Moms are practically superheroes. Whether it’s changing a diaper and managing dinner or balancing a full workload and playtime, motherhood is proof that humans are capable of just about anything, including running. ShokzStar Brittnay Lee* shares why you can be a great runner and a great mom, and why you absolutely should.
“Who watches the baby when you run?”
“Don’t you feel guilty leaving her when you don’t actually HAVE to?”
“Are you sure your priorities are in line?”
These questions. If I could write them on paper and tear them apart so that no mother (or parent) for that matter ever had to hear them again- I would. These questions assume two things. One- regardless of relationship status, I am meant to be the only caregiver of my child until she is old enough to move out. Two- that one woman simply cannot be both.
Every race I run- Sophia gets the medal. She calls it her “necklace collection.” She often runs circles around the house, then finishes her “race” and rewards herself with a shiny necklace. Sometimes, when I’m lucky enough, I get to play too- otherwise I’m a spectator and I get to cheer her on.
However, as idealistic as it all sounds- it's hard. Running, finding motivation, finding time- it all sounds so easy on paper, but I know in real life it's exactly the opposite.
I’m hoping to share the 7 lessons I’ve learned during my time over the last few years- as a mom and a runner.
Stop the game of comparison
There are people out there that can run 160 miles a week, bake gourmet meals and still have time for arts and crafts with children that are limited to 15 minutes of screen time per day. I’m not one of those people, but I know they’re out there. I admire every bit of gumption they have- but it's just not for me. Their life and my life are completely different, despite what we appear to have in common. The game of comparison is brutal. It never brings satisfaction, because we never achieve the same results. If I’ve learned anything as a mom, it's that I have my own individual strengths. Those are the things I need to draw on. Those are the things my child needs.
Throw out your idea of “balance”
In attempting to achieve “balance,” we only create an overwhelming sense of anxiety for ourselves. We can’t quite seem to find it and yet it appears as though everyone else has it. For me? I juggle. It's about focusing on one thing at a time. Giving one thing 100% of my attention, not given 5 things 20% of my attention.
Communicate your “why.”
This is so important. Communicate your “why.” With your partner, with the person who you need to ask for babysitting help, with your child. Note, I didn’t say JUSTIFY your “why,” I said communicate it and yes, communicate your purpose with your child. While the wording may be a little different depending on their age, I promise you- if you are consistent, they WILL understand. Communicating my purpose with Sophia has allowed for several things. One- she understands why running is important to me, just like the sports she plays are important to her or how dancing/singing/watching her favorite shows are things that she values. It may be as simple as “I’m going to go for a run today to clear my mind, so that when I come back we can…*insert your fun activity here*” It will be challenging at first, but soon your purpose will help them to find theirs. For example: Sophia now talks about being “strong,” “brave,” and talks about how she can do anything she wants. These words all come from conversations we’ve had about why I run and the way I feel afterward.
Your goals aren’t any less important than anyone else’s.
“Mom guilt.” It’s real and it's alive and I’m convinced it’s the ugliest feeling in the entire world. It's so hard to put yourself first- even for brief periods of time. It goes against our natural instincts and it becomes even harder when you’ve been told that doing so means you’re somehow “less” of a mother. If there is one thing I hope you take from this post- it’s that you do not need to feel guilty about having your own dreams- including those running PRs you may be chasing, the race you’re training for or just that time away to clear your head as you head out for an easy long run. You are not less deserving of that time or any less entitled to that time.
Incorporate them as often as they want
Walk with them. Hike with them. Run with them if they are old enough. Let them go at their pace- as challenging as that may be sometimes. I know stopping to look at every rock and creature and airplane isn’t ideal but bringing them along for the adventure can also help them to understand why you love running so much. This is also how I combat those times that there isn’t anyone to watch Sophia- because babysitters, co-parents, etc. aren’t always accessible options.
Take the time to celebrate your wins
I’ll share an example for you. I had spent months training for my very first marathon. I crossed the finish line, I hugged Sophia and fifteen minutes later- everything was back to normal. We were at home- I was making her lunch for school the next day, she was playing at the kitchen table and we were just chatting away. Then we settled in for an afternoon full of movies, got some dinner and went to bed. That girl talked about my marathon for days afterwards. When we went to the playground or the park after school- she told all the other moms and dads what I had done- as they looked at me, congratulated me or acknowledged my accomplishment in any number of ways. Do you know what I did?! I SHRUGGED IT OFF. Holy. Moly. I had put so much time and effort into that race. I had spent hours running mile after mile, interval after interval and within 15 minutes of finishing- it was just another thing. What I taught her- in that moment- is that as a mother or a parent, my accomplishments weren’t worth pausing to acknowledge. That these big dreams are worth dreaming, but they aren’t worth celebrating when you get to the finish line. It was like running a marathon was just another thing you do on a Sunday.
Something is always better than nothing. I know as a mom, it's often hard to put yourself first. The idea of “self-care” portrayed on social media couldn’t be any further from my day to day reality most days. Working full-time, practices, running, strength, stretching, dinner, bath time, snacks- no matter what your schedule looks like- it can feel almost impossible to find the time or the energy to run for an hour or 2 hours like your training plan says you should. If you have 30 minutes, work with those 30 minutes. If the plan calls for an hour and you have 40- use the 40 and go. Just go.
Remember that first marathon? The best part of that race was the finish line. When I came around the corner through the barricade, she fully believed in her heart that I was the winner of the race- she showed up with pom-poms, a cheerleading outfit and ran right onto the course with me as I approached the timing mat.
Running over the line and collapsing at the feet of a toddler- who comforts you and tells you how proud she is. That is running as a mother.
*The author's name has been changed to protect their privacy.