JESSICA STEWART, MOTHER OF 3, EXPLAINS HOW SHE BALANCES FAMILY, WORK, MARTIAL ARTS AND SHOPPING
The other day my mother noted, surprised, that I’d been doing taekwondo for five years and I realised how it’s become a part of my life. With three kids, full-time work and a general disinclination towards exercise, how did I get here? I think it’s a combination of planning, commitment and taking advantage of a few indirect benefits.
First up, I needed to be organised with something to push me. Having a sport with a built-in structure of milestones and targets has definitely helped. Why would you stay a white or yellow belt, limited to basic kicks, when you could be blue, or red, or black? Nailing a hard technique is such a buzz. But you don’t need martial arts to set targets. A friend taught herself to run by starting out walking and then running home. She moved the point where she started running further and further back until she left the house running. Now she’s doing 10ks.
My daughter’s aptitude and love for taekwondo was another key driver in keeping me going too. Use your children’s enthusiasm to motivate you!
Logistics can be tricky. I know a few families who all train together, parents and kids, which is a fabulous way to do it. My daughter was introduced to AMA through a friend and I’ve been sharing the driving with her parents from the beginning. I would swing by after work, do an Adults class, then bring the girls home. Find out if any children living locally are interested in coming along. There might be some days you can share pick-ups and drop-offs.
It’s helped that I’ve mostly had some flexibility at work. I negotiated a 10am-6pm day when I went back to work full time years ago and I still take care of mornings, organising breakfast and school. My husband does afternoons and dinner (he’s a great cook!).
I’ve been vigilant in keeping Saturdays for taekwondo. Sometimes I know I’m going to be there for a few hours so I pack a towel, and use the shower in the changing room. Stretched out on the grassy village green of the Addison Road Community Centre with a good book, or my laptop, it feels like a second backyard. With trees to climb and plenty of friends, there aren’t any complaints from Eleanor either if she has to wait for me. She was deep in conversation with a fellow student just this week while his mother looked on in astonishment at his new-found social skills.
Sundays we keep for family time and shopping—getting the week’s groceries done in one hit has long been crucial to our household’s collective sanity. Sometimes we give the kids a pass-out, but mostly we do it together. Ok, they might not love it but they don’t complain much either. We do mega loads of laundry on the weekend too which I’ve found more efficient than bits through the week.
These are things that worked for us—there isn’t a cookie-cutter answer and everybody will have different routines. The Nike slogan, Just Do It is on the mark. It doesn’t matter what, only that you do. I made the time and then, without really noticing, it became a habit.
And the thing I’ve found about commitment is that it’s bankable. You get to a point where you can draw on it. And I did in the year getting to my black belt. My 6am wakeups to train in the dark and the cold depended on it. And I’d do the afternoon class, drive Eleanor home, eat quickly, and return for the evening class. Once, I was wondering aloud whether I manage it that day and my instructor (that tough taskmaster Ms Sarah!) said ‘just come back’. And I knew she was right. All I had to do was pick up my keys and turn around. My training helped me stop thinking how hard it might be, and just set my body to autopilot.
You can too.