SparkPeople Blogs  •  news  •  family

Health Can Take a Backseat When New Baby Arrives

By , SparkPeople Blogger
As it does for most women, becoming a mom totally changed my life. Before that, things were all about me. I exercised when I wanted, stayed out late on the weekends and slept in the next morning if I chose, and didn't have to think too much about anyone but my husband, my dog and myself on a day-to-day basis. Don't get me wrong- I've never been someone who likes to sit still for long, so I've always kept busy. But taking care of a newborn became a new kind of 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week busy. It definitely took some getting used to.

Since becoming a mom one of the things I've struggled with most is balance. My kids are four and two now, and I'm still not good at it. Rarely will I say to my husband "I'd like to go out with the girls tonight. Can you watch the kids?" Okay, let's be honest: I've probably said that once in the past four years. I get extreme cases of what I like to call "mama guilt". I feel like I need to be the one to do everything for my kids, all the time. Rationally I know I need a better balance. I know that what makes me a better mom and a better wife is making time for me. But putting that idea into practice has been much more difficult.

Exercise (specifically running) has always been an outlet of stress for me. Even when my life was totally changing from being all about me to being all about someone else, running was something that stayed consistent. It was the one thing I kept for me. If I have to get up early and exercise before the kids start their day, or do a quick workout while they nap, I will. Exercise makes me a happier person, which is why sometimes my husband comes home from a long day at work, sees the frazzled look on my face and says "Why don't you go out for a run?" He knows I'll be in a much better mood when I return.

Many moms I know don't have the same feelings towards exercise and being healthy. Exercise and eating right easily take a backseat when you're caring for a new little person who needs everything done for them. You've been up all night with a newborn that won't sleep, so the last thing you want to do is get up early and find the energy to exercise. A new study in the journal Pediatrics found that mothers of young children tend to exercise less and eat more than those without children. The study followed a group of ethnically and socioeconomically diverse participants from high school into their 20's as they became parents for the first time.

Mothers tended to have higher BMIs and consumed an average of 400 calories more per day (vs. those without children.) Moms were more likely to eat less vegetables, more saturated fat and consume more sugary drinks. When you're a busy mom, planning a healthy meal for yourself is not always as simple as grabbing something fast on-the-go. Interestingly, no difference was found between dads and men without children. "When it comes to exercise, raising kids appears to cut into workout time for both parents. Each week, moms and dads lost about 60 and 90 minutes of physical activity, respectively, compared to other young adults."

I think it's important for couples to make a plan of how they are going to find time for themselves and their health once the new baby arrives. It can be difficult to predict what life is going to be like, but starting the discussion early will make it much more likely that health takes a priority when life begins to change.

What do you think? If you are a parent, did your eating habits and exercise routines change when your child arrived? Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
See more: news family children


