some grace, space and time to understand it’s a short period in your life, and if you’re able to go for a walk or fit ANYTHING in, that’s great,” she says about finding time for movement when you have a baby to look after.
After welcoming Jax in January, Kayla has been given the all-clear to return to fitness and has been documenting her post-pregnancy fitness journey with the Sweat app, starting with her own post-pregnancy program before progressing to Low Impact with Kayla.
Her approach to prioritising fitness now is the same as it’s always been, and that’s to treat your workout time like an appointment you’ve made with yourself.
Just as you wouldn’t purposefully miss a doctor's appointment once it’s locked in the diary, you should show up for yourself once you’ve committed to it.
The other thing Kayla is quick to remind her community of is not to underestimate the power of having help and the close knit family she is surrounded by. After all, it takes a village.
“It’s really hard to watch people’s post-pregnancy journey when they’re not honest about how much help they get when they look so put together, so it’s really important to keep reiterating this again and again so you KNOW how I do it,” she reminds us. “Never compare your journey to anyone else’s. You’re doing an incredible job.”
If you find it hard to silence those pangs of mum guilt, it can help to make a list of the ways how exercising or practicing self-care benefits you and your family and keep it nearby! This could be things like better mental clarity, reduced stress, improved energy and mood, or improved fitness and endurance for your daily activities.
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.