Goals life Parenting

Guilt (in brief) and my next fitness goal

January 7, 2020

First, a little bit re: guilt.

Commenter E wrote:

“Do you have any guilt about leaving the big kids with a babysitter? Not at all implying that you should but it’s something I struggle with when the kids only get like 2 quality hours in the evening during the week with me.”

I believe E asked because I had mentioned hiring a sitter for some shorter weekend stints. To elaborate on my motivations, I feel much better when I exercise consistently (6 days/week is usually my sweet spot) and honestly, getting up super early on weekends makes me tired and is just not my preference.

Josh would like to exercise occasionally too AND often needs some time to do work on weekend mornings.

SOLUTION: have a babysitter come to the house from ~7:30 – 9:30 so that I can work out at a reasonable hour and be showered and centered and ready for full-on Parenting duties by 9:30 AM. Then, Josh can spend some of that morning working, working out, sleeping, whatever he needs to do.

I can also book the sitter slightly longer on Sundays so that I can take Viva to her beloved MyGym. This is the only time I really get to focus on her alone, so I think it’s good for both of us! I may replace it with a swim class at some point as we get closer to summer.

GUILT: not part of the equation. There are a lot of hours in the day after 9:30 am on weekends that I can spend with my kids! I will be a happier more focused parent if I have managed to meet my needs (ie, get my workout in). I will be in a happier marriage if my husband feels like he gets some time for himself too (and can keep up with his charts at work which sadly is a chronic stressor).

I maybe got a tinge of guilt about the $ this costs, but honestly this use of $ fits in very well with my values and what I WANT to be spending money on.

On some Saturdays, we will also head out for a date night at ~6 pm. HORRORS, two babysitters in one day! But this serves a different purpose – it’s time that Josh and I can connect and have an uninterrupted conversation and have a brief moment of remembering what it is like to be together without distractions. It’s good for us and I love this part of my life.

Even if we miss the front and back ends of a given Saturday, there are still 8.5 hours of waking kid hours in between. (Your kids are probably not tallying up Hours of Parent Face Time, either).

There are plenty of things I feel guilty about. Using disposable cups (REALLY trying to work on this), for example. But babysitters do not make me feel guilty. They make me feel . . . happy.

(PS: I know many people who have parents nearby who fill this role, but neither set of grandparents is able to do this in our circumstance. I wonder if people with significant family help get asked about guilt as much.)

((PPS: Commenter E, this is not in any way meant to disparage your comment! I don’t think you meant anything negative by asking; here is just my thorough and genuine response 🙂 ))

Living with intention not guilt

Onto another topic: my next fitness goal!

Things I am considering this year: a block of more focused strength work (80 Day Obsession or maybe a modified version); longer race training (MAYBE, I am undecided). But first — I am going to work on my running speed. Josh is confident that if I build up using the plans from Daniels Running Formula, I will get faster. Therefore, I am going to train for a 5K over the next ~3 months! I just need to find one out here in April or so. Maybe this one (looks tiny but is very close to where we live!).

I will share my training week by week. I will be interested to see if I can increase my speed by running a bit more and doing more tempo/speedwork (I didn’t do much at all in my half training).

New BOBW ep: a fun one where Laura and I share our favorite things (and some of your favorites, too). Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts! Of note, we recorded this before she had her (beautiful) baby boy. Stay tuned for a future birth story & update ep coming up.


  • Reply Gillian January 7, 2020 at 7:20 am

    Thank you! I work about 45 hours per week (based on time tracking). I have 61 hours per week of childcare (a weird number, but there it is). The extra hour allow me to exercise, have 1:1 time with each of my 4 kids and spend time with my husband and friends. I don’t feel guilty. However, when I had only enough hours of childcare to cover my work time I felt super stressed. Sooooo much better with some extra help.

  • Reply Diana January 7, 2020 at 9:15 am

    I wish it had occurred to me to use babysitters like this when my teenager was younger. It’s such a smart use of resources and good for both parent and child. I think I would have felt a twinge of guilt initially but would have been won over by feeling like a more present parent later!
    It’d also help deal with the sadness that I didn’t have family who could help out.

