When I was on mat leave with my son, my office shut down and I ended up with an involuntary, very, very extended maternity leave while I looked for work. It was an extremely stressful time in my life. I was carrying baby weight and the burden of needing to find work while, at the same time, having to manage a high energy, high drama toddler. I was depressed and needed a break.
Friends suggested I put my son in preschool, but I couldn’t afford it. Then a friend reminded me that my local Goodlife gym had a childminding option. For just $5 a week, I could go to the gym and exercise while volunteers watched my child. It was a triple win: I got a break, I had time to do something good for my mind and my body, and my son got some much-needed social interaction. And it was totally affordable. I signed up the next day and went religiously three times a week until the day I found work.
I describe those days as lifesaving. The availability of that resource saved my sanity. I got healthy, physically and mentally, while my child benefited from a happier mommy and some playmates.
It appears though, that Goodlife is starting to shift their business model and move away from childminding in order to use the space to offer more unique classes to appeal to a wider base of people. In so doing though, they will be taking away the opportunity for many of their members to attend those very classes.
In the summer, CBC News reported that Goodlife was beginning to shut the childminding “JUMP!” locations due to lack of use.
Tracy Matthews, executive director of member services for GoodLife Fitness told CBC at the time that the JUMP! program wasn’t being entirely eliminated and that the ones they were closing weren’t heavily used anyway.
“We understand the value of the JUMP! Program for members and associates who require child minding services, and we are not eliminating the service. That said, we were forced to narrow the scope of the service due to underutilization,” Matthews said in a statement.
Back in July, when it was first reported, Goodlife said that more than 50 GTA locations would remain open, but it seems like now the ball has started rolling on shutting more of them down.
When I was going religiously to my local JUMP! location, Esther C. was one of the amazing women who worked in the room. She is still there three years later and says that sees the real value in having childminding facilities in gyms and fears what it would mean for moms who so heavily rely on it to have it disappear.
“At first I was a mother who needed to exercise to stave off postpartum depression. My kids and I loved it so much that it inspired me to volunteer and then join Jump as an associate,” she told me. “Mums need a place like Jump to drop their kids off so they can reclaim a bit of their old selves, start new habits, and socialize with other mothers. Happy mums equal happy kids and vice versa.” She has seen, first hand, the value it has for the members who use it.
It’s not just gym goers who will be hit hard by the closures. Michelle B. is a fitness instructor at another Goodlife location and doesn’t understand the move away from making the gym more accessible to all its members. “With more and more people looking for ways to get healthier, getting a gym membership can be a huge step for many people. Especially moms who are looking to get or keep themselves in shape and also to have that mental break from the demands of motherhood,” she said.
“I am a fitness instructor but first and foremost I am a member (I work out on my own more than I teach). Exercise is such a huge part of my life and I would not join a gym that didn’t have child minding. The moms that come to classes that no longer have access to JUMP! are frustrated and disappointed in the decision that Goodlife has made. For a company that prides themselves on making fitness available to all Canadians they just made it more difficult for parents to exercise,” she said. And it’s not just that class numbers will be hit and people who need and rely on childminding in order to exercise. Many of the instructors need it too.
“Let’s factor in the instructors who relied on JUMP for their own children while they taught a class. They can no longer teach in those clubs!”
I am 100% confident that JUMP! kept me from serious depression when I faced a very difficult time in my life and I know that I’m not unique in that experience. Childminding has been the best idea and the biggest gift gyms have given members, especially stay at home moms. It breaks my heart to think that a decreasing number of women will have the opportunity I did to put myself, my health and my sanity on the priority list when I needed it most.