Mothers: Staying Well

Alana, a 33-year-old realtor with two daughters ages six and two, came to Ricki for her annual gynecological visit. Alana showed off pictures of her children, whose red hair matched her husband's, and she laughed softly as she added, They've got his feistiness, too. Before doing the exam, Ricki asked how she was feeling, and she said, Fine, I guess. Alana paused, and Ricki could tell that she didn't want to seem like she was complaining or unable to cope, so she told Alana that raising her own young daughter had worn her out more than a hundred-hour-per-week obstetrics residency. Yes, Alana replied, it's just been very physically taxing, like running myself to the ground, pushing my body to the edge of its capacity. For example, I hardly notice what I eat, but I'm really careful about the girls. I stay up late to pay bills or just relax since it's the only time, but then it all starts again early the next morning. It's all making me feel more and more run down.

Ricki nodded in understanding, having heard essentially the same story literally thousands of times before: a dedicated mom working harder than she ever has, with less time than ever to eat well or sleep or exercise, letting her own needs fall to the lowest priority. On most days, Alana was taking out more from her body's reserves than she was putting back in, so she was becoming gradually more depleted.

No one wants her experience of raising children to be shadowed by fatigue, nagging aches and pains, or emerging health problems. Not only is it a shame, it's also harder to function at a high level at home, at work, or in a marriage when you're running yourself into the ground. Many mothers have more or less resigned themselves to this condition, but the fact is that with only a few changes to your routine, you can be just as healthy after kids as you were before. The moms we know who stay energetic, avoid illness, and keep some reserves in their "health bank" do these essential things:

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Eat right.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Keep a basic balance in their lives.
  • Avoid health hazards like smoking.
  • Have regular checkups.

From Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships by Rick Hansen, Jan Hansen, and Ricki Pollycove. Copyright © 2002 by Rick Hanson. Jan Hanson, and Ricki Pollycove. Used by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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