Muscle-Up Orphans

I saw this quote posted on social media awhile back:

“I don’t want to be the mom who is too busy to watch her kids because I am working on my muscle-ups.”

My gut reaction was to be quite irked by this.  My emotions read it as, “Oh, one of those moms?  The selfish ones who want to train?”  I know and like the person being quoted, she is an incredibly high level athlete (who has dedicated years to training and competition herself) and I’m sure she was simply referring to the choices that work best for her family.

Nevertheless, I put some thought why it bothered me.  On a base level it immediately tapped into that lurking, insidious mommy-guilt*.  It also had a really “mommy wars” feel to it, a concept I despise because of it’s assumption there’s one right or superior way to do things.  I’m sure I’m reading more into it than is there, but the image conjured in my mind was of a CrossFit version of the mythical welfare mother.  A bunch of unattended children running wild while their mother does muscle ups and takes selfies of her abs.

All the mothers I know (athlete or not) are in a constant daily battle to balance parenting, partnering, work, and other aspirations all while continuing to develop as people.  Whether that development comes via hobbies, fitness, study, or whatever avenue, it should be supported and embraced as part of being a whole person who is also a mother.  Parenting is like breathing to me, it doesn’t stop because of any other task or activity.  “Parent” really isn’t a title it’s a state of being.


I’m fortunate because through ongoing efforts and a commitment, what I do as a mother and training for the CrossFit Games has become pretty integrated.   It’s a normal part of our life.  If I were a surgeon, a student, a baker, or cleaned toilets for a living I wouldn’t suddenly become a less effective parent.  In fact, I think my choice to train and my life as mother are symbiotic.  My son helps my training and my training helps me be a better mother to him.

Right around the time I saw that quote I had just had one of the most awesome days ever at the gym with my son.  It was a snowy day in Chicago, so we might have otherwise been cooped up.  I actually didn’t feel much like training but my son wanted to go to the gym, so off we went.  Win/win, he gets to have a place to run and play and I get my workout in.  We put on Disney radio and went to it.  I did some sled drag intervals and he recorded my times for me and used a baseball bat and ball to play a sort of mini-golf between my legs and the sled as I pulled it.  He sat perched on a yoke having a snack and cheering me on through my muscle-ups.  Out of the blue he asked me, “Mommy, are you doing what you want to do or what you have to do?”  What better way to teach your kids about the process of working to achieve a goal than through example?  Frankly, his question was a huge benefit to me by starting a reflection on what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis and why.   This child keeps me grounded in what really matters and also inspires me to create the best life for us.  You know, like Oprah style “Live Your Best Life.”IMG_2958

The search for life balance as a parent, just like scales, is never static but a constant adjustment.  I look at other parents that I respect for reassurance that it can be done, but not how to do it because that’s unique to each family.


*Constant or easily triggered sense of unease based in the desire to always do what’s right for your children, and having infinite possibilities for what that is.  Fathers may also be afflicted.

Author: Elisabeth Akinwale

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  • Beautifully said! I’m a full time grad student, an affiliate owner (I’ll be open in a few weeks), I’m a crossfitter, I’m a full time chef, a driver, a doctor/nurse, I run a laundry mat, I’m a cop (only in my house), an accountant, the gardener, etc…..Yes! I am a mother! It’s exhausting to read it. BUT I won’t change anything! I realized that everything I’ve done and continue to do inspires my little girl! Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone!

  • Great read! So I’m a wife, mother, grad student, crossfitter, and many other things just like many of the women posting. I despise the mommy wars with everything in me. You’re doing what’s best for you and your son, and it works for you. I have two boys, si taking them to my gym is like Christmas morning everytime. Like you said “is a win-win for both of us”

    Keep up the hard work and quality time with your son. Oh yea, where can I order your shirt?

  • Hi Liz, I feel like I know you just from reading All of your posts & etc. Im an african american crossfitter with one son who is 6. He and my husband keep me grounded and they provide me daily assurity that Crossfit/working out/being healthy is necessary no matter what others think. “Parenting is like breathing” it comes natural and the naturals do it well balanced!