thanks for sharing Report
Right on! I have a 21-month-old. I can say it definitely became more difficult to get exercise into my days. It is especially hard in the beginning. It does get easier, but remains a challenge to strike that "balance." You just have to be conscious of it and plan it into your day. Everyone needs at least 30 minutes of time for themselves. Report
I was young and thin, but I think I would have had better eating habits. I always rode my bike, so my exercise routine was fairly good. I used to run around a lot pushing my carriage and carrying my babies. Report
That "mama guilt" thing is really powerful. We have two sons, I have a brother, nephews and uncles. For four generations there was not a single girl BORN into our family.
I remember well what is was like to get my DW to do something for herself when are sons were young. I had to actually accept invitations from her girl friends and then chase her out of the house instead of her canceling.
When my sons were at the 9 month mark I could change diapers, fix meals and entertain them with ease. Actually, because Dad "rough-housed" with them (letting them crawl over me and having them chase me) they slept more often and longer then when they were with Mom.
Until my sons reached baseball playing age (six in our community), my DW would let no one else be responsible for them longer than four hours - not me, not her mother nor my mother.
When they started playing baseball, the "guys" could be gone for as long as SIX hours without her suffering from some sort of withdrawal symptoms. When I took them hunting or fishing she would always by hyper when we got home.
Almost all of the "Papa Bears" I know have to move in quickly if the kids are threatened. They have to make sure "Mama GRIZZLY" doesn't go to jail for chewing off ears and various other body parts! Report
I'm a 22 year old mother to a 3 year old boy and a 3 month old little girl. I also work 2 part itme jobs and take a few classes here and there to eventually get my Bachelor's. It's difficult! After my first child was born I could very easily work out during his naps and he was sleeping through the night at 1 month old. I ended up being in better shape and weighing less than I did in high school! 2 kids is much different. If I want to work out I need to wake up at 5:30-6am but very often my daughter is already awake at that point. She's still waking up several times a night and the sleep deprivation and stress is what I think is preventing me from losing weight. I try to eat healthy but I do not prepare myself a different dinner than what I make my husband and son. I eat smaller portions. During the day I have protein shakes and low-cal bars but it's hard making the right decision! Many times I just want to grab something fast, it's a constant battle. My husband eats very unhealthy and is not a fan of exercise so I often feel alone in the fight. I absolutely agree that being a mother can make a living a healthy lifestyle more difficult but there is a way to adapt - you just have to be persistent and never lose sight of your goal. As for hanging out with friends... I'm 22 years old and I NEVER do. It's something I've had to sacrifice but there's simply no time. Maybe when my children are older. Report
When I was pregnant with my first child, I swam almost every day, even into the ninth month. Not well, mind you, but I made the effort to exercise. After he was born, and I was nursing him, I couldn't leave him, and I couldn't take him to the pool with me. So I stopped swimming, which essentially meant I stopped exercising. Twenty years later, I don't regret meeting his needs, not at all, but I do regret not finding some other way to get exercise in. Report
I've never been a mom, but I was a daughter, and I well remember that Saturday was ALWAYS Mom's day out. From my earliest memories Saturday was always an adventure, 'cause we never knew what Dad would dream up--it was NEVER what Mom did. Sometimes it was downright weird (the day we had catsup and peanut butter sandwiches stands out strongly) but the point was, our 'Daddy-day' was spectacularly different from our routine, and if Mom felt guilt, she had no need (ok, once my brother and I complained after she got home that Dad wouldn't cut the spoiled spots out of our banana, but that was about the size of the problem).

Admittedly, this was back when ALL moms, essentially, were SAHMs because most women didn't work. And, most fathers were not care givers. Looking back I guess we were a bit unusual for our time.

Of course, it depends on the Dad, doesn't it? When we were sick or scared at night it was always Dad who came ("Mommy needs her sleep" was his quiet explanation.) No, not a perfect family, but that part, they had worked out pretty well--and Dad was better at dispelling monsters from under the bed than Mom anyway! Report
I was a young mom and had my children 24 months apart... I got most of my exercise chasing after the kids. I would also put music on and dance with them. Both of my children are adults and can dance pretty good. lol As they grew up it was always a activity going on so my day would consist of work, runnng with the kids and if it was a lesson I would walk while they were playing or practicing... I was slowed down 18 years ago by a accident and now have to find new ways to help lose the weight I put on. God is good! Report
As an older mom, there was so much I didn't know about finding balance. I had no idea how much life would change in terms of the 24/7 needs of child & parenting.

Time for me...exercise & nutrition... pretty much went out the door. I was just trying to survive.

It has only been in the past 5 or so years that the need for exercise & healthy eating moved to the forefront of my time and commitment. I do wish I had known more 20 years ago about the long term affect on my body to let things go as I did. Report
This is something I have struggled kids are 10, 6 & 5..keeping the weight off and finding time for exercise was very easy after my 1st & 2nd..after my 3rd was born I just didn't have time or the energy for husband and I joined the gym but struggled to go when our younger 2 refused to stay in the child care at the gym and with family far away it made it very hard..we are just now finding time to fit in workouts...we workout together at night once the kids are asleep or playing with them outside...but we still are not where we were.. Report
As of a mom of 6 year old twin boys, sleep deprivation played a huge role! By the time they were 4 I was able to get balance back in my life. I did walk a lot with them in a stroller and or jogger but just "me" time took almost 4 years, now they ride bikes or razors and I jog with them. Report
OMGoodness! I can totally relate to this! My kids are 3 and 1 and I am finding, lately, that I am missing those "let's go walking!" days I used to have. I got out and went to the gym this morning while DH prepped things for the day, but I started to feel bad about not being here to make sure they had breakfast before leaving home as opposed to eating breakfast at school. I'm slowly coming around. I know exercise is good for me...mentally and physically. PLUS, I want to set a good example for my girls. So, I get it in where I can fit it in! Report
@Zorbs13...salads can get pretty technical. ;-) Especially if you're going to eat it consistently. Report
all the moms that I talk to on a regular basis actually exercised MORE after having a baby...

