For the parents in the room: Do you remember what it was like when your baby first came into your life?
Amazing, right? But then the worry sets in.
Outside of the typical concerns about finances and child development, parents worry about their own health. And rightfully so. Almost half (45%) of the adults in the U.S. are managing at least one chronic health condition.
As a dad with two young daughters, I feel the need to be as healthy as I can be for them, but oftentimes it’s a struggle.
With that in mind, I asked five parents how have having kids affected their approach to health and wellness.
1. Rebecca feels she owes it to her youngest son to live a long, healthy life.
Rebecca had her first child when she was a teenager and her fourth and last child when she was 30.
Rebecca (black sweater) and her four kids. Photo from Rebecca, used with permission.
Let’s be clear that 30 shouldn’t be considered “old” by anyone’s standards. But more women than ever are choosing to have children later in life. For Rebecca’s 12-year-old son, that was a problem.
“My youngest has been expressing his anger toward me that I had him so much later than his siblings,” Rebecca said. “He’s worried that I won’t be around for him as long as his brothers and sisters will.”
As a single mom, that made her aware of her own mortality. “Every decision I make now is to be as healthy as possible so I can be there for all of my kids for as long as I can.”
2. Jake started cutting back on his working hours.
Jake is a father of two young boys and he used to work really long hours at his job at a Los Angeles law firm. Yeah, he made really good money, but that salary came at a steep price. He was always tired and stressed and his sons noticed it.
“I would snap at my kids for the smallest things,” Jake told Upworthy. “I could feel that they were becoming uncomfortable around me, and that’s the last thing I wanted.”
It’s hardly a secret that Americans are extremely overworked. The average full-time employee now works 47 hours in a five-day work week. Additionally, almost half of full-time employees work at least 50 hours a week.
Jake knew his job was taking a toll on his health and his relationship with his kids, so he found a new employer that allowed him to spend more time with his family. Yes, he makes significantly less money now, but he’s healthier mentally and emotionally than he’s ever been.
“I have a real relationship with my kids now and I’m happy,” he said. “You can’t put a price tag on that.”
3. Sheila learned that while nutrition and exercise are important, they’re not everything.
Before having her kids, Sheila admits that she wanted to control everything in her life. Without fail, she ensured that each day included three square meals and two snacks in addition to exercising.
But when she became a mom, things changed.
“As a mom, I realized that loving and living is much more important than exact measurements of food and supplements,” Sheila said. “I took a step back because as I watched my kids grow, I was able to witness the awesomeness of the human body.”
Sure, she still eats well and exercises but she’s not going to flip out over skipping a meal or a workout like she used to. The big picture is way more important than the small stuff in her world.
4. Dan uses a simple reminder to keep himself focused on the big picture.
When Dan was in college, his dad passed away from a fatal heart attack. He was only 55 years old.
“I would do anything to have him around,” Dan said. “Being a dad myself now, it just reminds me how important it is to be there [for my kids].”
Then Dan found Fodada, an apparel company catering to dads that runs a “Red Beanie Bond” campaign providing red beanies to newborn babies.
These aren’t just cute accessories. Putting one on a newborn’s head symbolizes a promise that dads will do whatever it takes to live healthy lives for the sake of the little ones who depend on them.
“The moment you put this on your baby, you should understand that the decisions you made for your life and your health for all of the previous years of your life change,” Dan said. “All of your decisions should be for this little beanie and who it goes on.”
5. Emily taught herself to stop worrying so much.
Emily, a mom of four, probably put it best of all.
“If you want to have ice cream for dinner one night, do it. If your kid skips a nap, get over it,” she said. “I believe that worrying about every little thing makes us so unhealthy that we can’t focus on what’s important which is being there for our kids.”