If you knew me back in my 20’s, you would know that I had a goal to have three babies by the age of 30. Was I crazy? Who knows, but all my friends sure looked at me like I was. I’m not really sure why I had this goal, but I was serious about it. It could be because of the big age gap between my brothers and me, or because my mom was young and fun so I wanted to be like that with my kids too. Even though we don’t have much of a say when these life events will happen, mine pretty much played out the way I envisioned. I met my husband during my senior year of college and got married at the age of 24. I had my first baby at 26, second at 28, and my third at 30. I sure hit that goal!
So there I was, a stay-at-home mom to three little girls all two years apart. My husband was working very long hours to support this dream I had for our family. While I was incredibly grateful for him working so hard, there were many nights he didn’t get home until the kids were in bed. I was very overwhelmed. Who am I kidding? I was a crazy person! (Can you blame me? Please tell me I’m not the only one that had to have a toddler on my lap and two more kiddos in the corner of an OB-GYN exam room, trying to distract them with lollipops to prevent them from looking in the direction you really don’t want them to look!)
By the time my kids reached the ages of three, five, and seven, I finally realized that I had spent seven years giving all I’ve got to everyone in my family...except for ME. Don't get me wrong. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. They are my babies and they needed me. But after seven straight years of not making time to care for myself, I was desperate. I was so burnt out and I knew that if I didn’t make some changes, I wouldn’t be any good to anyone else.
I remember getting into my car with my youngest two girls and saying, “Mommy is going to find a gym today.” But then I started going over all the reasons that always pop up in my head whenever the thought of joining a gym crossed my mind. They will cry. I'll waste money signing a contract because they will never stay in that kids room. They will get sick being around all those kids. I will feel guilty they are in here just so I can selfishly workout. Trying to block out my thoughts, I started driving and I didn’t even know where I was going. I knew we had a YMCA nearby, but since I had three kids the monthly bill for the “Family Plan” would be way too much. But then I started rationalizing the cost by thinking we were just going to have to suck it up and pay the big bucks for my sanity. As I was on my way to check out the Y, I suddenly remembered seeing signs about a new gym opening in my local mall. I decided to go there first and see what it was like.
I entered The Zoo Health Club with my youngest two tagging along, carrying as many toys as they could fit in their little hands. My first impression was, Wow this place is really clean! I think I’m going to like it! Then I noticed all the brand new shiny equipment. The stairmaster didn’t look the same as it did seven years ago. The sweet smiling face at the front counter asked me if I wanted a tour. We checked out the childcare facility first. It was one big room with tons of toys, baby equipment, a TV playing Disney movies, and video games too. I loved that my girls would be together and not separated by age. Did I mention it was really clean? Then she showed me the room where workout classes took place. There was a Zumba class going on and those girls knew how to shake it! I found myself thinking that was the first class I would try. After walking by tons of equipment and weights, we entered the locker room. The first thing I noticed (besides how clean it was) was that they had a SAUNA. I started imagining dropping my kids off in the childcare room just to go relax in the sauna and enjoy some peace and quiet. (Okay, I’ve totally done that.)
I decided to sign up right there on the spot. I knew this place was for me. I even decided that I was going to work out that same day. I put the girls in childcare and of course my youngest started screaming. I decided not to let it hold me back and to just give it a try. I peeked in the window after a few minutes and saw one of the wonderful childcare teachers snuggling and calming my baby. She may have only lasted 20 minutes that day, but it was a start. Day after day, I continued to go back and eventually stopped getting paged out for a little one crying. They began to enjoy it too and even made a bunch of friends. This quickly became “my place.” For my sanity, health, and overall well-being, I needed it.
I’m still working out at The Zoo today. I get to do the things I was so passionate about before having kids. Take dancing for example. Our Zumba class isn’t your typical Zumba class. We shake it like nobody’s looking. We love our instructor, Kate, and she loves us too! She will even make routines to your favorite 90’s rap music if you ask her to. I’ve also found a love for strength training with classes like TRX and Body Pump. I can feel my body getting stronger everyday. It’s not just about the classes though. It's also about the people. I’ve never seen anything like it in prior gyms. We are like a family, or like most call it “Zoo Crew.” We encourage, push, and support each other daily.
I can now look back to that day in the car not having a clue where I was driving to, and know that God was leading me. He heard my prayers and knew I needed this. When I didn’t know how to take care of myself, he showed me the way. He led me to a place where I can truly rest in Him knowing just how much He loves me!
Meet Jenn. Her warm smile probably has you feeling like you've known her for years. She has the gift of making others feel welcome and understood. Jenn somehow manages to always be punctual, even with a household of three little girls to corral. She's got a huge heart for animals and an eye for the perfect jewelry to match any outfit. A good heart-to-heart, ending in a laugh 'til it hurts kind of moment, feeds her soul. Jenn sees God in the people and beauty that surrounds her.