  • Reply Hannah January 7, 2020 at 9:21 am

    I appreciate this! I totally get E’s comment because there are times when I feel guilty about not spending time with my kids. BUT, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect parents to spend 100% of their non-working time with their kids. My husband and I belong to a fantastic gym and pay extra for the gym daycare, which we feel great about because it allows us to obviously workout while our kids are being well-cared for but also I really value the time afterwards when I get to shower in peace and get myself ready/dressed without interruption. I feel like I am a much more patient, grounded person when I go pick them up which sets the tone for some mindful, quality time together afterwards.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns January 7, 2020 at 10:29 am

    Thanks for the response on this, Sarah. You are in a unique situation of your husband not being reliably home on weekends. We do a lot of trading off in our household on weekends but it’s different because my husband and I work M-F jobs and rarely have to work on the weekends.

    One thing that’s helped with the guilt of taking time away from our son is asking myself if I am really loving all 10 hours (or however many you spend with your child on the weekend). I ask myself if taking 2 hours for myself means I will be more present/happy for the other 8 (or something along those lines). I think back to the Cribsheet book and your interview with the author, Emily Oster. She talks about the law of diminishing returns and how your 6th hour at work can still be enjoyable but your 6th hour with your children is often not enjoyable, especially when you have young children. We haven’t needed a babysitter yet since we can trade off, but I am trying to work on being better about going on dates with my husband as we went on VERY few last year!

  • Reply Caitlin January 7, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    I am really curious to know when and where this type of guilt originated. I know the reasons might differ a bit from person to person but it must be some sort of cultural message aimed at mothers coming from somewhere, and it must have sprung up in the last twenty years or so. It also seems like intertwined with this is the idea that you have to be playing with and having extreme quality time with your kid(s) the entire time you’re not working, which obviously doesn’t work for anyone, so what difference does it make if a baby sitter is there for some of that and actual quality time happens later, when you are refreshed from taking time for yourself?

  • Reply Clare January 7, 2020 at 2:26 pm

    Just a comment on having family babysit – I think it could be seen in a more positive light by some, compared to paying a sitter, because of the mutual benefit (you get the time away you need and they get to spend time with grandchildren, nieces, nephews etc) But I doubt many relatives would be keen to sign up for a weekly slot, especially at 7.30am on a Saturday! I always feel like asking the grannies to mind the kids is more as a favour so sometimes it’s more practical to arrange a babysitter.

  • Reply Ana January 7, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    I love this. Good for you for figuring out what you need and making it happen. You will reassess over time and adjust as needed. Our kids sleep in late enough these days that we don’t need an early morning weekend sitter, but it makes perfect sense! And agree with above comment regarding: where is the guilt COMING from? Answer: patriarchy

    • Reply Marthe January 7, 2020 at 3:22 pm


  • Reply Jill January 7, 2020 at 4:13 pm

    Good for you! I think your weekend childcare plans sounds very reasonable and I completely respect and understand your decision to hire help. I think many of the opponents or critics of this idea, come from more of an envious position and perhaps have more financial stressors that limit the opportunity to utilize this solution. (** I am definitely in the boat where, unfortunately, that’s just not an option). However, no one should be guilting or mom-shaming you. You do you and more power to you!

  • Reply omdg January 7, 2020 at 4:27 pm

    Such a perfect response! I don’t know why any of us should feel guilty about doing hiring childcare, especially if this is to further our careers or take better care of ourselves. It’s so pervasive though. I still get comments about how selfish I am for considering uprooting my family for my career. What am I supposed to do? Take some job I don’t want? Throw away a bunch of my training? It makes no sense.

  • Reply Lindsey January 7, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    A thought on running speed. Can you join a local running group? I do a track workout each week with my running group and it’s really hard and has improved my pace significantly. My current PR at age 38 after 3 kids is a 6:10 mile! It’s also nice to be social.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 8, 2020 at 5:05 am

      WOW! 6:10 amazing. I’m just not sure if I want to have to follow someone else’s schedule (unless there’s a 5:30 AM group out there!) but it’s an intriguing idea!

