Sometimes I think back to an era I like to call ‘BC’ (Before Children) and go all misty-eyed at the amount of time I had on my hands to cycle.
I never realised how much my favourite hobby would come under siege once I began reproducing and it most definitely never occurred to me that the hardest thing about cycling 'AC ' would be banishing the insidious, creeping ‘mum guilt’ that seemed to accompany every decision I made.
Mum guilt is that horrible nagging little voice in the back of your head screaming that you’re a dreadful mother if you even think about doing anything that doesn’t directly involve your child. It’s the voice that tells you you’re selfish if you want to do something for yourself, like getting out on the bike.
Add mum guilt on top of the severe restrictions on your time that ensue once you have a child in tow, and it’s no wonder that cycling BC becomes more of a mission.
‘It’s fair to say cycling has taken a back seat since I had my son,’ says Rachel, 28. ‘My partner works long hours and when he’s home, he wants family time – if he’s not too knackered from work. I’d feel guilty dumping our son on him or leaving him to make dinner so I could slope off on the bike.’
But there’s no need to turn into a martyr just because you’re a mother – even if it’s a bit harder to balance everything, it can still be done.
‘I do feel guilty about the amount of things I try and cram in,’ says mother-of-two, journalist and triathlete Jenny, 33. ‘But I think it’s really important to find time to exercise and get out in the fresh air and clear my head. It also sets a great example for my kids – my four-year-old daughter has been asking if she can do a triathlon when she’s a mummy!’
Total Women's Cycling is here to help you fight back against that pesky mum-guilt and show you how you can make time to cycle – guilt free.
Think about what kind of example you want to set to your children
If you’re constantly running around after your family and refuse to take even a second for yourself, you’re inadvertently teaching your children that your own needs are less important than everybody else’s.
If you make the time to spend on the bike, you’re showing your children that you have respect for yourself and your body. On top of that you’re showing them that healthy hobbies are for everybody and for life, not just for men or for women who don’t have children.
Think of time away from your children as positive bonding time for them with other family members or friends
Rather than beating yourself up for ‘abandoning’ your kids to go out on the bike, look at it this way. Dad, Grandma or whoever is looking after the children in your absence is getting the chance to build their own relationship with them.
Accept that you won’t ‘find’ the time – you have to make the time
You know the saying ‘if you want something done, ask a busy person?’ Busy people understand that you never ‘find’ the time to do everything you want. Instead, you make the time, by prioritising. Which would you prefer – an hour on the sofa watching TV or an hour on the bike? An extra hour in bed in the morning, or getting up at 6 and getting an early-morning ride under your belt before everybody else wakes up?
Cycle with your child
We know it’s not for everybody, but if you’re comfortable popping your little one on a bike seat or in a trailer, then swapping the buggy or car for a bike could be the perfect solution. Earn extra mum-points by cycling to playgroup or a fun activity for the little one. If you have toddlers why not try them on a specially-designed children’s bike such as a Frog Bike – start with the Tadpole, suitable for little ones aged 2-3, and work your way up.
Take advantage of nap-times and 7pm bedtimes
Young children need a lot of sleep. Which means once they’re in the land of nod, you have time to hop on the bike. If you’re at home alone with your children during the day, break out the turbo trainer whilst Junior slumbers. Or pop out for an hour once your partner gets home from work.
Be honest with yourself about what you’d be doing instead
Now the little one’s tucked up in bed you could go out on the bike for an hour but you should do the laundry, wash up, finish that pile of ironing and make dinner. Be honest. Are you really going to spend the next hour working your way through chores, or are you going to sit down and watch EastEnders? I’m betting it’s the latter – and a bike ride is a far healthier choice than an hour spent with the residents of Albert Square!
Headline image by Scsmith4 via Flickr.com