Seriously, just do it. Join one with childcare, do it now.
This past year, I told myself that I didn't need anything like that. I managed to train for multiple half marathons and even a full with little to no gym time, and by golly it wasn't worth the money suck. Well.....now I know that I was wrong. No matter how much my family loves the outdoors and how much I love DIY fitness stuff/free online workouts, I just can't get done what I want, when I want, to the frequency I want it. And if I could, I don't know that I'd want to. Then there's my hubby. He works all day long and once he's done, he doesn't want to go run a greenway when he can be hanging out with his wife and/or kids. For him, lunch gym time is a necessity for a healthy family life. And when he wants to go in the evening, he and I can actually get in a workout together! Or even take turns getting mini-workouts while the other swims with the kids. We still get our outdoor time in with family walks, playground trips, and weekend trail/greenway runs in the mornings.
During the day, I can throw in a trip to the gym and some playtime for them instead of banking on the weather being absolutely perfect so I can push 100lbs of kid, food, and toys in the jogger. And what's better--they actually LOVE the time away from me. As a stay-at-home mom, I rarely get those "me" moments, and they rarely get the time to chill without mom watching over their shoulders. The gym gives us both those moments, and I can even shower without having to hop out and drip-dry because someone spilled milk or drew on their sibling.
Of course my first suggestion for your gym search will be to join your local YMCA. I have multiple reasons:
1) There are usually a few branches, which gives you and your partner options for closest to house, closest to work, etc.
2) It's generally one of the best priced options for the entire family, and most have tiers for all incomes.
3) They have good childcare with morning and evening hours, usually built in to the monthly price.
4) There are often family activities, like open swim. Two open swims a week, and you'll be saving money on outings, spending more time together, and teaching your kids water safety.
5) They have children's classes as well, from tumbling to ballet to arts and crafts. The best ballet school that my daughter has ever attended was at the Y!
6) You're helping to support program members who can't otherwise afford family fitness. Yay for helping others!
Before signing with anyone, always ask to take a tour first and make sure to especially check out the childcare WITH your kids. Get their feedback, if they're old enough to give it. They know what they like and love to help with decisions! For the smaller ones, ask how the caregivers meet their needs and how long it takes them to come find Mama if the child is unhappy. Don't be afraid of leaving your child for an hour every other day--it won't scar them, it will actually help them feel comfortable with others! Trust me, I was freaked the eff out at first, until my kids actually cried when they had to LEAVE.
Another fabulous option that isn't always on the immediate radar--hospital health centers. They usually have wonderful facilities for excellent prices, and they're not meat markets. Or just search around for something you love. There are almost always options, and a bit of research and free gym tours will help you find the perfect fit for your family!
But seriously, don't try to just do it all at home. Drop one family restaurant trip a week, and you can afford a gym just fine. Plus you'll all be getting healthier AND saving those wasted restaurant food calories! Do it now. Pretty please!
Tell me how going to a gym has benefited your family, I'd love to hear from you!