Wrestling with my muffin top, and my mama guilt, one spin class at a time
I am in awe of my body. In awe of the fact that I’ve birthed two babies. In awe of the fact that I was born prematurely nearly 35 years ago and survived. In awe of the fact that this body carries me through even as I stuff potato chips in my mouth and guzzle my daily dose of coffee with half-and-half.
But even with all of that awe, my muffin top is screaming at me to go to the gym, and I want to listen. My mother’s guilt, however, nearly stops me every time.
I took up spinning and I love it. My class meets every other day at 5:45 a.m., when my three kids are still asleep in their beds. It starts before the sun rises, before my wife gets up and before most people have had their first cup of coffee. I want to go to the gym and hush the screams of my muffin top, but also because I know once I am done, I will feel good.
That spin class never lets me down (sort of like my cup of coffee). I enter the room, set the bike to my preferred settings and ease into the ride. It is there for me, in all its loud glory with the music pumping and the lights just short of blinding me. I come alive and I feel so productive. With sweat pouring off me, I seem to find my groove. I am 15 minutes into the ride before my doubt gets the best of me: I don’t think I can finish this. I think I am dying. I am dying. And then, like magic, the music switches to something that draws my attention away from the pain, and I push through to finish the class.
When I hit that brick wall at the 15-minute mark, I think of my family. By now, they are awake and starting their morning routines without me. My guilt sets in just as I pedal forward, rounding the bend, pushing up the hill. I am exhausted at this class. I am also, from time to time, exhausted by the demands of motherhood. But I know that finishing this class will allow me to be a better mother and not feel so exhausted by the lunches I need to pack, the bills I need to write, the clothes I need to fold, the dinners I need to make, the stains I need to scrub out . . . and the list goes on.
When my class ends at 6:45 a.m. and I try to stretch all of my aches and pains out, I feel awful. Not because my spin class kicked my butt, not because I am out of shape, not because my muffin top looks unsightly in the mirror. I feel awful because I’ve missed the song my wife sings to wake up our son. Because I’ve missed my curly haired daughter, pacifier bulging out of her mouth, staring at me as I look at her from my bed with one eye open, hoping she’ll go back to sleep. And I’ve missed her twin sister’s jolt of good morning “Uh Oh’s.”
I’ve missed it all because I wanted to spend time with me, for me, in my happy place.
I walk out of the class and as the cool air of the open gym hits me in the face I ask myself (again), why I feel this guilt. When I get home, I will be a calmer, better person. I will do better, give better and be more patient because I’ve given myself permission to improve me. Improve my spirit, improve my body, give of myself to myself. Each time I allow myself to go to the gym and improve my body, I’m also improving my family.
I worry, though, that I will always have this guilt, because when I give to myself, it means I am taking pieces of myself from someone else. I try to silence that voice in my head, and remember that I am doing what is best for my family by taking care of myself. It is true. I am taking care of my family.
My bike never lets me down. It’s unyielding and relentless. It pushes me to be a better person, to give more of myself, to leave what is not serving me well on the floor of my spin class. So I pick myself up and out of my bed at 5:45 a.m. because I want to be a better mother and wife.
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Hargrove is a wife, mother and writer based in Connecticut. Find her on Twitter @Nikkya1128.
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