For parents, busy isn’t just a feeling, it’s a way of life. Sometimes we wonder what it was like when we weren’t this busy, and weep for all the sleep we didn’t take advantage of. Wellness dominates our social media feeds, but it’s hard to find the time to incorporate it all when we’re always needed and on the go. Board-certified pediatrician Alison Mitzner doesn’t want parents to see fitness and exercise as a hobby that few have time for but rather as a self-care practice that can fit into any type of lifestyle. It’s not just about being in shape physically, it’s about being mentally healthy, too. “It really does boost your mood and energy and can make you feel better. That’s why I think fitness can really play a positive role.” she says.
Your Child’s Health Includes You
Alison is in the business of making your family feel better. She’s a pediatrician, senior director at a major pharmaceutical company, family wellness expert, and a mother of two. At the foundation of all her roles is the belief that family wellness is as much about the parent’s health as it is about the child’s health. Putting in time to focus on your own well-being has a ripple effect.
She advocates: “I truly think it’s so important because if they take that time for themselves and even if it is just 15-20 minutes, it would have the positive effect on your kid because you’re feeling better as a parent. And it’s not selfish…You’re actually being more selfless because then you are not as stressed. You’re not as anxious. You’re probably sleeping better and not as sleep deprived so you feel better.”
This can be especially true during your first year postpartum, as Alison discovered. Prior to getting pregnant with her first baby, she was experiencing some scary and unexplained health issues that really impacted her postpartum recovery. Alison says, “having persistent headaches and my injury, post-op c-section with delayed recovery, restrictions on not being able to lift more than ten pounds (and therefore not carry my new baby around) was emotionally, physically and logistically tough. It was hard feeling like I couldn’t care for the new baby on my own and at times I felt like I was missing out on new mom life special moments.” During her recovery, Alison made the difficult decision to stop breastfeeding as she recovered from surgery, and although it wasn’t what she had planned to do, she knew it was the best decision for her mental and physical health. “The option to pump and dump to keep my milk flowing for so many weeks post operative until I recovered from my surgery wasn’t something I felt best for me nor did I want to do,” she says. “ I was so in love with being a new mom, I wanted to spend that quality time I had with my new baby not pumping.”
Tune Out The Noise
If we got a penny for every unsolicited piece of advice we received, we would be able to retire early and send our kids to college debt-free. As a single mom, Alison got an even larger share of uninvited opinions. What keeps her sane is remembering the courage she built to make the decision, a decision that ultimately was best for her and her kids. Alison recalls, “I had to just tune everyone out that had an opinion on single moms. Not that there’s such a stigma anymore, but you just have to be confident in what you are as a parent, rather than everyone sort of telling you what to do and how to act as a single mom.”
We solicited her advice for what to do with all the overwhelming input parents receive, and she recommends keeping a small circle of trustworthy people. “Everyone’s going to tell you how to parent and what to do, and I would say, as much as you can, tune it out, aside from your pediatrician or one or two other people that you really trust. Otherwise it will just overwhelm you and you know your kids best and how you want to parent because there’s no one right way,” she shares. “Say thank you, smile, nod, and walk away. You know your baby best and the type of person you are, therefore you know what parenting style works for you. So trust yourself and those selected few and let them guide you with your parenting questions.” Being on both sides—as a pediatrician and a mother—motivated Alison to use her expertise to become a reliable voice, launching a new website to help parents feel more calm and confident through wellness.
Make It Happen
Being a working parent means you’re constantly juggling competing priorities. Alison tells us that because she loves her work and being a mother, she’s had to figure out where to devote her attention and when. “You learn to prioritize what’s most important, what you should do first, then time management becomes that much more important,” she says, adding: “I kind of have to utilize my time and kind of schedule things throughout the day as much as I can. Because, like I said earlier, like things will change with kids in heartbeat every day. But utilize my time more.” Her new normal? Getting up really early, like 5:00-5:30 a.m. early. We’re not exactly morning people, but kids do have a habit of introducing new patterns in our lives.
The first year is a year of firsts for baby AND mom, and it can take some time to adjust. But there’s so much joy and beauty in the little moments. Alison says the word she’d use to describe her first year as a mom is AMAZING, for two reasons. “It is this amazing unconditional love like no other towards our newborn baby. It is just amazing to see all the new things and milestones they reach each and every day,” she says. “In the first year, and it is amazing to see how they take it all in, and learn from us – their mom.” But also, it’s amazing to witness your own growth and potential in the face of this momentous life change. She goes on to say, “As moms it is amazing how we can just do it. It is this love and amazing person now in your life that makes it happen and all worth it too.”
Little Kids, Big Personalities
Alison’s two young children are growing into their individual selves and personalities. She recently gifted her brother and sister-in-law with her former stroller, and it hit her even more so that her babies aren’t actual babies anymore. Still, the fun hasn’t stopped as she’s encouraging them to explore. “Now it’s just like what they love to do after school and finding their interests and really letting them pursue that part,” she says.
With school-aged children, a new normal for Alison is sibling rivalry. Her kids each have their own strong personalities, and on occasion butt heads. She recalls, “So if I do something for one and the other one will be like well what about me and then they start a little rivalry. I think that that’s something that’s new and a challenge.” A challenge we know the unstoppable Alison Mitzner will conquer in stride.