Family life

Health and fitness for the solo parent?

Losing the baby weight was easy—but no one warned Jennifer Pinarski about the pesky "toddler twenty."

1MomExercise-February2014-iStockphoto

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children.

A few weeks ago, I went to a doctor’s appointment with my three-year-old daughter. While waiting in the exam room I eyed the scale in the corner. Over the last few months my clothes had gotten tighter—I knew I’d put on some weight. Wanting to satisfy my curiosity and see just how much weight I’d put on, I stepped on the scale.

I immediately wished I hadn’t because it was a number I hadn’t seen since my 36 week prenatal checkup nearly four years ago.

When it was our turn to meet the doctor, I timidly brought up my weight gain, wondering if the antidepressants had been the cause—or maybe my thyroid was out of whack. As the doctor filled out the paperwork required to have my thyroid levels tested, he gently reminded me that I’m a busy and stressed mom who puts self-care at the bottom of her to-do list. “I test thyroids all the time, and not a single one has ever come back with problems,” he added.

So the diagnosis for my weight gain? Motherhood.

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The funny thing about what I’m calling the “toddler twenty-ish” (which is actually closer to 30 than I’m comfortable admitting to), is that the 60 pounds I’d gained with each pregnancy came off fairly easily. I continued to work after my first child was born, often running during my lunch hour or riding my bike to my office. Even after my second child was born, I still managed to make time for exercise. Heck, even the name of this blog, Run-at-home Mom, was inspired by the fact that I used to run a lot. These days, my running is limited to when one of my kids is suspiciously quiet in the bathroom and I bolt to see what they’re painting the walls with. Surprisingly, my time is more crunched now that my kids are older, and I find myself with very little time in the day to complete what I used to consider a tough workout.

Read more: 5 ways to work out at home >

But being pressed for time is only part of the problem—I’ve also become a “momivore.” I first heard the term when a pal was making lunch during a playdate, and I asked her what she planned on making for herself. Knowing that her kids wouldn’t clean their plates, she said she’d eat their scraps of grilled cheese. Having been taught as a kid to never leave the table until my plate was cleared, I also find myself swiping the last of my children’s bits of food, reluctant to let anything go to waste. I’m not quite sure when I decided I should be a compost bin.

Oh, and I love to bake with my children.

Read more: Baking with kids: 15 tips to have fun (and stay sane) >

An undesirable side effect to my lack of exercise is a big drop in the energy I normally use to play with my kids—I’m winded after a few minutes of tag and that’s just not fair to my kids. When I exercise I’m in a better mood—and a happy mom is a great mom.

Above all, I want to show my kids that fitness is an important part of our lives, as is eating healthy foods. These two things I have always made a priority for them, but not for myself. Getting back into an exercise routine will be challenging while I’m solo parenting, and it’s frustrating because I’m in terrible shape—but I’ve got to start somewhere, right?

Did you struggle with the “toddler 20”? Let’s cheer each other on! Tweet me at @jenpinarski.