Female friends in the gym.

ParentsOctober 24, 2016

As an exhausted parent, these motivational gym posters really speak to me. Just not about exercise

Female friends in the gym.

Hang on, the poster in the gym that claims ‘first you feel like dying then you feel reborn’ isn’t about getting your child to sleep? That’s news to Spinoff Parents editor Emily Writes.

Saturdays begin with gymnastics class. One of the perks of my baby turning four (what the hell? He was just born) is that he is now in the 10am class instead of 9am.

Attempting to get to gymnastics by 9am each week was my Everest. Despite waking sometimes at 5am or 6am I just could not get both boys out of the door and on to the gym mat by 9am.

Every single week I would rush in, breathless and sweating, at least ten minutes late. Without even a moment to calm myself I’d then be doing stretches. Touch my nose to my toes? Mate if I could do that I’d be dancing topless in Paris not sitting in a gym that smells like feet with a child who could not do a forward roll if his life depended on it.

Emily and her son not pictured. Photo: Christopher Futcher/Getty
Emily and her son not pictured. Photo: Christopher Futcher/Getty

Stand and touch your toes? Why don’t you just ask me to walk on water? I’m more likely to be made a dame for services to drinking wine (is that a thing?) than be able to bend like that.

And then after I’ve almost ripped the crotch out of my “I haven’t been pregnant for almost two years” maternity leggings it’s time to do the circuit.

My son possibly may have been paying attention up until this point, but it is all over once the circuit instructions are given. He doesn’t care at all for the conventional uses of gymnastics equipment.

The rings are a favourite and he will only swing wildly on them.

The hot gymnastics instructor gently encourages him to do a tuck. He stares at him like he just asked him to turn into a giraffe. He says he can be a giraffe.

“Keep your legs together” he is told.

He stretches his legs out like a drunk baby boomer at a winery concert trying to show she can still do the splits (she can’t).

I suggest the hot gymnastics instructor lift himself up on the bars a few more times – you know, just to show him how to do it again. Definitely not just for my viewing pleasure. Usually by this stage my child has run off to roll around on the floor while yelling WATCH ME MAMA WATCH ME WATCH MAMA ARE YOU WATCH MAMA WATCH WATCH WATCH WATCH MAMA WATCH ME.

I head over to where he’s attempting and failing miserably to do a forward roll. He is tenacious. Despite the fact that he does not even for one second come close to doing a forward roll I say “Great job darling!” in a voice so perky it could break glass.

As I encourage him to keep going (because surely he’ll be representing New Zealand in no time if he just does that same thing for at least another 20 minutes) I look around the room to scope out the hot dads.

I notice the gym’s wall is plastered with motivational posters and it occurs to me that they’re perfect for parenting.


Sore? Tired? Out of Breath? Sweaty? Good…it’s working.

I am all of these things by the end of the day after looking after two babies. I am these things just trying to stop my toddler from opening every single drawer and cupboard in the kitchen and bathroom. If I don’t monitor him he will get straight into the knife drawer. He will then delight our guests by walking into the dining area with a butcher knife and a big smile. Did I mention he owns a clown costume?

Out of breath? This is me every time my child makes a run for it – which is every time we are in a crowded place. When we need to be somewhere he will walk at a glacial pace. But if he’s in any area with loads of people and roads or water on either side? I suddenly have a one-year-old Usain Bolt.

So this means it’s working? This means I’m parenting well? Perfect. I deserve this wine then is what you’re saying? Even though it’s only 11am? I’m already starting to feel inspired…


First you feel like dying then you feel reborn?

They’re talking about the bedtime routine right?! It’s so perfect. It exactly describes that moment where you think they’re asleep so you slowly get up but then your knee makes the tiniest cracking sound and the baby starts screaming again and you start screaming and your baby starts laughing and you start crying and the stupid sleep aid you spent $60 on doesn’t do shit and you have to start all over again and it’s going to take another 45 minutes and you’re sure you’re going to die but then they go to sleep after only 35 minutes and you manage to get out AND shut the door without them waking and then you do a slow-motion run on your tiptoes around the lounge whispering Yaaaaaas Thank you JEEEESUS. And you totally do feel reborn until they wake again 45 minutes later.