      • Reply KGC January 8, 2020 at 5:44 am

        If you were interested in group running, you could look for a local Moms Run This Town (MRTT) chapter. It’s a huge group nationally and my local chapter has hundreds of people. I very regularly run with a 5am group several days a week because we’re all working moms and that’s the only time we can make it happen! And there’s something to be said for running with a group of supportive women. The only downside is that they are Facebook-based (that’s how the group is set up and communicates) so I have to maintain an active account on Facebook. If not for the MRTT group, I would 100% quit FB and probably run only about 10% of my normal mileage. In my group, there are lots of people who do regular track workouts, speed training, long mellow runs, etc. Group running isn’t for everyone but you might try to find a chapter if you think you want to give it a try as a tool to get faster!

  • Reply Anne Perry January 7, 2020 at 8:28 pm

    Curious why you prefer babysitters for working out versus joining a gym? ( no judgment – really just curious). I’ve always loved working out but never joined a gym until I had my first child and then needed one with a good child care watch area. Now I love it because I feel like it’s also good stimulation for them to get out of the house (my husband works a lot of weekends and holidays too and my family also not close) and play with the counselors / other toys for a bit.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 8, 2020 at 5:04 am

      A few reasons 🙂 One is that running is my favorite workout and over the years I have grown to hate the treadmill! (When I do weights it’s at home with my virtual pal Autumn Calabrese 🙂 ). Second, I just find it more relaxing not to have to worry about getting everyone out of the house (and at 7:30 C might actually still be asleep). Third, having a babysitter at home means I can shower afterwards without stress. I agree gym childcare has benefits too and is probably more cost effective!

  • Reply Emily January 7, 2020 at 9:36 pm

    I loved this thoughtful response so much!! Thank you so much for answering my question so well. Helps reframe my own perspective

  • Reply September Gerety January 8, 2020 at 5:00 am

    I think Laura would probably say that 2 hours/night of quality time during the week is more than many parents spend, even when they are not working outside the home.

    I have had some major mom guilt over the amount of work travel that I do (I usually travel for 3-4 days at a time, and travel 35-40 weeks each year). Not only that, when the kids were little, I prioritized exercise, hiring child care for yoga classes and to train for races. I have four kids, the youngest of whom is now 17. They think it’s silly that I ever felt guilty.

    I asked one of my sons whether he minded that I missed so many of his band performances over the years, and his response was, “You missed performances?” There were two years where bad timing of travel meant that I missed literally every recital/performance/special event that any of the kids had, and yet clearly it did not scar them.

    All that is to say, I fully support your answer!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 8, 2020 at 5:03 am

      LOVE hearing this from the kids’ perspective! Thank you!!

  • Reply Sneakers January 8, 2020 at 6:50 am

    When our now 9 year old was 2-4 or so, we would have our first nanny (we were on our 2nd nanny at that point) come for 3 hours on Sunday afternoons. Otherwise, we were often trading her off during the weekend between us – to get house and work things done. My husband needs to work a chunk most weekends – and if I have an hour dedicated, it makes my start of the week so better (and the late evenings less). We would often use the first hour to do something together (as prosaic as a walk or a grocery store run) – and then we’d both work and I’d head to the gym often too. It meant that the rest of the weekend, we did things as a family because we had this time set aside. It also meant that our daughter was usually outside playing on those afternoons, not running errands with us. Each family is different and it is important to do what works for yours.

  • Reply Hilde January 8, 2020 at 8:58 am

    I currently live in Southern Italy and daycare is also open on Saturday from 8am-1pm. In the beginning we felt a bit weird bringing our children (1&2y old) to daycare on Saturdays. But it is SO perfect! My husband and I get to exercise, work on personal projects / catch up on work, lunch together and then pick up the kids. They fall asleep in the car so nap time is covered & then we have 100% family time, strolling around pretty Italian cities, going to the beach, eating gelato and enjoying “la dolce vita”. And this comes at no additional cost!! So for me, your 2 hours are on the short side! 🙂

    PS: I also occasionally travel for work and we also hire a sitter at home for 2 hours every week day in addition to daycare hours (7am-3pm). I don’t feel guilty at all. I still spend A LOT of time with my kids: roughly 4 hours on week days (of which 2-3hours are really quality time) + weekends are also very family focused as we are expats with no family/close friends nearby. Weekends just come with far less obligations than they used to!

    • Reply Laura January 8, 2020 at 11:01 am

      @Hilde – this is fascinating! I’m curious what drives these daycare hours. Is a half day on Saturday a requirement of a reasonable number of people’s jobs, or was it set up for parents to do errands/chores/leisure?

