When realtor and mom of three Shannon Schilvert separated from her partner of 10 years in spring 2017, she knew her life was going to get more difficult. But she didn’t anticipate finding less and less free time for the things she enjoyed, like her fitness classes. The YMCA she attended her Zumba classes doesn’t offer childcare for children over the age of four, and she found that juggling her work schedule, as well as her middle son’s hockey schedule, let little time to squeeze in her workouts.
“I have found it so hard to keep up with my fitness routine because my kids always come first,” Schilvert says.
“Now that they are all in school again I am hoping to keep more of a schedule going, but I can't imagine I'll be able to juggle it all once I am working again. There just isn't enough time to myself in the day to get everything done that I need to. On top of it all, having one in hockey means that I'm even busier!”
Schilvert is one of many single parents who struggle to find time to work on themselves while caring for their families. Between work commitments and raising a family, finding an hour a week, or even half an hour to work out at home can feel impossible. For Schilvert, the time she intended to go to her Zumba class may need to go to a client meeting, or a hockey practice. However, she wants to set a good example for her sons, ranging from five to ten years of age, so finding time to work out is a constant battle. With all of her sons leading active lifestyles, she feels it’s important to do the same.
“Fitness has become increasingly important to me in the last few years. I'm trying to find ways to incorporate it into my routine in other ways in hopes of keeping up,” she says.
Fortunately for parents, there are some places that recognize the constant struggle to live active lives and set a good example for little ones and offer solutions. Capital City Athletics recognizes that attending the gym requires time and money, so they allow parents to bring their kids, as long as they stay off of the gym floor during classes. You’ll often find kids turning the dressing room into a pretend dance studio, or on their iPads, playing Super Mario Run with their new friends while mom or dad get their sweat on.
“We recognize that not everyone has access to a babysitter and we want them to be able to come out to the gym,” says Jalene Anderson-Baron, a coach with Capital City Athletics.
“We wanted to make going to the gym as accessible as possible, especially because it’s not easily accessible for some people because of the cost, so we try to make it easier so that people from all walks of life and all situations can come out. We want them to be able to come and work out, so we make it a little bit easier.”
“Also, I think it’s really good for kids to see their parents exercising. It’s a good way to role model for them and help promote positive body image.”
Some tips for parents who might be struggling to balance include:
- Call around to various places before deciding on a gym/workout program. Double check times, location, and if it is child friendly. You don’t have to go to the gym closest to home if another facility meets your needs.
- Be prepared. If your child is coming with you, remind them of the rules. Bring your tablet, or some books and games. Also, pack a snack and their own bottle of water.
- Set a routine. Kids thrive on routine. Pick a time and make that “gym night” or “sitter night.”
- Do not beat yourself up if you miss a day. The great thing about lifestyle changes is that they take your entire life. If you missed Wednesday, don’t stress. There is always next Wednesday. Take the family for a walk to get some activity in.
The most important thing for parents to remember is that raising a family can be hard. Single parents are doing the job of two as one person. Self-care is just as important as child care, and don’t be afraid to be selfish and take that time for yourself. But Anderson-Baron encourages everyone to focus less on their fitness level or their own insecurities about taking that time, and just focus on getting there.
“The hardest part is just getting there, and getting in the door, but once you take that step, it’ll be so much easier.”
By Mary-Helen Clark