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Mothers find creative ways to stay fit around Meridian

May 19, 2019

MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) — Most afternoons, after their children take a nap, a group of mothers in Meridian’s Broadmoor neighborhood meet for a walk or playdate.

On a hot and sunny Wednesday afternoon, they meet at the corner of 11th Avenue and 63rd Street to start their one-mile loop.

RJ Phillips and Max Maholchic, 3 and 2 respectively, squirm in their stroller seats, begging their moms, Diana Phillips and Lisa Maholchic, to let them run.

“It’s too busy here, Max,” Lisa Maholchic tells her son while also pushing his little sister, 10-month-old Coco, in the two-seater stroller. “Wait until we get to the other road.”

Though the neighborhood has an active number of walkers, it doesn’t have sidewalks, giving the children no safe place to walk.

“There’s really no way to put sidewalks in this whole city,” said Diana Phillips, carrying her 8-month-old daughter, Nora, in a wrap baby carrier while pushing RJ in the stroller.

“It’s too much to do... and it’s always the same people walking (and) half of them go to our church.”

The mothers try to get their energetic boys to stay only one mailbox or driveway ahead, but rounding the corner from 17th Avenue onto 63rd Street, the boys sprint away.

After walking for just two-tenths of a mile, the boys must return to their strollers, buckling in moments before a red car quickly rounds the corner where they stood.

“Especially with all of these hills, I’m worried that people are just looking down at their phones,” Maholchic said.

Staying fit with children isn’t easy, the mothers said, and comes with challenges across the city.

“My mental health and physical fitness are so much better off when my baby and I go for walks or runs with the stroller but it can feel very dangerous,” Phillips said about the lack sidewalks. “I would gladly give up some of my front yard if it meant our street had sidewalks. I’d also feel much safer letting my toddler ride on his bicycle if he could do it on the sidewalk instead of the street.”

Back in the spring, The Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience did a Mommy + Me Fitness class, which the mothers said they hoped would return this summer.

Local gyms didn’t offer much help since only Anderson’s Health and Fitness Center and Fitness Depot offered limited child supervision. Phillips said she’d struggled to find a local daycare that offered flexible hours.

“We really need different daycare options. There’s really mornings-only Pre-K or all day,” Phillips said. “So if you wanted to work part time, you could only do the mornings. Back home, we had more options.”

The Phillips and Maholchics walk with friends Bethany Bonell and Courtney Lape, whose daughters, 2-year-old Harper and 20-month-old Gracie, just woke up.

The four mothers (each with a stroller), six children and Lape’s golden retriever, Annie, all attempt to walk at the road’s edge, giving recommendations for diapers, introducing solid foods and other essential motherhood tips.

All of their spouses are stationed at the Naval Air Station in Meridian and come from across the country: Memphis, Pensacola and Boston. Aside from this community of mothers, Phillips said she’d found groups in the area that supported mothers such as herself.

“There are a lot of different opportunities here, but you definitely have to seek them out,” Phillips said.

Phillips said that wherever she’s lived, she sought out groups of mothers — grassroots organizations like Mothers Of Preschoolers (MOPS), which meets locally at the 15th Avenue Baptist Church; La Leche League, which meets monthly; and the newly opened East Mississippi Baby Cafe.

“My son was born in Hawaii and we had a breast-feeding support group at the hospital that met once a week,” Phillips said. “It was so helpful to meet other people facing similar challenges and finding solutions and encouragement. (The Baby Cafe) is a fantastic opportunity that I think most moms here don’t know about or understand the value of.”

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Information from: The Meridian Star, http://www.meridianstar.com