Monday, August 17, 2009

Balancing My Babies

Before I became a “mom,” I had already considered myself a mom for years. I’ve had pets all my life, and I always considered them my children. When I got pregnant with Kensie, I swore to each one of my animals (at the time, four, two dogs and two cats) that they would not be neglected. I swore that they would stay just as much my children as Kensie would be. We’d still go on walks everyday (dogs). They’d still sleep in the bed with me (dogs and cats). They’d still have full run of the house. They’d get all the attention from me that they had always gotten. I promised them and myself that absolutely nothing would change, and I truly believed it. I mean, how hard could having a kid be?

During my pregnancy, my dogs were the happiest I think they’ve ever been. I only worked for a few months in the beginning of my pregnancy and then was at home (a story for another time), so my dogs went to the beach nearly everyday, rode in my Jeep (yep, that’s a thing of my past now) with me everywhere, had the run of the house and the yard (we were in San Diego at the time, so the weather lent itself to doors being opened all day long), slept on the bed whenever they wanted. The cats got the run of the house, too, but they also got to roam the neighborhood, which they loved. They were all in pet heaven! But when the “little stranger” arrived, our worlds were turned upside-down.

Makensie and I left San Diego when she was five weeks old, and I dragged my animals from this gorgeous land with perfect weather and a their beloved beach all the way across the country to a hot, sticky patch of earth with no water in sight and where the only time they got to run was when it was cool enough (around 5 a.m.) or when someone could make time. And usually, it wasn’t Mommy who was taking them. The everyday runs, usually coordinated by my dad, only lasted a couple of months, then they became few and far between. With this move, my boys (all of my animals are male) did gain a bigger backyard and a couple of buddies (my Mom’s and Dad's dogs), but their time spent exercising and with Mommy began to slip away.

My time back home was consumed with caring for my daughter and working to support us. It was all I could do to keep up (being a new mom and a single mom is a major transformation, one for which I was not quite prepared), and when I wasn’t working, I wanted to spend as much time with my daughter as I could. The animals were always around, of course, but my attention was focused primarily on Makensie. There was no more wrestling time, the dogs could no longer sleep in my bed (mainly because Shakespeare snores and Kota wants out when he wants out, and he’ll wake anyone in his path to get out), and I had very little time to take them to the park except on weekends. They no longer got to ride in the car with me, mostly because there simply wasn’t room, and it was such a hassle to get the dogs and a kid into the car and on the road. They had basically been banished from our area of the house so Kensie could nap during the day and I could sleep at night. What I had sworn to my boys and to myself wouldn’t happen had happened; my babies had become animals.

It’s easy to tell people that I’ve had trouble losing the “baby weight,” but in reality, I only gained about 25 pounds during my pregnancy, so the rest of the extra weight I have on me now slowly took residence over the past two years. But I’m not the only one who’s put on a few pounds. Both of my dogs have packed it on, as well, and for that I feel guilty everyday. I try to tell myself things like “You’ve been through a lot” or “You’re extremely busy, there’s only so much you can do” or “Your life is so hectic, you deserve that second glass of wine,” but the truth is, it’s totally my fault. I haven’t made the time for myself or for my pets. We’ve all packed on the pounds together, and I certainly can’t blame them for that. They can’t go out and walk themselves. They can’t drive themselves to the park. Sure, I get out every now and again and walk Kota (it’s too hot for Shakespeare right now, as he’s a Pug and can’t be out in heat over 70 degrees), but going from running free on the beach everyday to walking on a leash in the neighborhood a couple times a week, if that, is quite the shift in lifestyle. (Yesterday, I took Kota to be groomed, which is why he's so gorgeous in this picture, and the groomer was quite adamant in her “suggestion” that I try and get him in a little more often. So he had a few mats!)

Instead of beating myself up for the dogs gaining weight and being ungroomed, for me gaining weight, for banishing my dogs from my room because they disturb my sleep, for not exercising enough, for not eating as well as I should and giving the boys a few too many snacks, for not giving my pets enough kisses and hugs everyday because I’m “just too busy,” it’s time to make a change. For me, sometimes it’s hard to wrap my brain around change. I get into a comfort zone, and I’m the only one who can get me out of it. But once I make a decision, I’m pretty good about sticking with it. I’m in the brain-wrapping mode right now, but soon, there will be a sweaty redhead with a slightly chunky white dog running her ass off on the blacktop. Or I’ll be lifting weights at the gym, or high-stepping in a step aerobics class, or striking poses in my living room to my yoga DVD. Sure, it may take a little bit more time brain-wrapping to figure out when I’m gonna fit in all the changes that must go along with this transformation (including putting my fur babies back up toward the top of my priority list), but until I make time for myself and get to a place where I am happy with the person I am, how can I ever be a good role model for my daughter? She deserves a happy, healthy, fun, laid-back mommy, and that’s just what I plan to be.