Welcome to the March installment of my series Moms to Marvel. I am regularly sharing a stories from inspiring moms to get unique takes and experiences on balancing life, working and motherhood. Check out previous posts here. If you have a story you want to share, contact me! (I’m doing things a little differently this time, with a question/answer format, so let me know what you think!)
I can’t wait for you all to meet Whitney, her story is so captivating, from retail career to full-time mom to bodybuilding star! This lady sets goals and achieves them, calmly raising 3 children along the way. I absolutely love her honesty about wrestling with mom guilt and the desire for an identity outside of both careers AND motherhood. Read on ladies, and prepare for the itch to hit the gym.
So Whitney, tell us a bit about you, your career path and what you are up to these days:
I am an at-home working mom. Meaning, I am a full-time mom. Which, deep down and 7 years into this gig still sort of tugs at me. I went to school, got an English degree, and imagined it would dawn on me any day now what I would actually want to do with my life. In the meantime, I thought holiday employment at the Gap would be super. I put myself to work there: showed up, folded hard, customer-serviced hard, and naturally worked up to manage. During that time I began dating my future husband and we started getting serious about marriage. But I learned of the RMP program Gap Inc. was offering for college grads based in corporate in San Francisco. I decided it was my dream job!
I knew things were moving forward in my relationship in Salt Lake City, but I just couldn’t pass up at least giving the program a shot. So I applied. And I got accepted. And it was so exciting. 6 weeks before I left for San Francisco I got engaged. I then spent 6 glorious months taking in all the goings-on of corporate retail. The intent was to land a job at corporate after the program. Our wedding was planned for the following spring and I approached the whole training with an open mind; get the training, work really hard, if it worked out that my husband and I would settle in SF for awhile, great. But if we needed to be in Salt Lake City (he worked in the family ski shop business), well that was fine too. I loved my training, everythingI learned had appeal to me and it helped me understand my job in the stores better. But, by the end of the program it became clear with my husband’s job and his dad making his way toward retirement that we needed to be in Utah.
I was sad to leave San Francisco, but I was happy to go back to the Gap stores and manage, with a whole new arsenal of tools acquired in my corporate training. I moved around to stores along Northern Utah pretty frequently, as managers were needed.
My time in retail spanned about 6 years and by the end, I just knew I didn’t want to spend the rest of my working years there. I had always pictured myself a working gal, but seriously hadn’t wrapped my head around what that really meant for me. An opportunity came up to do sales in a different arena–placing doctors into temporary positions needed in clinics and hospitals. I would help them find the right fit, negotiate pay, housing, all the details of their travel, etc. The stable hours, no holidays, and more of an office setting really appealed to me.
That was in the fall of 2006. I worked really long days, but I settled in pretty fast and was successful. Then 3 months into my new job I found out I was pregnant. We had had a slow-go at getting pregnant earlier in 2006 and then, when I got my new job, decided to hold off a bit. But then it happened and I was pretty excited. I was due in December of 2007 and worked all the way up to the time my little guy was born.
After his birth, it quickly became obvious that I did NOT want to go back to work. I couldn’t wrap my brain around both my husband and I working 12 hour days and figuring out care for our son. It didn’t make sense to me. Yet it was a little overwhelming to think about not going back to my job–financially and personally. But we decided that I would stay home. And I’ve been home more or less ever since, and 2 more children joined our family. I did work briefly in a family practice office after our second child came along, and then our third came and I just wasn’t invested enough to continue to manage our 3 kids AND my part time job.
How are you feelings these days about choosing to work as a full-time mom?
8 years later, I am a stay at home mom and while fundamentally I am happy with the choice I made for our family, I STILL struggle with the fact that I don’t have what is “just Whitney.” A career, a job, something productive outside of ensuring my 3 little people are raised to be happy and healthy. Part of it is that I never really established what that “thing” would be for me; I still don’t know what I “should” be doing or want to be doing! And, I honestly don’t feel like I am the best mom ever. I mean, I guess who does? But there are way too many days where I just know I shouldn’t be at home with kids. But I am working on that; and to continually work on improving my weak areas as a mother really is motivating to me. I’m in it for the long haul and to have my kids grow up with fond memories of me instead of their mom, the monster, is pretty much the goal.
