You’re not likely to find new parents at the gym. Between the sleep deprivation and the diaper changes and the nonstop feedings, there isn’t much time or energy left to make get a work out in. That doesn’t mean as a new parent you have to give up your gym membership. In fact, a baby could land you an upgrade.
Four months after the birth of our first child—a glorious time where my husband and I went from exhausted and overwhelmed to slightly less exhausted and just a little overwhelmed—we discovered an ingenious life hack: gym childcare. Equinox was the luxury brand gym we drooled over but could never justify spending the money on when we were a “Dual Income No Kids” family. When we had a our child, we did the math again.
We found that if we used Equinox’s “Kids Club” for just 10 sessions in a month, the $220 we’d each pay in memberships dues plus the extra $12 charge for each two-hour session would break even with what we’d spend on regular childcare ($20 an hour) plus our memberships at a no frills gym ($50 each). If we used the gym’s childcare services any more than that, it’d cost less than five dollars an hour—a veritable steal.
Sure, they offered childcare for free at the budget gym we already belonged to, but when I went to check it out, the room was the size of a broom closet and the caretaker was eating hot soup. Equinox’s Kids Club, by comparison, was bigger than our apartment, sun-drenched and stocked with designer toys. The worker I spoke to said they engaged children with activities that spoke to their various developmental milestones. For example, with infants, the staff may provide sensory stimuli activities or tummy time, while with three-year olds, they’d use complex games or crafts.
Yesterday, I dropped the baby off between naps to get a couple more hours of work done without interruption. This afternoon, I’ll go use the gym, steam room, and shower facilities. That way, instead of shoving our screaming son in my husband’s face the second he gets home from work, I’ve already worked out and we can handle the “second shift” together. Other days, my husband comes home to an empty apartment and, when he’s ready, he can join me on a nearby elliptical machine. According to the Mayo Clinic, working out increases energy and reduces stress, which is so important for a new parent. And on days I don’t feel like a workout, I can watch TV while I walk on the treadmill, or just take a long shower in peace.
It feels too good to be true, but Shirley Romig, Group Vice President, Ancillary Services at Equinox assures me that’s what it’s there for.
“We find that people leverage our Kids Club services so they can accomplish their fitness goals or fulfill their daily self-care.” Romig says. “Whether this means working out, getting work done in our lounges or getting a massage or facial, we’ve definitely recognized that Kids Club is a pivotal part of—and considerable relief in—our members’ days.”
While it’s hard to say exactly how many families are doing this, it’s fairly common to use the childcare at your gyms as a form of short-term daycare. I spoke to a handful of parents who said that using their gym’s babysitting services—which is typically included in the cost of membership or offered for a small additional fee—is a convenient and cost effective option, especially in cities like New York, where full-time care can run as much as $2500 per month.
“I’ve noticed that lot of parents feel bad taking time for themselves, but it’s important.”
Sarah Bregal, 33, of Baltimore, Maryland, belongs to her local YMCA, where, for $40 a month, she can use up to ninety minutes of childcare a day. “Honestly,” Bregal says, “the thing that motivates me to go to the gym most is getting a break from my kids!”
Kevin Gibson, 32, of Jeffersonville, Indiana, takes two of his three kids to the YMCA for two hours nearly every morning. “My wife gets time to work on our marketing business without the older kids present,” he says, “and I’m able to use this time to focus on myself.”
“I’ve noticed that lot of parents feel bad taking time for themselves,” Gibson says, “but it’s important. I’m a more patient and involved dad when I’m able to take a little bit of time to focus on my own care.”
Of course, relying on your gym for childcare comes with some caveats. For starters, parents are required to stay on site, and most gym’s childcare facilities don’t change diapers or allow food or even bottles, so you may be interrupted mid-set to attend to your kid. Also, it’s important to note that most child care centers housed within gyms operate legally but without a license, meaning that they’re not required to meet health and safety standards set by the state.
If you’re considering utilizing a gym for childcare, find out if the facility meets the criteria required of traditional daycares. Consider reviews online but more importantly, meet the workers for yourself and trust your gut. And don’t necessarily rule out the more expensive options—they just might be worth the extra cost.
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