I haven’t done a second of exercise in seven years. Seven years.
It didn’t used to be like that. I used to run 12 km a day and I was fairly well known for doing back-to-back spin classes a few times a week.
But then seven years ago I stopped. Seven years ago, I gave it up.
Seven years ago, I met Fit Mum Sharny Kieser’s definition of “not the right way to go.”
Seven years ago, I became a mother. And then I stopped exercising for good.
According to “Fitmum” Sharny Kieser, us mums who don’t exercise are lazy, setting the wrong example – and generally bad mothers. (Okay, so she didn’t actually say ‘bad mothers’ but she sure alluded to it.)
Here’s how this came about:
A couple of days ago, Sharny Kieser went on Chrissie Swan and Jane Hall’s radio show. During the show, Chrissie Swan took Kieser to task on comments that Kieser made last year, saying that overweight people were “fat and lazy”.
Here’s how it happened:
Chrissie Swan: “I am fat and you definitely hit a nerve with me because … You know me, would you say that I am lazy?
Sharny Kieser: “Um … Well yeah you have been, but I have seen you change from being lazy to getting into exercise as well, so I’ve seen you change that mindset.”
CS: “So you think raising three children and working sometimes 14 hours a day is lazy?”
SK: “I think that not fitting in exercise and not being active with your kids and trying to teach them a healthy lifestyle is definitely not the right way to go, yeah.”
CS: “What if I were to say to you that that is completely unrealistic and offensive and untrue?”
SK: “Why is it unrealistic to teach your kids to be healthy?”
CS: “I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about how possible it is. It’s very easy for you Sharny, whose entire life and career is in runners and running around working.”
Things heated up when Sharny’s husband, Julius weighed into the debate and wrote on his blog:
If you’re too lazy to do that, why not cut back some hours. Nobody is telling you to work 14 hours. You choose that.”
“Choice” is an interesting word here because what Sharny and Julius have failed to acknowledge is that exercise is a choice – a choice for the privileged.
How lucky they must be that they can choose to cut back their hours. How nice for some who have the luxury.
Because I, and millions of other mothers like me don’t have a choice – and we certainly don’t work fourteen hours a day.
We work twenty-four hours a day, Julius.
Twenty–four hours of caring and loving and cooking and cleaning and driving and nagging and laughing and yelling and cuddling and helping.
My working day starts at 3.30am – my ‘mothering day’ starts around 6am it doesn’t really have a clock out.
Julius, you are right – no one is TELLING us to work fourteen hours a day– we CHOSE a hell of a lot more than fourteen hours when we chose to have children.
And for those of us, like me who now bring up our children in a one adult household, exercise isn’t even a privilege – it’s practically an impossibility.
Before you start: that’s not an excuse. I walk my oldest child to school every day. I walk my youngest to playgroups. My sons do soccer, and tennis and swimming and martial arts and basketball.
We don’t sit on the couch playing Xbox and eating cream buns.
We play and we ride bikes and we go swimming.
But how am I going to get up and go for a run? I can’t leave a six-year old in charge of a four-year old and a two-year old. I can’t just take off to the gym after bedtime. Who’s going to answer the call of, “Mama I want a drink of water”?
Yes, there are gyms and crèches and mummy exercise groups and exercise DVDs and grandparents. But I don’t choose to do that right now. I choose to spend the time I have with my children.
I’m trying my best to make them healthy, but I’m no super-Mum.
Am I lazy because I don’t go the gym four times a week?
I sometimes think I might go back to running in four years or so – when my daughter starts school.
I don’t need to lose weight because my clothes fit me okay. But I am not particularly bothered by that.
I’m bothered by my son being bullied at school. I’m bothered by my oldest friend who has ovarian cancer. I’m bothered by the declining state of Australia’s education.
I’m not bothered by what a ‘Fitmum’ has to say about my parenting.
So why am I commenting, then?
Because I feel like I need to defend the hundreds of thousands of single parents out there who can’t exercise.
The thousands of parents who act as carers who can’t exercise, the thousands of parents who HAVE to work ridiculous hours to pay the bills who can’t exercise.
For those mums I know who have the privilege of being able to exercise – good for you – if it works for you then go for it. If it keeps you sane and gives you a break and makes you motivated and fills you with joy then that’s your thing.
My thing right now is making the best life for my kids I can – by working and spending time with them.
But for those of us who can’t quite fit in exercise to the daily equation?
Don’t call us lazy. Don’t call us bad mothers.
Just call us busy.
Do you agree that Fitmum went too far?