Wait, but you’ve got a little something that is “just Whitney”, right?
Well, there has been this one thing… Fitness and nutrition have been my outlet, my hobby, my fire, pretty much my part-time job. I was active in high school and I joined a gym in college, spending most of my time doing cardio or popping into a class here and there. When I got married, my husband and I liked to go to the gym together. I got more serious after our first child was born. We decided to join a more costly gym (which to afford meant 100% commitment) that had a really nice child center and 2 hours a day of child care. Since the day my baby was old enough to go to the child center I have been there 6 days a week. I have only taken lengthy breaks when new babies were born. In fact, my young children do not know what it’s like to be at home between the hours of about 8:30 am-10:30 am. They have grown up at the gym and like going as much as I like dropping them off 😉
After my last and final baby I decided that I wanted to change my body composition.I have always been in healthy shape, my endurance was good, I was a healthy clothing size, but my diet was definitely where I needed improvement. I love real food, I love healthy food and considered my diet “clean” (I’m so over that word, can we find a new trendy diet word?) but it wasn’t managed or tracked very well. I just ate what I ate and because I didn’t often eat crap, I didn’t worry too much about it. So, I emailed an old friend, a current nutritionist and trainer, and told her I wanted to get my body fat down. I believe I said something about wanting to “train like I was going to compete, but not actually compete.” Ha.
We started working together. I closely tracked my food intake and spent about four months dieting, lifting lots of weight and doing 4-5 days a week of cardio. I lost 13 pounds and a few inches altogether, and managed to build some healthy muscle. I was pretty happy with the way I felt.
By the first part of August 2014, I started feeling like I wasn’t sure what was next for me, but I knew I wanted to eventually get to a place where I wasn’t just eating 1500 calories a day for the rest of my life (remember, I love food). Fitness and nutrition and how they work together really started to intrigue me. There is so much you can do! Diet to lose body fat, reverse diet to build muscle and maintain a certain level of leanness, as well as strengthen metabolism, etc. I realized I had gotten fairly lean in those first several months so we decided to try to build my metabolism a bit as well as some muscle. It was such a fun process. I slowly began to eat more food (yay!) and still stayed pretty lean, but saw some fun physique changes.
I’ll say those physique changes look pretty fun. What made you decide to compete?
Well, gym regulars were noticing changes in my physique, my friends and family too. Some people would ask if I was prepping to compete, some would tell me I should, my coach (who competes herself) mentioned it a couple times. But initially I just didn’t want to. I was happy doing what I was doing, I had a little fear about the process of prepping (read: diet), fear about aftermath of getting super lean and then reversing out of it. And my overall thought was that, while this hobby of mine was a worthy hobby and I enjoyed it so much, in the grand scheme of my life: my family, my husband, my kids, it was not that important. It didn’t seem to add THAT MUCH value to raising my family, except for what I believe to be a major lesson to teach my kids that health, fitness and nutrition are really important.
I think that’s the mom guilt that commonly creeps into our minds. Moms of young kids get into a groove of doing everything for everybody else and little for themselves and don’t acknowledge that it’s ok to carve out some space for you! Or maybe we’re just too tired to. Either way, time passes and you can feel like you’ve missed opportunities. But as far as spending two hours everyday in the gym (for me), spending time prepping and eating food (for me), all to essentially build a body (for me), it can seem a little self-involved and vain. Me, me, me. (And really, it isn’t all about how I look. It’s just that happens to be a part of the measurement of progression.) I just think it’s super cool that God gave us these bodies that can do amazing things and that when we really put focus, and work, and the right nutrients into them we can make them do almost anything.