That’s what they mean aye?


You exercise because completely tiring yourself out is the most relaxing part of your day? Try having children if you like wrecking yourself with exhaustion. So relaxing! It costs about the same as six thousand gym memberships though. And the smell is worse than a gym locker. Other that it’s just perks on perks.


I’m only including this because I’m really tired and when I skim-read this one I thought it said Wake. Eat Ass. Kick. Repeat. And I was like – kick what?

Look I’m going off topic a bit, but honestly – these posters are straight up MADE for parents.

No alarm clock needed, my passion wakes me. Your passion is your baby! Isn’t it great to not have an alarm clock and instead never again wake naturally when you’ve had enough sleep? Just typing out “when you’ve had enough sleep” almost made me cry. HAHA MY LIFE IS A WRECK! I AM FALLING APART LOL LOL LOL

The pain you feel today will be your strength tomorrow. This is about trying to get your child to eat something other than bread isn’t it? Is this about how when you say “no you can’t have any more bread you have to eat something other than bread what do you want to eat?” and they say “a roll” and you say “no a roll is bread” and they say “toast?” and you say “also bread” and they say “a croissant” and you’re like, we live on one income there are no croissants in this house child and how can you even say “croissant”. WILL THIS BE STRENGTH TOMORROW? WILL MY CHILD ONE DAY EAT SOMETHING THAT ISN’T BREAD?

Think about why you started. To be fair, nothing in the advertisement said I would not sleep again after I had it. Also I was told the second labour is easier and that was such a lie it might be the biggest lie that ever lied.


Don’t stop when you are tired, stop when you are done.

Well if this isn’t the parenting manifesto in one sentence I don’t know what is.

Don’t try to be perfect, just try. Now this I can get behind. After seeing this one I thought about my inability to get out the door on time for every damn thing I need to be on time for. I thought about how I always feel like I’m running late and how embarrassing that is given we are always all up so fucking early. I thought about how every time I do a gym class with my son I can’t stop my mind from wandering and I start to obsess over how much it cost to enrol him and whether we can actually afford it and whether swimming lessons would be a better use of our limited funds. What if he wants to do another term and we can’t afford it?

I look at the other parents and wonder if they have the same concerns. If they stayed up late last night working. If they woke during the night to crying dozens of times. If they managed the first four times to be calm but slowly became crankier and shorter with a baby who can’t help that they just can’t sleep. I wonder if they felt that familiar sting of guilt, of grief. I wonder if their fears or anxiety about whether they’re a good enough parent wake them.

Then I stared at my beautiful child still attempting to do a forward roll. He has all of the grace of a two legged dog whose head is stuck in a fence.

We were late again because in the morning the bed is full of our babies. We play peek-a-boo and whisper scary stories under the covers. We have cuddles and kisses and play the “what am I very good at?” game. You are very good at making me smile. Your arms are very good at lifting me for cuddles. Daddy is very good at making dinner and funny faces and mama is very good at telling stories about monkeys. The baby is very good at being a baby. We are very good at loving each other and making each other happy.

We can afford gym class for now because of the work that we do when the kids are asleep. Staying up late means we can do this for now – and aren’t we lucky to have a job that we can do from home. To have a job full stop. To have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. If he needs another term, we will just need to stay up late for a few weeks. It’ll be OK. The baby is a baby and will keep waking – that’s just how it is. But there are friends and family with kind words and offers of babysitting so you can try to get a nap in. Tonight is a new chance to try to cope better on the sixth or seventh wake-up. To keep calm and carry on. There will always be fear, guilt, anxiety – but trying helps. Being able to say I’m doing the best that I can and I’m going to keep trying helps.

That won’t fit on a motivational poster.

But it’ll work as a mantra for this tired mama.


Yes I also agree with whatever this says. Just yes. Definitely.

Emily Writes is editor of The Spinoff Parents. Her book Rants in the Dark is out February 27. Pre-order it here. Follow her on Facebook here.

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