Cycling Through the Mom Guilt

When I read this article posted in the ICA Facebook group, I felt as if I might have authored it myself. “My morning spin class makes me a better mother. Still, I wrestle with the guilt.” In fact, I could have authored it twice in my life—one time for each of my babies, who, like the author’s two children, lay asleep in their cribs while I slipped out in the pre-dawn hours to teach indoor cycling.

As I read the article, I immediately remembered the moment in December 2011 when I re-entered the gym after a six-week absence (following the birth of my son only a few hours after teaching!). It was a week before I would resume teaching my 5:45 a.m. class twice a week. I was running late to take a cycle class and a friend saved me a bike. I was wearing a purple Under Armour tank. I wondered if people would think I still looked pregnant with my small postpartum pooch. In the weeks leading up to my return, it seemed like no big deal. I craved normalcy again, getting my routine back. But on the morning I committed to being there, I was fearful. What if my son woke up, hungry and crying for me? What if my husband couldn’t comfort him and get ready for work at the same time? Shaking, I got in the car. It was cold and dark. On the short drive to the gym, I wondered why I had been so eager to leave. “He’s only this little once”—maybe I should have waited longer. A few more weeks.

When I arrived at the gym, smiles and hugs from familiar faces provided comfort. One of my regulars asked me how I was—as if she could sense my inner conflict. I remember so distinctly replying, “A lot of mom guilt.” She looked at me, smiled, and said, “It never goes away.” She was right—we can’t be everywhere with our children all the time.

With the birth of my second child almost five years later, the same situation rolled around again, the same emotions resurfaced, and I didn’t feel any wiser. The strong desire for my normal routine (even more so with two children now), yet an equally strong feeling that routine could wait until she wasn’t so dependent on me.

With both of my children, I resumed teaching the 5:45 a.m. class at seven and eight weeks postpartum, respectively. The benefit of hindsight: I know that the one hour away provided fuel, sanity, and stress relief for the next 23 hours in which I sometimes didn’t get much of a break or time for myself. And while the mom guilt doesn’t really ever go away, its impact is lessened by knowing I’ve done the best I can for myself so I will ultimately take better care of my family.

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