  • My box recently started offering CF kids and I love that we can both go and get in a great workout. It really helped out with my “mommy-guilt” which was I realize was unwarranted. Thanks for posting this! When we work hard and challenge ourselves, not only is it a great example to our children, but we are more heathy and energetic for them.

  • I think that’s awesome your son likes to go to the gym too. He’s a lucky guy to learn the benefits of fitness and get accustomed to that environment at an early age. What a great mother you are!

  • I wish my box did CF kids, I’d love to get them involved but can’t take them to classes, so it really restricts how much CF I do as I work full time then feel bad getting home and heading straight back out 2-3 evenings a week, missing bedtime etc.
    Your images are lovely, your son looks like he’s having a great time 🙂

  • Great article! This resonates with me. I’m an affiliate owner and father. We’re also in Chicago and luckily our box is across the street from my house. I take my 1year old son to box to both give my wife a break and to give him somewhere to crawl around and play. Our athletes love to see him and I get to share my passion with him at a very early age. Again thanks for this piece!

  • Thank you for writing this! Loved it. I’m a mom, a cross fitter, finishing my MBA, work full time, training for a marathon and relocating for a new job. I used to feel guilty about doing a few of those things until I saw the look of awe on my daughter’s face when she sees me finish a race, study “hard books”, power clean “heavy weights” and brag to her friends how strong her mommy is. I take her with me to the gym and all the races I can and I can’t wait to have her there when I graduate with my Master’s. I don’t think doing any of those things takes away from being a mommy…just makes me a little bit busier one.

  • This was an extremely refreshing read. Thank you for the opportunity to trigger self reflection. I struggle with this issue daily. I have three children 5, 3 and 2 years old. My husband and I both crossfit. We have sacrificed much of our “family” time in alternating workout times so that one of us is always with them at the box. It has doubled the time we are training but has increase opportunity for one on three time with the kids. We have many discussions about the amount of time we dedicate to training but in the end we feel that at this time in our family life we are teaching them to work hard to achieve a goal and also it has made us that much better parents because we have to plan in advance the activities and goals for the hours we are at the box as opposed to playing independently in their rooms if we were at home. Things may change in the near future and we may shift away from training and put more time into the training of them (school, sports, etc) but for now it works for us. I don’t let others comments make me doubt what is best for us but I do consider the message and self reflect on how I can improve my situation to become better. Crossfit has taught me so much about pinpointing weaknesses and targeting practice to improve those weaknesses and those lessons translate to my life as a woman, mother and human being. We all a work-in-progress and the minute we become a finished project is when we stop becoming better individuals. Thank you for this post it inspired me to be better today.

  • It’s so good to see a intelligent, beautiful, and strong sister compete at your level. I just started doing crossfit this January, and it’s been rough but you inspire me to keep pushing. Go girl! I’m rooting for you.
    Love your brother Kewan McCully Top Fuel Crossfit
    Merrillville, Indiana

  • My box has young children watching parents as well. They really admire their mom or dad for the time it takes and the dedication they see. It’s a powerful message for them to see and become part of early on.

  • Hey Elisabeth…so we have chatted here and there through twitter (mom to 7/homeschools as well) not sure if you have too many followers who fit that profile non the less I think you are doing an amazing job just from what you choose to share with us. I follow you and keep myself current with you and your journey because you are a mother…because your son is always smiling and because you are always smiling. Your stats and winnings are great but more so who you choose to be as a person is even better girl! There aren’t many moms out there who train like you, have the success you have and the amazing and loving son to make it all worth it at the end of the day. Keep your chin up, elbows up and flash that smile girl. Love ya! #teamhulkmom

  • I really admire women who can do it all like you. Your son is lucky to have such a strong role model who is devoted and keeps him so involved. I can see how much he enjoys spending time at the gym with you!