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Parenting

Find Your Zumba
09/04/2012
Julie Samrick
Kid Focused

Last spring, I stumbled upon a Zumba class and it changed my life, but perhaps not for the reason you might think. Unlike any formal exercise I had ever done, I never once looked at the clock; instead, I smiled the whole time, moving to the salsa music and drumbeats, feeling revitalized at the same time I got a great workout. With 25 other moms dancing with me, I felt as much community and joy as I used to feel when I went dancing during my carefree college years.

So I've been going to Zumba on a regular basis, and even got the Zumba for the Wii so I could dance even more at home. Then it hit me. I had quit my job and dedicated myself to my husband and four children 100 percent of the time, and until now, forgotten to keep up with my own hobbies.

Although I used to feel spent, after Zumba I feel recharged. Even though I go right back to being a stay-at-home mom afterward, my entire outlook has changed. It's been a reminder of what people mean when they talk about recharging and wellness, especially for full-time moms.

Janel Crawford, M.D., is an OB-GYN at Kaiser in Folsom, California. She sees a lot of women who forget to take care of themselves. She stresses the importance of pushing ourselves to do the things we once found enjoyable before we had kids and to keep gaining more interests throughout our lives. To ward off stress and depression, she encourages moms to take time as individuals, even if it's as simple as getting a pedicure, taking up knitting, or going for a bike ride at your own pace.

Dr. Crawford thinks it's important for parents to find an activity they enjoy so they'll keep up the habit, and if that hobby also comes in the form of exercise, it's even better. "Exercising for 30 minutes five days a week is great for your physical health," she says, "but it can also ward off anxiety and depression." And if done 10 days before the start of a menstrual cycle, data shows that it reduces PMS.

Psychologist Michael Brickey, Ph.D., is the author of the book Defy Aging. He says hobbies not only reduce stress, but they can also provide a sense of accomplishment. This is particularly necessary for parents who are home with their kids all day and often forget what they enjoyed before they had kids.

"Hobbies can be thought of on three levels," says Dr. Brickey. "The first is as a diversion. Hobbies help us pass the time. The second is as a passion. When a hobby becomes a passion, we become truly engaged in doing something we love. The third level is as something that creates a sense of purpose. We all need that." The ideal hobby, he says, combines all three levels.

And just as exercise buddies keep us motivated, finding hobby partners who fuel our enthusiasm is also a good way to keep it up. Dancing to the Black Eyed Peas with 25 other parents every Tuesday evening is much more fun than dancing alone!

For most moms, downtime is filled increasingly with housework and chores. Dishes, laundry, Play-Doh recipes, and contemplating the psyches of little people consume us. We need to recharge ourselves so that we can keep on giving. To do that, parents need to carve out the time, whether daily or weekly, to do whatever truly rejuvenates them. 

I recently took up guitar as well.  My 4-year-old goes with me to my weekly lesson and gets to see that mommy learns new things too.  I was inspired to take up the guitar after my husband and I went to a friend's 40th birthday party, but instead of a regular party, it was a gig to see him play in his weekend band - his own way to recharge on the weekends after working a nine-to-five job and raising two kids with his supportive wife.  

We all have different interests and different dreams, but whatever your activity, I hope you find your Zumba.


Julie Samrick is a stay-at-home mom of 4 young kids and the founder of Kid Focused, a site devoted to children and family issues.  Subscribe to the free Kid Focused newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox and connect with us on Facebook too.  Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com
Tags: Attitude, Eat Less-Move More, Exercise, Health, Hobbies, Job, Kids, Motivation, Parenting, Purpose, Work
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