I love how I feel when I workout. Like, LOVE it. I’m a much nicer wife, mom, lady in the grocery store when I get my workouts in.
I digress. Over time, I was starting to get complacent with my program- I needed another goal or landmark. When even MY PARENTS started asking when I was going to compete, I thought well for crying out loud, when are the shows? So my coach told me my options, I asked a million questions and decided on a competition. I had about 9 weeks to prepare, which isn’t generally a lengthy prep period, but I had already sorta been prepping before I actually committed to the competition. I just didn’t know it.
My workouts stayed pretty much the same, I cut my calories down gradually, and I began meeting with a professional competitor who helped me learn to pose and coached me on what it would be like to be on stage. I had so much fun during the process, though there were definite times I thought “what am I doing?!”
The mom-guilt thing.
Like, why am I devoting so much time and effort (and money!) to something so self-involved and shallow? On the other hand, it was a goal, a process. I set out to achieve a goal and I was going to go hard to make it happen. It helped that I have a husband who is incredibly supportive and thinks my hobby is totally worthwhile.
The show came around and I ended up winning the novice, open, and masters category, and the overall award. It was insane. I was this “nobody” in Utah, where some of these women had competed a time or two or three, and I showed up and took the whole show. My husband made t-shirts that said “Whitness the Fitness” with these barbells on them. There must have been 20 friends and family members wearing them that night. It was so fun.
So after you swept the show, did it make you want to compete again?
Placing high in that competition qualified me to compete nationally. It was determined pretty quickly that I would go to a national show in Pittsburgh early that Fall. The second time around was tougher. I think because I knew what to expect, and the “rookie” head-in-the-clouds piece of it was out. But I still put in 100% effort, I gave it my all. I did really well in Pittsburgh, considering it was my second show ever. National shows are no joke. Everyone who is there qualifies to be there, and it’s obvious why. I managed to place 12th in my open category and 10th in my masters category.
Placing 10th in a national competition? That sounds pretty freaking amazing. How are you feeling now about your something that is “just Whitney”?
I am back to reverse dieting, still training as hard as ever, because I can’t not. I just love it. But I’m enjoying some balance in my diet and how it fits with my everyday life I may compete again next year, I may not. I haven’t quite decided.
I think I will forever have this voice in the back of my head that will tell me to stop playing bodybuilder and go get a real job, yet I am proud of myself that I found something I truly love to do and that I set a goal and committed to following through with it. I *hope* that it’s something of an example for my kids–that we can do hard things, that we need to take care of our bodies, that work is good for us. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from this hobby is as a mom, whether we work outside our homes or we are with our kids full-time, it’s okay–nay, it’s necessary— to carve out what makes me Whitney.
A profession might be part of that for some; our hobbies and passions fill up the rest. It doesn’t matter. We shouldn’t ignore them or put them on the back-burner. They are what make us better moms, spouses, partners, friends, family members, members of our community. I think I’ll forever be on a quest to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, but I’ve decided that as long as I’m making an effort to do what I love to do, opportunities will present themselves.
In the meantime, this mom-gig gives me a run for my money every day of the week and I’m grateful that after 8 years of signing up for the challenge that it continues to evolve and change and sharpen me in ways that nothing else in life does. And the wannabe bodybuilder part? Well hopefully in 20 years the kids will look back at memorabilia and appreciate that their dad gave her the nickname of “Whitness the Fitness” back in her mid-thirties when she decided to be her best fitness self.
That instead of ignoring the little fire inside of her to push a little further and do something outside of her norm mom-life, she went for it.
Full disclosure, Whitney is a personal hero of mine. She quite literally put me on the path to my corporate retail career, but mostly I cherish our friendship, born of folding jeans and t-shirts together for hours and hours, bonding us for life.
Whitney has a super fun instagram to follow: @Whitness_Fitness Her pics are either inspiring or delicious. I’ll take both.
Pictures provided by and belong to Whitney, professional shots by l1quid studios.
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