Most of us don't decide to become mothers because it is going to make our lives easier, richer, or more productive. Maybe child-free couples have more money, time, freedom, and sleep, but kids can have a surprisingly positive impact on your health. Yes, having kids can make us healthier people, and I am not just talking about shunning calorie laden margaritas during pregnancy. So before you go and clean up that Macaroni-and-Cheese-and-Ketchup spill from last night take a break and smile at the ways your kids have made you a healthier person.
Have your health habits changed (for the better) since having kids?
1) Kids remind us to not take life too seriously. Stress is linked to heart related illnesses and death. Seeing your little ones run around with spaghetti glued to their hair and coming out of a bath seemingly muddier than they went in, makes us smile, laugh, and look at life through rosy glasses.
2) Having children renews our sense of hope in the world. A child reminds us that there is good in the world and we are all born with a sense of possibility. With poverty, homelessness, malnutrition, and tragedy on the news every day, it is no wonder we become more pessimistic as we get older, but children give us an opportunity to believe in the world again. With carefree smiles and silly songs, who can't help but think life may really be better if we all start the day singing good morning to each other?
3) Having kids forces us to slow down and chew our food. Really. While parent's lives may seem more hectic than ever before, having children is the perfect excuse to turn off the TV, put out the place mats, and eat together, slowly. Yes, there will be nights everyone needs to run from one place to the next, but making a conscious effort to sit down and say thanks for the food on the table creates healthier eating habits. Make the children an excuse to stop eating aimlessly in front of a TV or just noshing on food with the refrigerator open.
4) Having kids forces parents to make a schedule (even if you don't always stick to it!) When men become dads, they appear to grow a gene that helps them fix everything; when women become moms we get a new gene to be uber-multitaskers and schedulers. Study after study shows that people who schedule working out are more likely to stick to it, so take advantage of this new (or renewed) skill. You already have after school events scheduled in your day, why not pencil in the gym or a run the way you schedule the kid's after school choir?
5) Children make us prioritize what is important. Newsflash: Your body may never look the same as it did before having kids. You may never get a full, uninterrupted hour to work-out again until 2026. Stretch marks (regardless of the cream's hype) will not go away. But, the world is not about size 6 jeans. Kids make us remember this and set fitness, health, and life goals for the sake of living a better life, not looking like a Hollywood starlet.
There you have it - 5 ways parents are healthier with kids than without - it is all about perspective! What a great way to kick off 2011! Here is to you kid!
Have your health habits changed (for the better or worse) since having kids?