Data from the Medibank Better Health Index has revealed women with kids under 18 are less healthy than women without, with an overall health index score of 101.85, compared with 102.56 for women without kids.
We recently chatted with 44-year-old Narelle, mother of three girls under 12, about how she thinks having kids has impacted her health.
Do you think you are more or less healthy since having kids?
I’m sure I was healthier before I had kids. For me – and most mums I’d assume – it all comes down to time. Before kids, I had time to sleep when I needed, time to eat the right foods, time to exercise, and time to just take a quiet moment for myself. These days, I’ve just got to steal moments for myself whenever I can – and it’s not often. Life certainly has changed.
In what ways do you think having kids has impacted your health?
In all the ways you’d expect, really, from having less time to exercise and eat well, to picking up the odd cold from my kids who are at school, the effects of which I’m sure are heightened by the little sleep you get as a mum.
But there are also less obvious ways that I think having kids has impacted my health. For example, I know the research revealed women with kids were found to drink more. I’d agree with this to a certain extent. I do drink more often now – my husband and I enjoy a glass of wine in the evenings in our downtime. However, while I might drink more often, in terms of quantity I’d say I drink less overall, because as a mum you’re always conscious that you need to be in good form the next day!
What about your mental wellbeing?
I hit a bit of a low in terms of mental wellbeing when I first had children, which I think is fairly normal. It comes from experiencing such a sudden change in lifestyle, combined with exhaustion from many sleepless nights. It’s a lot to take in at first, but you adjust.
I’d also say that since having kids, I stress more about day-to-day things, from financial pressures like school fees to coordinating the family and keeping things moving. In saying that, hand-in-hand with the stress is the great sense of fulfilment which having kids has given me. So for me, in terms of mental wellbeing, any negatives like stress are definitely offset by this.
What health advice would you give other mums?
I recently had an ‘aha’ moment which made me take a step back and reflect on where I’m at. I just thought, ‘you know what? It’s time to look after you’.
To other mums, I’d say to get out there and look after your mind, get your body where you want it to be and steal time for yourself whenever you can, for the benefit of both you and your family. And don’t be afraid to ask for help – that’s a big one.
Need some extra guidance around staying fit with kids? Check out our article ‘5 ways to stay fit – with the kids’.