Laboring and delivering my two daughters was by far the most physically challenging thing I have ever willed my way through. I say willed because like running, there were times during the process that I wanted to stop and just be done. Also like running, I had moments where I felt empowered and unstoppable. For me, comparing labor to a really hard workout was helpful at the time, if I could just get through the one I was on, I could make it to the end. It required mental focus, stamina and a lot of toughness. Labor was something I had never been through but had heard from friends how difficult it was, so I went in with the mindset “this will be the hardest thing I ever do.” And then it ends and I had this beautiful baby girl who I instantly fell in love with. Life was good! But no one told me about the insane juggling act that would ensue in the months following once I felt ready and recovered enough to return to running.
Although my husband and many of my close friends are professional runners, I am not. I do not have the luxury of having a nanny around to watch the kids so I can run and recover. So how does an average running mama like myself complete the juggling act that is running and having children?
5 WAYS TO FIND THE PARENTING-RUNNING BALANCE
- Make your time a priority! This is very important and for me, a key to being a good mom to my children. Make your run a priority in your day. No, I do not get paid to run but my hobby is still very important to me and an integral part of who I am. My run is my “me time,” and when I get to recharge before taking on the many tasks of being a working mom of two energetic kiddos. I recommend, if your kids are old enough, to run in the morning hours before anyone is awake. Before I had my second daughter (who is now 6 months old and wakes up at 5 am) I would get up and run at 5 am. I loved getting home having run 8-10 miles before anyone was awake. Maybe morning does not work for you and that is okay, make a plan with your family and figure out when it works for you to get in your run and then stick to the schedule.
- Make it a routine. This follows the last thought of sticking to a schedule. If you make it a routine you are more likely to stick to it. Most runners are like myself in that we like to have a structured, regular routine that we stick to day in and day out. Maybe it’s 5 am, maybe it’s 9 am after dropping the kids off at school, or maybe it’s after a long work day at 6 pm; whatever the time, make it your priority and your schedule every day. You will thank yourself for the consistency!
- Seek support! This is another one that is important and often overlooked. I am not a super woman, although I wish I was! I need help making everything flow in the right direction. Sometimes I need to ask a friend for help watching my kids when we are tight on time. I could easily just skip a run and sometimes that is okay but I know that at the end of the day I will feel much more relaxed and overall happier if I can get in even a short run. Check out your local YMCA’s where they offer free child care while you work out. This was a key for me when my first daughter was little. I would take her, drop her off, and run on the treadmill while she was taken care of in the kiddie room. And guess what!? She loved it! I loved getting in my workout and everyone went home happy.
- Be flexible. I cannot say this enough. Flexibility is a parent’s middle name! Be prepared for a wrench in the plan and learn to be okay with that. There are many times I have to break my run into two runs to accommodate for kid activities. Sometimes I can only get in 30 minutes in the morning and then have to find time to squeeze in the other half later in the day. Sometimes things come up and the run just does not happen. I had to realize that life is not going to pan out the way I want it to every time. I made the choice to be a parent and although I do prioritize my running, I prioritize my kids more and if I really have to miss a run to meet their needs, I do it. If you have a treadmill you can always run once they are in bed.
- Be patient. Another big one and something I have had to learn over the years. I have found it is best to just laugh some things off. Just the other day I bundled up my six month old and headed out for a four mile run at 5:30 am. We made it two miles before she completely just went nuts! I could have easily gotten angry, frustrated and impatient with her but instead I just stopped, picked her up for a few minutes and then forged on, her screaming and me trying to make her smile by making silly noises and faces all the way home. I would not call that the most ideal run scenario but we got it done and sometimes you just have to laugh at what is happening. I think that is just being a parent!
In my 5 years of being a parent I have found that nothing is going to be perfect. You can have the best plan and best intentions to hit that plan and still have things go the other way. The best thing I have found is to be flexible, patient and enjoy the ride! If you make the effort to fit in your needs you will be a much better parent for it. Let yourself get out the door, you are not selfish for it, in fact, it may be the best thing for you and your family. I love my kids more than anything but I don’t think sacrificing my daily run helps them, it probably just makes them think that mommy is grumpy! So lace up those shoes, get out for a run and make sure to hug those babies double when you return!