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The moment they came into my world, my children have pushed their way into every corner and crack of my existence. In most ways, it’s been a wonderful burgeoning of love that I openly welcome with little regard to the compression of my own space. But in some ways, I do miss the parts and pieces, now lost to the collective, which used to be only mine.

Privacy much like sleeping past 6 AM is part of a past life that I left behind the moment the nurse handed to me a beautiful pink-cheeked bundle. Once private moments are now shared with curious little faces peeking out from behind bathroom doors. Personal space no longer exists as I brush my teeth, shower, and dress in front of an audience that never lacks for running commentary. On several blurry-eyed mornings, I’ve explained in detail the purpose of my water pick and the reason for an eyelash curler.

Mostly, I’m okay with the fact that I can’t read more than two sentences without disruption or that watching my shows has been replaced with multiple viewings of Dora the Explorer and Power Rangers. And I only occasionally mind that I have to sneak chocolate like prison contraband. I’ve even conceded that most showers will be inevitably interrupted by the break in of two squabbling little boys.

I’m able to willingly and generously share every aspect of my life because I love and enjoy my children. Well, that and it wasn’t long after I held my beautiful, pink-cheeked bundle that I carved out a small space that was and could only be mine. A place that saved my remaining post-pregnancy brain cells and preserved my sanity.

Where is this utopian piece of territory impregnable to the encroachment of tiny invading feet?

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It’s my gym; a little corner of my world where spilled cereal and midday meltdowns at Target don’t exist. It’s a place where I find balance, strength, and endurance not just for my body but also for my soul. After a long run and the accompanying rush of endorphins, I feel energized, happy and calm. After pushing and pulling weights until my muscles burn for mercy, I feel strong, good and whole even in a time when pieces of me are being dolled out like Halloween candy.

Since I’ve had my children, I’ve securely rested in the knowledge that my sacred space was precisely that–mine–until I saw the newly hung poster. It was, by all appearances, innocuous. Except that its strategic placement and black cursive letters announcing the impending invasion of tiny interlopers made this small, white sign a bit more threatening. 

I signed my boys into Kid Zone—their space. I had always taken them to the gym with me, but they had their space and I had mine and never the twain shall meet until I heard, “Hey Mom, kids can go to the gym floor when they are nine!” The policy had always been fourteen, which gave me a few more years to blissfully decompress and a space to call my own, but suddenly my final bit of space was shrinking with each of his excited pulls on my sleeve.

I casually nodded and nonchalantly tried to change the subject. It wasn’t that I was trying to keep him out of my space but rather it was that I was trying to preserve the space I had left. After all, I’d given him the bathroom, the kitchen, my time, my energy, and now he wanted this space too?

Guilty, I offered to take them to lunch after my workout. But like a dog with a bone, he persisted. “I turn nine next month. Can I go?” I gave the noncommittal mom response, “We’ll see.” He nodded, “Okay.” Looking around, I searched for another sign that would contradict this one, one that would preserve my well-protected territory from trespassers. Scanning the room, I caught sight of my little boy grinning. “I love to ride the stationary bike. It would be really fun to do with you.”

His enthusiasm and sweet smile made me realize that my children aren’t compressing my space they’re widening it. It’s no longer a matter of giving up what is mine; instead it is about sharing what is all of ours together.

Gently squeezing his shoulder, I said, “That would be great. We’ll do that when you turn nine.” And as I bounded up the stairs to start my workout, I looked forward to the month passing so I could share yet another space with my son.