The next guest in our interview series with dynamic women is a non-custodial mom, competitive fitness athlete, survivor of domestic violence AND my cousin (I’m so proud that I get to say that), Nichole Cruz. Before I share her insight on fitness, motherhood, divorce and moving on, let me share what I have learned from her. No matter what she has struggled with she is not bitter; she’s better because of it. She has learned to channel any negative feelings she has as a result of her circumstances through fitness, accept her reality and try to make the best of it. Check out our interview below and enjoy!
Kela: You are a divorced mom of 3; is it difficult to balance dating, work and motherhood?
Nichole: When the children were younger, being a divorced mother and juggling day to day tasks was quite challenging and exhausting. After my divorce I maintained working hours that were conducive to motherhood 8 to 5pm and even starting my own business to create my own hours. I also incorporated my children into my workout routine; taking them to a local track and bringing along soccer balls and bikes so they can exercise while I ran. In terms of dating, it was always important for me to keep my social life separate from my role as a mother. I dated when the children were spending their time with their father. It’s never easy dividing your time, however putting each role into their respective levels of importance is key.
Kela: Divorce is difficult for most, as we all know. How has fitness empowered you, not only physically but emotionally and mentally?
Nichole: I am a survivor of domestic violence. I began my transformation a tad bit backwards, from the outside in. After my third child, I returned to the gym with a friend of mine and began to gain physical strength and transforming my body. As the physical changes emerged, the emotional and mental changes followed. I began to rediscover my outer and inner strength which in turn, empowered me to leave the marriage, as a stay-at-home Mom, with no money – only my children and a minivan to my name. One’s sense of self and self-confidence comes from FEELING good on the inside. I began mine from the outside: I felt confident looking in the mirror which transformed my inner being. The Phoenix tattoo on my back was a symbol of rebirth – of going through hell and emerging stronger and more powerful than before.
Kela: How difficult is it being a non-custodial mom? What are some things that you did to cope once the custody decision was made? How did you help your children cope?
Nichole: Traditionally, women were awarded custodial custody of the children post divorce, which was initially what happened in my case. As the children grew, my ex-husband and I amended the original parenting agreement several times and most recently via a custody battle, my children’s father was awarded custodial parenting time. Although it was not by choice, I had to determine how I was going to maintain my relationship with my children as they were accustomed to. Because they are teenagers, it is a little easier to cope with the decision although it is still unsettling. They all have cell phones, so I will either text or call them daily. I ensure that I am involved with their education by keeping in contact with their teachers, keeping up with their grades and attending their sporting and school functions. I try to stay involved in every aspect of their lives so that where they sleep doesn’t limit their contact with me or mine with them. I also make sure that my parenting time with them is quality time, reconnecting and enjoying each other’s company, yet getting down to business and still being “Mom.”
Kela: What advice do you have for other divorced moms? Non-Custodial moms?
Nichole: My advice to other divorced Mom’s would be to make sure you stand up for what you want in terms of your children. Your voice is extremely important and deserves to be heard. As a non-custodial Mom, you may have to fight harder in order for your wants for your children to be heard and valued. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel lesser than a mother because the legal system dictated the percentage of time you are allowed with your children. Make sure the children know that you love them and are always accessible to them regardless of where they reside.
Kela: Okay, let’s talk fitness. Give me 4 easy, but beneficial exercises a mom can do from the comfort of her own home?
Nichole: This is my passion! There are so many things you can do at home to stay in shape! Body weight exercises are perfect to tone your muscles without going to a gym. The following is a sample circuit which incorporates cardio and weight bearing exercises to get that metabolism stoked!
60 seconds jumping jacks/running in place
60 seconds squats – thighs parallel to the ground
60 seconds push ups – if it gets tough, drop to your knees but KEEP MOVING
60 seconds crunches/sit ups (10 crunches, 10 situps – rotate for 60 seconds)
60 second rest
Repeat circuit 5 times – you will have completed 25 minutes of a muscle toning, total body workout!
Kela: How important is physical fitness for those who lead stressful lives?
Nichole: Physical fitness is not only important for the average individual, but more so for those who have stressful lives. Exercise can cause release of chemicals called endorphins into your blood stream. These give you a feeling of happiness and positively affect your overall sense of well-being. Physically, exercise improves your cardiovascular functions by strengthening and enlarging the heart, causing greater elasticity of the blood vessels, increasing oxygen throughout your body, and lowering your blood levels of fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides. All of this, of course, means less chance of developing heart conditions, strokes, or high blood pressure. Mentally, exercise provides an outlet for negative emotions such as frustration, anger, and irritability, thereby promoting a more positive mood and outlook. Exercise improves mood by producing positive biochemical changes in the body and brain. Regular exercise reduces the amount of adrenal hormones your body releases in response to stress. Beyond the stress, it’s important to model a healthy lifestyle for your children. Our children are becoming more sedentary as our society increases technology. Being fit increases the likelihood that your children an even your grandchildren adopt a healthy lifestyle and opt for healthy choices.
I am a 38 year young mother of three, a Personal Trainer as well as a Competitive Fitness Athlete. I have been competing in Figure Competitions for approximately 4 years and most recently placed 5th in a local competition. I have developed an association: CFAA -Competitive Fitness Athletes Association, to promote, develop and cultivate the competitive fitness athlete of color. To learn more about the sport and about CFAA please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. The website is soon to follow.