The other day I sneaked out of the office to squeeze in a lunchtime workout. Okay, so I didn't exactly "sneak" since I was working from home, but still... a deadline is a deadline no matter where you happen to be located. As usual, I felt guilty – guilty that I was using my one free hour on myself as opposed to, say, picking up some much-needed groceries or hanging with my 3-year-old.
Anyway, at the end of the hour-long class I was chatting with some of the other moms – a good 90 percent of us happen to be moms who work from home – and we were all bitching about how much better our bodies would be if we could hit the gym five days a week as opposed to two. "If I didn't work, I'd have the best body," I told the crowd (half of them strangers). They laughed and nodded and told me to blog about it.
At the time, I thought, What's there to say, really? Most of us, if we didn't have (or want) to work but could still afford childcare – or if our kids were in school all day long – would hit the gym Monday to Friday, no question about it. I know I would. It's not so much that I love the working out but more about a) health, b) setting a good example for my kids, and c) not becoming one of those frumpy middle-aged moms.
I know, I know, the last reason sounds horrible, but it's actually my strongest reason for hitting the gym. I like how I look when I'm fit; it makes me feel good physically and it does wonders for my confidence. And it alters my mood, too. Without the gym, I'm all irritable and bitchy. With it, I'm still those things but to a much lesser degree (i.e., at least the kids don't seem to notice).
I don't think this is anything new – I mean, what mother can't relate to wanting to look and feel good? – and yet the Wall Street Journal has managed to turn the whole notion of "fit moms" into a trends piece. Frankly, it annoys me. The article, called "Don't Hate Her For Being Fit," talks about all these women who love to exercise, and so they'll fit in several short workouts a day in between a "busy schedule of carpools and school pick-up." Huh?
Nowhere does the writer, Elizabeth Holmes, mention moms who work full-time, and nowhere does she mention moms who stay at home to care for their young children all day. Instead, she's focused on a very narrow segment of the population:
"Most fit moms have enough money so they don't have to work at full-time jobs, but not so much that they have full-time child care. They juggle their families' multiple daily routines, coordinate tight schedules of school, camp and activities and still squeeze in a predawn run, yoga at nap time and an after-school bike ride."
Exercise is often at the center of these moms' social lives, she explains, and they spend lots of time Facebooking, Tweeting and blogging about their accomplishments (i.e., their latest race times). To be clear, I'm not criticizing these women – I think it's awesome that they've found a way to balance being a mom with a healthy lifestyle, and I think they're sending a powerful message to their own children not only about the importance of physical activity but also of carving out "me" time.
That said, of course they have killer bodies – their day revolves around working out! This is nothing new, not by any stretch of the imagination. And they're hardly "squeezing it in" because, let's get real, their workout is pretty much their "job" – if you want to call it that. Yes, their kids are their priority, but when the kids are at school all day and you're not working or volunteering, then working out is simple. How is this a novel concept?
In case I sound bitter, know that I'm not. I'm just irritated that "fit moms" is being touted as a major trend, that's all. I think the idea of "fit moms" always existed, it's just that most women squeeze in a spin/yoga/TRX class at, say, 6 a.m. or during their lunch hour or long after the children are tucked in at night.
From a business and marketing perspective, it's interesting. Holmes writes about all these new products – from sportswear to energy bars – geared specifically to "fit moms." Clearly there's money to be made. But the notion of moms working out post-drop-off is nothing new, that's for sure.
Again, we're not talking about moms with little ones at home; in those instances, it can be extremely challenging to fit in a workout. We're talking about moms who pretty much have the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to themselves. We're supposed to be wowed that they "squeeze in" a workout? Puh-leeze.