Forget letting your baby watch television or giving your first-grader an Instagram account, if you don’t take care of your own health, you’re neglecting your children.
My grandmother is currently in the hospital and she has no one to blame but herself. She’s in her mid-seventies and she is and has been obese for decades. She’s had lots of warning signs, many times when she could have made a change in her lifestyle and she ignored them all. A diagnosis of Type II diabetes didn’t alter her habits, numerous pleas from her children and grandchildren fell on deaf ears, and a heart procedure last year that was supposed to give her a new lease on life led to her taking walks for about a month before she went back to a daily diet of burgers and chocolate ice cream. She didn’t care enough about herself or her family to make the effort to improve her health and now I’m filled with anger towards her. My grandmother never lets you leave her house without an armful of food and gifts, has the entire family tree committed to memory and is always down for a game of Pictionary. But as amazing as she is, I can’t get past the fact that she’s about to leave behind a spouse, six children, dozens of grand kids and five great-grand kids before her time solely because she chose not to take care of her own health.
I’ve been guilty of it myself. I’m currently overdue for a dental cleaning, there’s a painful mole on my elbow that shows no signs of going away and while I took the time to make the kids breakfast this morning, I am currently typing this on an empty stomach. I ate a brownie instead of going for a run yesterday afternoon and the last green thing I ingested was pesto on my pizza last night. I tell myself that I don’t have the time to call the doctor’s office and book a sitter, tell myself that the kids are in a fussy phase and I’m doing the right thing by staying home instead of going to that Pure Barre class. These typical martyr mom moves don’t prove I’m a good parent- they show that I don’t place enough value on my own health and well being.
I’m not saying you’re a bad parent if you feed your kid the occasion drive thru meal, moderation is important and I hope that by allowing my kids the occasional indulgence they will grow to have a good relationship with food. I’m not suggesting that all parents need to be fit enough to run a marathon or that people with certain body types shouldn’t wear bikinis. I am saying that if we don’t make an effort to take care of our health we do a disservice to our children. Putting off doctor’s appointments, never exercising and eating junk food all the time aren’t the actions of a parent who want to stick around long enough to see their offspring have kids of their own.
Not only is it our job as parents to role model healthy behaviors we want our kids to adopt, if you love your child, you should do whatever is within your power to be here for them as long as you can. If you won’t address your own health issues for yourself, do it for them.