Why do I feel guilty for exercising?

Like half of the country, I’ve set a goal to lose some weight this year — and also like half of the country, I’m struggling with how to do it. Even with the best laid plans, some days I just don’t get my workout in. Or I eat ice cream instead of dinner. Or what have you. It isn’t that I don’t want to lose weight — I do. It isn’t even that I am not willing to do the work — I am. What it really comes down to for me is guilt.

Most week days, I have 6 hours per day to myself. I work from home, so logically I could workout during this time. However, since even if the school week is a full one (which it never is — we had early release on Wednesday and they are out at 11:30 today) that is only 30 hours of work time — and even though I work on the weekends, I need at least 40 hours a week to devote to work most weeks. Therefore, if I slip away for an hour to workout during this time I feel guilty. I should be working. Work pays the bills. An hour of watching Grey’s Anatomy while I run on the treadmill burns calories — but it doesn’t bring home the bacon that made me fat in the first place. ;)

So I feel guilty when I try to squeeze a workout in during my work hours — but I feel even more guilty when I try to squeeze in a workout during my parenting hours.

I pick the kids up from school at 2:30. Technically, they could play while I run on the treadmill or complete a workout DVD. Or, if I was feeling especially brave, we could all go to the Y and I could put them in the childcare there. Once again, it’s guilt that keeps this from happening. I feel like since I just picked them up from school where they spent the last six hours I shouldn’t take them to the gym and stick them in the childcare room. I feel like I should be spending time with them – talking to them about their day, readying their backpacks for tomorrow, and starting dinner (of course, made of healthy, whole foods – not PBJ or take-out pizza). Plus, have you ever tried to do an exercise DVD with three preschoolers who want to help? It’s kind of excruciating.

Working out with the kiddos underfoot makes me feel guilty — like I’m putting my needs first and not attending to what they need. Okay, so maybe I can workout after they go to bed. By the time they go to bed, I’m exhausted. And I feel like I should spend at least a little bit of time with my husband. When I choose to workout (or work, or go to the store, go to a meeting at the school, or whatever) in the evening I feel guilty. I feel like I should be spending time with my husband.

The only time of day that is truly mine is the early morning hours before my kids are awake for the day. And many days I do manage to get up and get my workout in in the wee small hours of the morning — leaving my house around 4:45 to head to the gym or out for a run. But on the days that I don’t, I feel guilty and spend the day beating myself up. Why am I so weak? I should have gotten out of bed. I should have my workout done. Now, when am I going to find the time to work it in?

During my “husband time” on Tuesday evening (after I returned home from a meeting at the trio’s school), we were watching part of a DVRed episode of the new season of The Biggest Loser. I’ve never watched the show before, but it caught my attention the other night so I recorded it (yes, I’m looking for new shows to watch on the treadmill — suggestions welcome!). In the episode we watched, the doctor was asking one of the contestants, “If you had Lymphoma, you’d devote the two hours a day to chemo and other treatments that you needed, wouldn’t you?” Of course, the contestant responded that they would — and it’s a good point. Obesity is an epidemic in our country. As a society we need to make our health more of a priority.

I want to make my health more of a priority. There are so many other items that seem like they should be higher priorities — my kids, my husband, my work — that taking the time to carve out the chunks of time needed not only to exercise but also to meal plan and prepare healthy foods — quickly becomes overwhelming.

Please tell me that I’m not the only working mom that feels this way…

28 Comments

  • Diane says:

    You most certainly are not alone in this. In fact, I was going over very similar thoughts as I reviewed my last week and a half, since committing to working out several times a week. And while watching the Biggest Loser, that same moment stuck with me. I wish I knew how to spend “enough” time with my children and my husband and still have some me time too. Enough doesn’t exist though. So I’m trying to focus on using the time I have and making the most of it. A few days a week, I will go to a workout class while the kids have dad time and a few nights a week I will wait until they go to bed to run on the treadmill/do a dvd. It’s not a flawless plan, but its worth a shot, right?
    Twitter: Dianedear11

  • Lauren says:

    I work from home (part time, about two hours per day) and have a three year old and a two month old. I cannot afford to put them in child care so when I have to get something done, the baby goes in his swing and my older child plays independently or watches TV. And every single day, after breakfast and a little play time, I drag them both to the neighborhood gym with me. For thirty minutes, I walk/run on the treadmill while my daughter plays within view of me and my baby chills in the stroller. It is important to me so we do it. The rest of the time, I spend devoted to my kids or working. I want to show them that being healthy and active is a part of our lives and I can’t do that if I wait til after they are both asleep to do it. Get your workout on, mama.
    Lauren recently posted..Hell Yeah, 2013: My Official New Year’s Resolutions Post.My Profile
    Twitter: laurenacarlton

    • Jamie says:

      I’m a lot more likely to take them to the gym childcare in the summer when they don’t have school. It’s a good break for all of us then — but during the year it just seems like one more hour I’m away from them.

      Glad to find another WAHM who’s dealing with this — and doing a great job of balancing it!
      Jamie recently posted..Book Review: No More Perfect MomsMy Profile

  • mel says:

    I completely relate. Many moms wonder why I even care to work out so much. It’s hard for them to understand that I’m not obsessed about my weight – when I exercise, I FEEL better, mentally and physically. I work 30 hours a week, mostly from home, around my 1-year-old son’s schedule, so when I have “free” time, I’m often working. And when he’s awake, I would feel guilty if I weren’t giving him my attention. A couple of times, I’ve done a short workout DVD while he’s awake, and he actually is entertained by it, so I’m not sure why I don’t do that more. Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • cayley says:

    I also work out first thing in the am, and have realized that signing up for classes helps me commit to getting up and going. Also, my daughter told me the other day that she wamted to run a half marathon with me. She’s not quite 3, so we settled on a 1mile instead, but I am so proud that my exercise is affecting her expectations of how life goes in this way. Even if you can’t work out like you would without kids, do that video while they’re around. Get to gym when they aren’t and make sure they know that you’re doing it and why ot’s so important. Time with our kids is important but modeling great habits is too! And they notice. So don’t feel guilty, b/c it’s the nest hung for you AND good for them.