      • Reply Hilde January 9, 2020 at 5:45 pm

        @Laura – Day care is roughly aligned with school hours and the Italian children (in Puglia at least) have to go to school on Saturday morning! I actually have the impression few of the other moms are working so there seems to be little correlation between opening hours and people’s jobs. Our day care now stays open until 3pm because I requested it, otherwise they would close even earlier! (I pick my kids up at 3pm and then have a nanny from 5-7pm.) I still need to figure out a lot about Italian time schedules and rationales. It often seems illogical for my Belgian brain. For example: year round, all shops/restaurants/… are closed between 1-5pm. Public life is entirely non-existent during those 4(!) afternoon hours. Except for confused tourists, all public squares are completely empty. Even our town fountain is turned off! This makes some sense during the summer months when it’s too hot, but they stick to this schedule for the other 8-9 months as well. But I have to admit: they are among the healthiest and longest living compared to just about anywhere in the world so who am I to judge their life styles. 😉

  • Reply Stephanie January 8, 2020 at 2:52 pm

    I really appreciate this response and hope I can internalize the messages a bit more!

    I think I am in the minority (or even solo) in this comment section in that I DO feel this guilt as a working mom, even though I enjoy working outside the home and find a lot of satisfaction in my career. But my husband and I both commute (only 20 min with no traffic, but easily 45+ during rush hour) and work full-time, with some evenings required of both of us. And I find those feelings of guilt creeping up when we have a rushed morning routine and maybe two hours in the evening that are full of nagging to eat dinner, take a bath, the bedtime routine, and so on.

    Maybe it’s because we struggled to built our family and sometimes I feel like I should be doing more/appreciating motherhood more/etc? I spent years wanting so badly to be a parent and now that I am, I feel “pressure” (self-imposed) to be as present and involved as possible.

    It could also be child personality type? Our son LOVES family time and it pulls at my heart to hear him ask for mommy/daddy to put him to bed and to not be able to do that (just an example).

    Anyway, no real point to my comment other than I appreciate your outlook and perspective and am trying to be a little easier on myself!

    • Reply Erin January 8, 2020 at 8:50 pm

      Stephanie’s comment above is spot on. For us, it’s that the 2 or 3 hours in evening are hardly quality, they’re filled with making dinner, getting kids to eat and get thru bedtime routine etc. Sometimes having lots of “quanity” brings about more quality. You can’t force your kids to share their days etc but if you are just around and available for when they want to talk or hang out, it leads to quality. I find this more important as kids get older.

  • Reply A. January 9, 2020 at 8:14 am

    I will ask a question that is like stepping back a lot: why do we have 2-3-4 kids if we need that much exterior help and all those guilts/overwhelming feelings that come with it? It is not sarcasm, it is a real question that I ask myself when I see my friends struggling… What is the motivation? I have one son and it will probably stay that way because my personal reflexion is that if I need that much help, space, time and to achieve a career, it is just not compatible with my life in 2020… And it is ok. Society wants us to think that we NEED 1+ kids and it creates so much stress on families.

    • Reply Katherine Bunting January 9, 2020 at 9:28 am

      One answer could be for the kids themselves, now and in the future. It is hard when they are young but with luck siblings become special friends and as they get older often occupy themselves without parental intervention. My daughters are now nearly 20 and nearly 16 and spend a lot of time together and have done for a number of years and I expect them to continue to do so. My dad is 80 and still laments the fact he was an only child (WW2 had something to do with this!) and so has no siblings, whereas he and my mum still regularly go on holiday with her younger brother and his wife. He felt this particularly when his parents died and he had no sibling to share any memories of them with from childhood and adolescence. I’m 55 now and still very glad I had two younger brothers to boss around as we all grew up together and still have them so as also to enjoy sisters in law, nieces and nephews and in due course their children!

      • Reply A. January 13, 2020 at 1:24 pm

        Thank you for your response! Those are good points.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger January 9, 2020 at 11:50 am

      I don’t know if it’s society; I felt very personally and biologically driven to have more than 1. Totally fine for those that choose 0, 1, or more. I mean . . . I like my work, I earn $, and I use it in part to make things work from a home life perspective. I can’t think of anything I’d like to spend out on more!

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