Off the Sofa

Follow Claire Smith's Mothering Heights on Twitter @MinistryOfMum

Follow Claire Smith's Mothering Heights on Twitter @MinistryOfMum - Credit: Archant

I am about to write three words that I never thought I would - I am exercising.

They are not just words on this page, they are actually my reality. I’m not even lying, not one little bit. And I can’t quite believe it.

You see, I have become one of those mothers who does the school run in work-out clothes. One of those mothers who triptrops into the playground in trainers with ponytail swinging and a slight air of smugness that the morning will not be spent at Starbucks. In fact, one of those mothers who I have screwed my eyes up to and taken the mickey out of for the past five years.

We all know those mothers. They swan around in their Adidas as they drop off the children before hitting the gym and before being hit by the mums who have to go to the office or do housework. They talk about how they’ve entered for the marathon or done 587 pilates classes so far that month. And really, nobody loves anything as much as these mothers love their 10ks.

But my years of resenting those mothers has bitten me on my starting-to-get-toned backside because I’ve become one of them.


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I have no idea how it began except to say that during my little mum-break to Philadelphia where I ate Philly Cheese Steak 24/7, I’ve definitely piled on a few pounds. My tiredness was getting ridiculous, especially because I sleep for a good eight hours a night, albeit squished around a starfished four year old. I was eating probably three packs of crisps a day with hardly any vegetables and even less fruit. And because I’m in my forties now and ten years married, I was getting very complacent.

Something changed. Perhaps I got fed up with hearing myself moan about how exhausted I was. Perhaps I thought that through exercise I could even become a better person. Perhaps I felt that if I do something productive, rather than sit around on social media, my whole attitude to parenting would change. Perhaps I realised that I need a healthy body to support my unhealthy mind.

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In fact, there has really only been one thing that has been bothering me. As a stay-at-home mum I’ve been worried that my children see me as nothing but their servant. That their view of me is of somebody who hangs around the house, doing very little. Which wouldn’t be too far from the truth. I’ve been thinking about how I could inspire them in my own little way and show them that women aren’t just in the home.

Since me getting a job wouldn’t work right now, I decided that it was time to get off the sofa and do something so at least they could see their mother having a focus aside from being at their every beck and call.

So the first thing I did was sign up for Race For Life, to give me something to work towards. A future event that wasn’t the new series of Homeland or the opening of a coffee bar. After doing this and thinking that my kids would see it as inspirational, I sat them down and explained it to them. “That’s amazing, Mummy” they said. “But can you get dinner ready now?”

I started off by downloading an app. Getting the right one was a workout in itself because there are so many to choose from and let’s face it, if I’m going to exercise I’ve got to involve my mobile phone somehow. I also signed up for a cheap local gym where I shocked the trainer as well as myself when I had to write down an example of my daily diet. The first few sessions there, I managed about 2.5 minutes on the crosstrainer before collapsing in a sweaty, junk-food filled mess.

When walking the dog, I started to use the time to run. I thought it was going well until one morning, after running for about five minutes, a fellow dog walker passed me and said “Blimey, you look knackered.”

I’m getting better though. I’m six weeks in and starting to see and feel the benefits. Any smugness I had, however, was quickly banished when I fell over in the playground in my new trainers in full view of everyone and ripped a massive, bloody hole in my joggers. Plus no matter what rose-tinted glasses I’m wearing, I still look dreadful in the gym mirror. So now, I’m much more modest.

My body might be getting healthy but my mind still remains unhealthy because, really, exercise is a fantastic excuse for a bit of retail therapy. If I’m going to do this then I just need to pop to town to get socks/water bottle/t-shirt and obviously sneak in the odd new frock. It’s also a brilliant way to escape that bedtime hour between 7pm – 8pm because it’s the only time I can possibly run today so can you sort the kids please darling.

As my husband pointed out, exercise hasn’t really made me a better person because obviously it’s not changed my personality, but I will say this – it’s changed my attitude. Instead of the tired, crisp-eating, coke-drinking, moaning mother that I was, I’ve got a bit of a spring in my step.

My children’s attitude, however, hasn’t changed one bit. I’m not sure that I’m shaping their view of women in any different direction. They know that mummy now goes for a quick run rather than round a friend’s house for a sneaky gin and tonic but they still, without a doubt, see me as their servant.

Yes, their servant - who can now move faster.

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