  • Kelly says:

    You are SO right! I feel the same way everyday. When I pick my kids up, I shouldn’t farm them off to someone else for an hour while I work out. When I run after the kids go to bed, my husband looks at me again like I don’t care about him! Guilt, guilt, guilt. It’s a mom’s life.
    Kelly recently posted..Update… One Week InMy Profile

  • Kerry says:

    It’s such a tough balance, but I do try to prioritize fitness for me. To be honest, that is really the only “me” time I’m good about. I usually do the early a.m. workout, and on the weekends, my husband and I take turns. He’ll get his workout in, and then I’ll go later. I actually find that the workout really helps clear my head though – and sometimes I come up with some of my best ideas as I’m running. Maybe I should I count those hours as actual work time?! Good luck with sticking with your plan. If only we could take a pill to kill the guilt.
    Kerry recently posted..Forget Dora, My Daughter Likes SwiperMy Profile
    Twitter: breadwinningmom

    • Jamie says:

      I soooo agree! Working out (especially running) is great for my mental health. I feel so much better and I feel like I can think so much clearer!

  • Megan says:

    I whole heartedly agree with everything you wrote.
    I have tries for months to carve out time to exercise
    And guilt sabatoges it. Both my kids still wake at least
    Once or twice at night so early mornings are really hard
    For me. I work full time out of the house so evenings I too feel guilty spending time exercising when I should e spending time with my kids….let’s add in the guilt I feel for putting them into daycare. After they go to bed I am beyond exhausted so that isn’t an option either. I just joined a gym to go during my lunch at work….I don’t know what other time to go haha!

    You are so right though, we have to make our health a priority
    If we want to live a long life with our kids! I pray for some sort of balance all the time :)

    • Jamie says:

      I’ve always thought that workout out during lunch would be difficult in a traditional workday. I would want to shower again — but then not want to take the time to do so… Once your kiddos are sleeping better it will be easier. One of mine is still up most nights, but she always wants her dad so I’m spared typically.

  • Mary Beth says:

    I feel guilty taking time away from the kids…. whether that’s a real or invented perception. I”m trying to fit it in at work, or do something fitnessy that involves the kids. Otherwise I’ve accepted it’s just not in my lexicon right now. So be it.
    Mary Beth recently posted..My Top Blog PostsMy Profile
    Twitter: bloombing

  • Bridget says:

    Everything I typed was just excuses. I can only answer that yes I do feel guilty, and haven’t found anything to ease that guilt.

  • Tracy says:

    On days I feel guilty, I have to remind myself that I’m a better person…momma and wife…If I get exercise in. My husband has gotten to the point that if he sees me stressing, he tells me to go upstairs and get a workout in. Making fitness a top priority has made me a happier person overall. Scheduling it is tough, and some days when I get home from work, I put Sesame Street on and Abby watches that while I exercise in the same room. Some days she gets to play on her leappad while I workout. And some days I just need to leave the house and know that the me time I’m giving myself is much needed. Of course on some days I feel guilty, espeically on those busy days when I feel like I haven’t spent much time with my family with work and obligations and the such. So then I play tag in the house with Abby or have dance parties and I get my steps in that way.
    Twitter: wa_tracy

  • I know exactly what you mean, but you shouldn’t have to feel guilty for taking care of yourself. Getting in better shape, having “me” time, and doing things for yourself help make you a happier person and a happier mom. One thing I did was sit down and explain to my kids what I was doing and how they could help me as I work to be healthier. They are very encouraging and don’t get upset at all about workout time. They do like to do their own version, but they know that they have to stay to the side and not get in my way in case I fall over them!
    Tiffany @ The Bizy Mommy recently posted..Tips for overwhelmed momsMy Profile
    Twitter: thebizymommy

  • Crystal says:

    You are not the only mom that feels this way! I struggle with it, too. I finally decided to start working out with the kids at home, and now they like to join in. I think it’s positive for them to see us working out; it shows that taking care of your body is important. Don’t feel bad about taking the time – you are doing all that you can to ensure you will be in their lives for as long as possible!
    Crystal recently posted..Color Me Rad 5k | Rad Race and Free Entry GiveawayMy Profile

  • Lydia says:

    You’re not the only one who feels this way. Honestly. I do the same thing, and then I end up regretting that I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity I had during the day. I hope you find a way to make time for yourself! In the long run, you could remind yourself that by being healthy, you’re doing something FOR your family. ;)
    Lydia recently posted..Unicorn Horn: Yup, I have oneMy Profile

  • Shannon says:

    Have you thought about finding workouts you can do with the kids? We take family bike rides, go on runs and walks together, and if the weather is bad we turn on the kinect and dance. That way it is just as much about spending time with then as it is about you getting in shape
    Shannon recently posted..Why I Love My Husband Reason #1My Profile

  • monica young says:

    I understand what you say. Between exercise, blogging and work I feel I do not have time for my family any more. It is hard to find a balance. Good luck

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