There’s always a lot of talk around the water cooler, on social media, and among friends about what kind of exercise programs we are all “doing”. My Facebook newsfeed is typically peppered with an array of cut biceps, flat abs, Beachbody ads, post-workout selfies, and inspiring weight-loss transformations. When someone is doing something and getting great results, it makes the rest of us want to try it too, right?
But our bodies are not the only things that need exercising. In fact, if you want to be really good at anything, you need to practice it. In order to get good results, you have to work for them! I do not have flat abs or cut biceps. And my “after” picture looks suspiciously unchanged from my “before” picture, so I am unlikely to be an inspiration to you in the physical arena. However, I am really invested in being the best mom possible. I know that these kids o’ mine are a gift entrusted to me, and I have a huge responsibility in raising them. To that end, I have developed some parenting exercises that really work for me. Just like there are different categories of physical exercises–strength, cardio, flexibility, agility, and speed, there are several distinct types of parenting exercises. I will share some very effective examples in each category, but would love to hear what others are doing as well! If I can help or inspire just one person, it will all be worth it. My methods are not yet patented, but I am considering it for the future.
Exercises in futility:
-Try to clean the house while your children are at home. Go ahead, try it. It’s about as effective as brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. For those of you looking for an advanced version of this exercise, make sure your child is playing with or has full access to one or more of the following: Play-Doh, Moon-Sand, a Lego set containing a million tiny pieces, non-washable markers or paints, or glitter.
-Channel your inner June Cleaver and make homemade applesauce on a crisp fall day. This is an exercise that can fill a whole day with futile activity if you wish, starting with a trip to the orchard to pick the apples, continuing with preparing the luscious, comforting applesauce in your kitchen and savoring the fragrance that fills your home, and ending with your children declaring that they don’t like this applesauce. Can they have that kind that comes from the store instead? You know mom, like in those little pouches? For a less time-consuming variation on this exercise, try making homemade chicken fingers or macaroni and cheese, so the kids can tell you they like the stuff from a box better.
-Read a parenting book! We all have something to learn when it comes to guiding our precious ones through the ups-and-downs of childhood. There are a ton of resources out there, whether you want to become a more consistent and effective disciplinarian, help your child to self-regulate their emotions, or learn how to get your child to sleep through the night. All you have to do is read the book, take careful notes, and spend the next few months carefully and consistently implementing all of the suggestions with the support of your partner. Then, leave a review on Amazon telling everyone about how THAT BOOK WAS CRAP because your kids still don’t eat their vegetables/sleep through the night/do their homework without whining/play nice with their siblings, etc. Just read a good novel next time. At least you won’t feel like a failure after you’re done.
You don’t have to devote a ton a time or be an expert to do these kinds of exercises. Personally I find it quite easy to fit in my exercises in futility throughout my day, whether it is asking my kids to pick up their socks, trying to read a book undisturbed, or attacking the never-ending laundry pile. Basically, anything you do over and over with no hope of meaningful or lasting change counts in this category.
Exercises in humility:
-Attend your child’s parent-teacher conference. This exercise is particularly fruitful with your firstborn’s first-ever parent-teacher conference, in which you naively assume that the teacher will spend the whole time talking about how sweet and perfect and smart and wonderful your little cherub is. Like most first time exercises, you will be sore the next day. The good news: it gets easier every time you do it.
-Invite some old friends over for dinner. Make a nice dinner and wear actual pants in an effort to make a good impression. Watch helplessly as your children slowly and systematically embarrass you in front of your company by repeatedly engaging in inordinate amounts of potty humor, partial nudity, horrible table manners, and tantrums. In other words, they act like themselves, and you decide that you will no longer host dinner parties.
Exercises in frustration:
-Go do the grocery shopping. Discover to your dismay that the grocery store moved the coffee aisle again in order to accommodate the Valentine’s day display, which was put up one whole day after Christmas. Wander aimlessly about trying to track down everything on your list, taking 1.5 hours instead of your usual 1 hour secondary to the new floor plan. Get home and realize you forgot the milk. Repeat weekly. Forget a different item on your list each time, to keep things interesting.
-Eat dinner with your family every night. Prod you child repeatedly to eat her food, despite her insistence that she is not hungry. Warn her there will be no dessert and no snacks after dinner if she does not eat, and listen to her comply willingly. Then, sit back and wait for her to start whining 5 minutes after dinner that she is soooooo huuuuuungry, plllleeeease can I have a yogurt?
Exercises in anger management:
-start planning for your children’s summer break in March. Plan a variety of camps throughout the summer, peppered with a few carefully placed weeks for down-time and family vacation. Spend several hundred to several thousand dollars on this exercise, depending on your budget. Then stifle your hysteria like a pro as your child comes home in September with their essay about their summer break, which reads, “My summer was pretty boring. I didn’t do very much. It was soooo boring. I’m so glad school started so I don’t have to be bored anymore.”
-Plan family time! It doesn’t matter whether you want to stay home with board games, movies and popcorn, or go out and explore all of the fun things your community has to offer. I am sure that if you put enough time into it, you can plan something that will cause at least one member of your family to pout, whine, complain, or declare extreme boredom or their desire to go home. What better way to practice shoving your anger deep, deep down?
The beauty of these exercises is that you get to do them all the time whether you want to or not!! You don’t even need an accountability group. Your exercises will be available to you all day, and often at random frustrating intervals throughout the night. All for free. No need to wait for motivation to strike, since opportunity is always knocking! Now, let’s see some before and after pictures of THAT!