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4026661070_a4669dd237_b-1I peel them off like layers of clothing. The baby and the toddler go into the 0-3 play area. My five year old, my big kid, is finally graduated into the five and up room, where he plays basketball. I sign them in, one by one, and then slowly walk away. My gait changes from a purposeful, mommy walk, to a woman who isn’t rushing anywhere. I enter the locker room and notice soft, lovely music. Has it been playing all along? I am just noticing it now. It’s wonderful. I pause and take my time using the restroom and washing my hands. I take an extra moment with these arbitrary tasks because I can.

When I’m here, I listen to grown up music. Eminem. Music I can’t listen to in the car because of the language. Because then my children will walk around saying things like “motherf**er” and that would be inappropriate.

But here, I turn it loud. I run. I turn it louder and I run faster. I am out of breath sooner than I’d like and I stop and drink some water. I think about how I’m not sharing this water with anyone right now. In this hour, I’m taking care of only me. I run again. I turn the music louder until it’s all I hear. Until it completely surrounds me.

When I finish- an hour of cardio, 15 push-ups and three sun salutations, I wash my hands again in preparation to pick up my children. I want more time. I want another thirty minutes, but my two year old doesn’t like the baby room, and I don’t want her to get upset. So after an hour, I pick up the children.

I am a stay at home mom of three children five and under. I adore my children. I love being home with them. I recognize it’s a luxury and I’m so grateful for it. But the only way I can be happy as a stay at home mom is if I am not with them all day.

I can’t endure the constant needs, the random whining, or the unpredictable bickering without a little bit of a break. I’m an introvert. I like quiet. And anyone with children knows that this is an almost impossibility. So I go to they gym almost every weekday. Sometimes I meet a friend and we chat over the dull swoosh of the elliptical. I love that. Forty minutes of girl talk; a light escape. It’s my time. In this hour, I take care of me.

It’s selfish. I recognize that going to the gym four times a week is a selfish act. But honestly, that shouldn’t have a negative connotation. We should, as mothers, be able to take care of ourselves without feeling guilty! I am not one of those martryr moms who will spend every minute of every day with the children. That’s not me. My children wait for me as I apply make-up each day. We go to the gym most weekdays so I can exercise. We have quiet time each afternoon so I can have an hour of calm in the middle of a chaotic day.

It’s not just how I survive motherhood; it’s how I thrive. These little check points in the day, where I can prioritize me, refresh me, and help me to focus on my children for the rest of the day. Just because I’m a mom doesn’t mean I can never prioritize myself. We can. We should. It’s not healthy for kids to always believe they come first. Sometimes, I do. And that’s okay.

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photo credit: No more couch potato. via photopin (license)