we discussed this of the accompanying articles had a quote from a mom who was saying it was easier to pick up fast food than to throw together a salad. I say she's either trying way too hard on the salad or is making excuses. Report
when you have children, they seem to become the priority. we should put ourselves on equal ground (priority) but it's not just nature for most of us. Report
I sort of held my own with son #1...... managed to get to exercise class, etc....... son #2 threw me completely off balance (managing a 3.5 yr old and a baby), and son #3 (4 years later), forget it!! Love them all, but if I had to do it again, I would "let go" more often - LET family/husband help more, let them have some of the fun too as well as the work AND I would "let" myself go for a walk or see friends or to the gym - by myself!! Report
No suprises from that study! It almost seems like a 'duh?!' sort of result.

I think the most important change that could come about in regards to combatting this, would be society as a whole recognizing that a healthy - physically, mentally and emotionally - mom or dad makes a much better parent, even if that means time away (and I believe it does) from the kiddos. The next step beyond that is for mom and dad to believe it as well.

We get so wrapped up in the idea of being a 'perfect' mom or dad that things become distorted and we tend to loose a bit of ourselves. What a sad thing this is, and truly it deprives our children of the best part of who their parents are.

JR Report
When I had my first kid I tried to make it to the gym about 3 times a week but that meant I had to find a babysitter three times a week... so that did not last long. Just recently I looked in the mirror thinking what happened to me!! I was never a small person but I had never been this big. I decided I needed to do something about it. I have always had a pretty healthy diet it was the daily calories I had problems with. I would eat to little most of the week then go way over in one day. My kids are now 6 and 2 and I want to show them how to be healthy. I do my workout video first thing in the morning when they are sleeping and we will do something together a few times a week like yoga. They have the best time and we can do these things together. I would do things differently by starting to do the exercises and tracking my nutrition a lot earlier but better late than never. I really enjoyed your article thank you for sharing. Report
How well I remember the sleep deprivation until my son began sleeping through the night. My hat's off to any new mom who can fit in exercise! Report
I'm not a parent, but I think I would ask for help at least 30 mins 5 times a week so I can get some exercise in Report
If I could do it differently, I would have made the effort to get some kind of regular exercise. Report
YES, they sure did. I would have asked for help. Report
I completely agree with this! When my son was born last summer he was born very premature at 29 weeks. I spent 7 weeks in the NICU basically 24/7 and did little to no physical activity and lived off food from the hospital cafeteria. When he came home I was in newborn mode and ate whenever I had a random moment and would eat as much as I could because I had no idea when the next time would be when I would get a spare moment to eat! Now that my son is 10 months it is still extremely difficult to find the time for myself to exercise. He still doesn't sleep through the night well and so rising early to work out never happens and most of the time when I get home from work I want to spend what little time I have before our night routine begins with my family not out at the gym.

The only solution I have come up with is taking him with me on walks after dinner and on the weekend as much as possible so we both get fresh air. Report
Can you imagine what it is REALLY like for SAHM with kids, since these people in the "study" KNEW they were being tracked. Having 400 calories more to day seems small compared to what it really is. I gained weight from eating my kids left over food rather than throwing it in the trash, because I had so much LESS money once I had kids to deal with than before, so I didn't want to waste anything.
What I would have done differently would have been to NOT have a child until I was about 35. I had one at 25 and then waited until I was past 34 to have the next one. I tell my DD to not have any kids until she is well into her 30's. I had my son at 25 since all of my friends were having one then. Report