All three flight attendants stop by our aisle, one by one, before take off. Remember to put your mask on before putting on the baby’s. Ok, sweetie? I nod in agreement without saying anything each time, terrified of waking my infant son before we’re even in the air. Later, though, as the passengers around me eat peanuts and read paperback thrillers, I think about how it would actually play out if the oxygen masks dropped from the overhead compartment somewhere above Kansas. Would I really take care of myself first before taking care of my baby? If the past sleepless months were any indication, the answer was a resounding “NO.” As the pilot announces that the plane is starting its descent, I realize I need to find someone to help me figure out how to come out of mine.
There’s no Momprenuer without “Mom”
Faith Bulow and her husband, Brian, own a small trucking company in the midwest. A mother of two young children, she handles employee payroll, creates invoices, pays bills, balances the books and prepares tax documents so that Brian can spend his days driving and maintaining their fleet of semi trucks.
Faith could give Wonder Woman a run for her money. Her sparkling eyes and easy smile hide the fact that she’d demolish any bad guys foolish enough to follow her into a dark alley. The girl has got muscles and she dominates at CrossFit competitions. She also happens to be my sister-in-law.
Although this mompreneur makes it look effortless, finding time to care for herself in the midst of work and family hasn’t always come naturally. A year after giving birth to her first child, Faith realized something needed to change. “I was depressed, though undiagnosed. I had no idea what to do with a baby and our son was not an easy baby,” she says. Though she’d grown up playing sports, Faith wasn’t exercising and the pregnancy weight wasn’t coming off.
One morning she decided to start moving again. “There was no turning back in my head,” she recounts. “I knew that was what I needed to do to start feeling like myself again.” So Faith started small, right where she was. She loaded the baby into the stroller and began running down the gravel road by their house. “If anyone has pushed a stroller with a kid in it down gravel, they can appreciate how much work it is,” she laughs.
Start…and then just keep going
Taking this first small step provided Faith with enough space to reflect and realize that she had to start taking care of herself if she wanted to have anything of value left for her husband, her child and their business. Little by little, Faith grew stronger and gained endurance, weight started coming off and she made better food choices. She kept going. Her depression lifted and she began to feel like herself again.
Even now, seven years (and another child) past that first run down the gravel road, she still battles “mom-guilt” on a daily basis. It’s so easy to feel like you never do enough, she tells me, and that spending time and money on yourself is selfish. “I fight it daily. But I remind myself it is better in the long run for everyone in the family when I have my personal time.”
Figuring out how to make all the pieces of her life fit together has a been a process of trial and error. When her kids were really small, she found gyms with childcare programs so that she could get in workouts with her kids in tow. Now that they are in school, she has more flexibility, though she still takes them to the CrossFit garage gym where she trains sometimes. Her family cheers her on at competitions and the kids play around in the gym when they go to workouts with her. “I love that they are exposed to the welcoming community culture of crossfit and the priority I place on training and keeping my body healthy and strong,” she says. “I hope they follow along as they get older.”
She’s also gotten more intentional about mapping out her week in advance and constructively using her time. “I try to plan on Sunday which days I will spend time in the office that week,” she notes. From there, she schedules in her workouts, errands, appointments, and fun activities. “This keeps me from procrastinating on work and also helps me feel somewhat organized and ready for the week ahead.”
Faith reminds other busy working mothers that creating routines to take care of themselves is a process–and that patience is key. “Choose something you really love to do so you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Find like-minded people who encourage you and move you in a positive direction towards your health goals.” She notes that CrossFit gyms are incredibly welcoming and laid back–even though everyone appears to be covered in bulging muscles.
She also reminds me that when you’re in the midst of the tough infant and toddler years, a little bit can go a long way. “Do at least one thing for only yourself that you love every day,” she tells me. “It helps you remember who you are in the midst of the piles of diapers, potty training, school actives, and work obligations.”