Traditionally the question, “Are you fit to serve?” scrutinized young men’s grit to execute their country’s military agenda.
During the birth of my second niece I thought about fitness and service in a very different context: parenthood. Instead of fighting an opponent, what about training the body and mind to nurture?
As Clif Bar’s perinatal yoga teacher I’ve witness the unique path women take into motherhood. Although I’m not yet a mom, watching my friends and students has revealed the intricacies of modern child rearing.
Who’s equipped to transform these unsanitary and uncivilized blobs into self-regulating and self-determined rock stars? The process often appears extremely optimistic if not delusional.
First, bow before the tempestuous fertility gods. Be warned that they don’t conform to our information age ideas of fairness and appropriate timing. Seek refuge in the medical-industrial complex or a patchwork of alternative modalities. (Neither will be cheap.)
Once pregnant, try marching down the street while bombarded by politics and projections. Ready to get that zygote out on dry land? Oy vey. Do all your hip openers, make elaborate birth plans, and breath deeply. You’ll need more core strength than any gym workout ever demands.
Schlepping an awkward car seat requires more than toned biceps. Add groceries and a diaper bag only to realize that parenthood is an asymmetrical sport far beyond tennis or baseball.
Teeter between purity and practicality but you’ll inevitability fall into an abyss of brightly colored plastic. If you must launch an assault, defend your family against incessant onslaught of sugar.
Feeling heroic for mastering the 3:00am swaddle or commanding few bites of broccoli down? Brace for a grandparent communication breakdown. Will someone please invent the Intergeneration Translation app?
In your spare time, you and your harmonious co-parent should each earn at least six figures to sustain the entire operation. The anxiety torpedoes the sympathetic nervous system into survival mode. When did providing simple, unconditional love get so complicated?
Amidst the chaos, a movement practice seems most needed and the least likely to happen. How do we find the time and space to train for the selfless service of parenthood?
As first world parents, let’s reframe our luxuries:
- The time: Heading out for a walk with baby. An exercise video during nap time. Toss the toddlers around like eager kettlebells in the yard.
- The hand off: Getting a little time to yourself makes for better parenting. My student would tell her young kids, “Mommy is going to yoga now and when she comes back, she will be a better mommy.”
- The support: A soccer team. A running buddy. Comrades who push and encourage you.
- The teacher or trainer: A trustworthy leader can tell you exactly what to do. Seize any opportunity to outsource your self care.
Here are suggested components of training:
- Burn off a some steam. Elevate the heart rate up as you release potty training frustration on a punching bag.
- Listen to raunchy music on a run or in a dance class. Play anything other than “The Hippo Song.”
- Establish inner stability with core conditioning.
- Practice bending without breaking. Yogifty the tight shoulders and achy low back from carrying baby.
- Find quiet and calm. Learn relaxation techniques that transcend a decent bottle of Zinfandel.
Instead of another chore, training could create more everyday ease. We learn to better leverage the skeleton and the spirit for this intense tour of duty. As we unplug from the Twitterfeed we hear the kids’ invitation to play again. Let’s allow their vulnerability to disarm us. As we stop warring with ourselves, we find peace with parenting.