Brittany: How the Fates Conspire
Here is my situation:
I am a morning person. My energy begins to wane around lunch time, and by dinner time it has completely disappeared. In a perfect world, I would get up at the crack of dawn, write on my laptop until I could no longer ignore my hunger pangs, eat breakfast, and then head to the gym for an hour. But even as I write these words, I know it is a complete and utter impossibility.
I wish I was the sort of person who could sit down in front of a blinking cursor and write, but I need a warm up period first to get my brain in gear. My brain refuses to engage when I have toddlers climbing all over me, demanding waffles and oatmeal and YouTube train videos. And as inspiring as I find The Wiggles, they don’t exactly transport me to 1916 Appalachia when they’re blaring from the TV in the background. So even though I’d like to work on my novel first thing in the morning, motherhood has forced me to readjust my writing schedule. If I get any writing in at all, most mornings I work on my blog because it just doesn’t require the same degree of concentration as a book.
This summer, I’ve made a point of going to the gym three mornings a week, to the bright and early 8:15 am deep water aerobics class. The YMCA offers childcare during this time, and I love getting my workout in first thing and having the rest of the day to devote to other things. In a perfect world, I would like to continue taking this class three mornings a week ad infinitum. But again, the fates of motherhood are conspiring against me.
Sam’s preschool starts at 9:00 every morning. Obviously I can’t be in two places at once. But I thought I could easily take a class later on in the morning. Except, the morning exercise classes are scheduled for 9:15 and 10:10. There’s no way I can drop Sam off at his preschool at 9:00 and get to the gym in 15 minutes, even if he leapt from the moving mini-van in the preschool parking lot. I could easily make the 10:10 classes, but my morning would be shot. I’d drop Sam off, have not much more than a half an hour to write/clean/run errands, and then have another 15 minutes to kill after my class before I could pick him up. It’s hardly an ideal situation.
What would be ideal is if there were afternoon classes I could attend at the gym, except there aren’t. And it wouldn’t matter anyway, even if there were, because childcare isn’t available from noon until 5:00 pm. The earliest group classes start up again between 5:30 and 6:00 pm, so in addition to not being morning-person-friendly, it would completely ruin my dinner-cooking-and-eating schedule.
I was complaining about all of this to my husband, Tom, and he told me I was being inflexible. I could write after the boys were asleep (9:00 or 10:00 pm) and I certainly didn’t have to take a group class at the gym. I could hit the cardio machines, or better yet, the weight room.
It was at this point that my brain exploded a little bit.
I can barely construct a coherent sentence at 10:00 at night, much less write novel-worthy prose. And there is no way I’m going to use up 30 minutes of my precious allotment of me-time to drive to a gym to use cardio equipment when I have an elliptical machine in the basement. I like group exercise classes. That is why I joined a gym. If I wanted to exercise alone, I could do it without the monthly membership fee. And spending my morning lifting weights? I do lift weights. A 30-pound 2-year-old and a 45-pound 4-year-old. All day long. Over and over and over again. I’m not going to volunteer to do it some more.
This is the kind of situation I face as a mother all the time. What I want to do should be simple enough, except that it isn’t once I factor in my children’s needs. My needs (quiet writing time and a group exercise class) get put on the back burner, and instead of sympathy, I’m expected to change my wants and needs on the fly so that my wants and needs become compatible with my children’s.
You can do this for a while, but after a while you realize you’ve hit an impasse. Your wants and needs are your wants and needs for a reason, and you get to a point where you can’t be flexible about them anymore. I should be able to write and go to the gym when it best suits my biorhythms, and hopefully if I just wait it out one more year I will. When John is 3 he’ll be eligible for preschool, and I’m strongly considering enrolling him at the preschool at the Y. That way I could drop him off at his class, get a workout in, and then head home to a quiet house to write.
But in the meantime, it’s looking like I’ll be doing a lot of exercising at home.
sing it sistah! i am completely depleted for writing well by 4pm, and the boys are in mom-mom-mom mode.
there is only so much give my writing brain can give, and yes those lingering writing mornings when i write best are a big miss for me. thankfully 2x per month my writing group is committing 4 hour sessions to writing together.
i commited myself to starting yoga again last week: http://musingsinmayhem.blogspot.com/2010/09/in-interest-of-full-disclosure.html
but similarly, when can i do it? last week, i got one session in that toots pounced, and yesterday, i got one in during her nap, but my mil was rummaging in the kitchen, making a racket so i couldn’t follow instructions or relax and breath right,and when i was lying on the floor for prone parts of the routine, she was stepping over/around me.
not exactly an environment to come to a sense of peace and wellbeing in, eh? and the tape is only 20minutes – 20 minutes of me time, hopefully, but not fully, 2 times per week is all i am aiming for.
… keep looking for an exercise class that does fit … i have been doing a group exercise class three times a week for about four months now …. what a relief to have found it … how did it take me this long to realize that if i’m exercising alone, i just don’t do it as well … i need need need a group environment … maybe it isn’t the y .. keep looking … it’s worth it …
great post …
I’ve come up with a compromise to my no-exercising situation. The other night, Sam’s preschool orientation was the same night my mom was flying in, so I decided that I would go to the orientation and Tom could drive to the airport in the minivan. I can’t drive a stick and his car is manual, so I opted to walk. It took me about 10 minutes from the house, and was very pleasant, so when school started, I decided I’d just walk the boys there instead of driving. (This was the whole point in moving to a village after all.) The trip is approximately .6 miles one way–so all told I’m getting in about 2+ miles of walking a day. It’s not as great a solution as an hour in the gym, but it’s better than nothing.
to get in my fit time, i get my brain going for writing by riding the exercise bike in front of the tv as soon as the kids get on the bus, just 30 minutes wakes me up and gets thoughts going (i get off and tidy up fast like i’m in preschool cleanup in the commercials to buy more time to write) maybe it’s all that random activity that shakes things up. during my non writing time i take notes and tape them to the computer so i have a starting place when i do sit down
I could have written EVERY SINGLE WORD my friend. The reality of when the body can exercise most efficiently FOR YOU and when the brain CREATES most efficiently FOR YOU-very very personal things that I took a long long time to figure out. And this is not simply us whining or being INFLEXIBLE. This is simply recognizing the reality of WHERE DID MY LIFE GO? Yes, it is only for a brief time , BUT is it ok to say I MISS IT!!!!
i think exercise in some form or fashion is crucial to keeping your sanity. it is for me at least! i’ve always been a walker, so your walking the boys to school sounds perfect to me. before my girls were born, i was a morning walker. i’d hit the streets about 6am and i loved the silence of that time of day. i miss it now since walking at 6am is a pipe dream during the week anyway, and getting up at 6am is the last thing i want to do on the weekend! so now i try to walk at the end of the workday before i leave the office. and i can’t say “where did my life go?” this is my life, in whatever form it happens to take at the time. it’s all in how we choose to look at it.