Juggling Time, Baby and Myself

Coming home to this guy after my first race was awesome!

Dear Saltines and Salty readers,

Life as a mom – it’s amazing, different, hard, exhausting, and wonderful.

How can it be all those things at once? I haven’t figured that one out yet, but it really is. I am writing this post as my son snoozes away during one of his very few catnaps during the day while I sip my 4-time reheated coffee I made earlier this morning. Finding time to myself is not easy these days. It’s something I have truly struggled with since my first day home from the hospital. My husband encouraged me to MAKE time. How do you make time? There are dishes to do, floors to be swept, errands to run, baby to entertain, feed, change, bathe, dog to walk, meals to be cooked, and now I need to make time for me too?

Not to mention I work three days of the week, and I leave the house at 6am those days only to get home at 8:15pm or later.

This past weekend, I ran a half marathon. Well, I tried to run one. Let me start from the beginning.

After having William, I set a soft goal for myself to run a few half marathons throughout the fall and try to get my time low enough to qualify for the NYC Marathon next year. I didn’t tell a lot of people about it, because I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out. You see, I am on a bit of a time-crunch here. If all goes as planned (which, as we all know, it rarely does…), I hope to start trying for baby #2 sometime late next year, so that means I have about one year left to run a marathon of my choosing. The clock is ticking.

I began training in September, when I ran the River Run Half Marathon in 1:41. I was pleased with my time, though it was a solid 11 minutes short of my PR, because it was my longest run post-baby and I felt pretty good the whole time!

Fast-forward to the beginning of October, when I ran a 1:38 at the Towpath Marathon. I was semi-happy with this time, though I felt like my motivation in the middle of the race was lacking. I think I was having a hard time because I realized how much effort I was putting forth to run a half marathon time that was still about 8 minutes short of my PR. Again, I know I had just had a baby 3.5 months prior, but it still was very mentally challenging for me to get past it.

Last, I just ran a new half marathon I had never ran before called the Buckeye Half Marathon in Peninsula, Ohio. It was a relatively flat course on a cool damp day. My time? 1:44.  What the heck happened?

It’s all about attitude. I went into this race feeling pretty crappy about my running. Since the beginning of October, I hadn’t ran over 7 or 8 miles. I hadn’t ran more than 1 or 2 speed workouts. I hadn’t put in the time. Remember when I talked about finding the time to do things for myself? Yep, that’s a punch to the gut. Attitude truly is everything. I was so angry about my lack of effort, I think I spent more time thinking about how I should be running or doing a workout or core work, than actually finding a way to do it. Instead of training, I had chosen to do laundry or dust the house or watching my son roll over during belly time (obvs the better choice, anyway!). I ran the first 10 miles between 7:20-7:40 pace (no, not NYC qualifying pace but a respectable pace, right?). Then I hit mile 11 and bombed it. I started to walk. I felt as if I was crawling. Everyone I had passed during the race was passing me back. I was angry, sad, and disappointed all at once. I told myself to stop being a baby and encourage everyone passing me by instead, which I did. But I still was so broken hearted those last 20-something minutes.

This is where I hope you guys can come into play. How do you do it? How do you find the energy? How do you find balance? Whether you’re a mom or not doesn’t matter, I need to know. I am in such at rut. I’m semi-embarrassed by my lack of understanding of how to do it all. I want to spend time with my son, get everything done, be an awesome nurse, and reach my goals in running. But how? Is there an algorithm to follow that helps you fit it all in?

I still want to run a solid marathon next year, but I can’t decide on one, especially since I don’t think I’ll be able to qualify for NYC by the end of this year (sad face!). Any recommendations? Do you guys think I can still run a respectable time?

I need your help, your encouragement and your advice, Saltines and Salty readers!

With Love,

A heavy-hearted runner momma

aka, Turmeric.

I am a full-time critical care nurse, who, in my spare time, loves to pound the pavement around the west side of Cleveland, Ohio. I am originally from Wisconsin, and ran for the University of Minnesota where I learned how to run smart, healthy, and happy. I enjoy writing about my adventures in running and what I have learned from racing. I hope to be an inspiration to other women to reach high!

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27 comments

  1. Lots of great comments here. I just want to chime in from the future—my oldest is 15 today and I’m long past the baby stage. It’s worth it. It’s bewildering and overwhelming but knowing a human being from the day they’re born and watching them grow and get to know themselves is so freaking fun. It’s really hard sometimes but it gets better…and then harder and then better and harder and better. It’s a journey is what I’m saying.

    Also, a short list of things that qualify as dinner:
    Tuna melts
    Bean Burritos
    Spaghetti
    Scrambled eggs
    Frozen pizza
    Stuff your husband makes

    Finally, in one of your comments you said “I know I should feel lucky…” you can know you’re lucky and still feel shitty sometimes. It’s definitely allowed. I just figured this out. Feel your feelings. Motherhood is hard.

  2. Be patient…remind yourself that running is always there, baby time isn’t. I ran but didn’t get back into being super competitive after my first child was born because I too, had a timeline for when I wanted to start trying for baby #2. And that alone made it mentally tough for me- that’s a lot of effort to get back into race shape, while taking care of a baby/working/juggling everything else in life, to train hard for such a short window if you’re going to get pregnant again soon. It was easier for me to just run without expectations between the two. But on the other hand I completely understand how you want to be fast and run some good races/times, so it’s not years and years and you feel completely out of it!

    Sorry…not really advice, just empathy because I’ve been there and know how you feel. It sounds like you’re 1) surviving- which is the most important thing at this point! and 2) enjoying it, or at least parts of it. Hang in there and as you already know.. time flies by quickly and you’ll be through it before you know it!

    1. You’re right! I am enjoying most of it. He’s an awesome baby. It’s just the daily grind can be exhausting. But I need to take a step back sometimes and realize how lucky I am to even be given this opportunity in the first place, especially after we experienced a miscarriage a few years ago. I do want to run good times, but I know now that it’s not just going to “happen.” My tentative plan is to give myself a few months over the winter of fun running, then run some shorter races in the spring (again, fun) and then if all goes as planned, try for a solid marathon next fall. I’m looking to you and other Saltines for motivation :)

  3. I’m in the same boat. And yeah, my first half back was just about the same and my follow up marathon was a bomb. My daughter just turned one. Training is sporadic at best. I’m finally just getting to the point where speedwork is becoming my friend again. Time is getting more manageable.

    For me, the ranking schedule of priorities has to be baby, family, work, running, then anything else. My guess is that means I’m just going to be doing what I can, when I can for the next few years on the running front. At least what I can do is increasing everyday now.

    Keep up the good fight!

  4. I took the easy way out and did strictly fitness running while I had my kids. I didn’t have any desire to compete while I was pregnant or nursing a baby. You have to want it badly enough to carve out the time and stick to the training plan. Don’t beat yourself up over spending more time w family or relaxing on your days off though.

  5. I have so many thoughts to share, but the bottom line is this: all we can do is the best that we can do with what we are handed on any given day. Asking for advice on how to balance it all will yield more answers and opinions than all of the unsolicited advice you got when you were pregnant. Here’s what I know. You take each week and each day one at a time. What works this week, might work next week, but maybe it won’t. You need to cut yourself some slack and look at the big picture. However, just because you are a mother does not mean that you can not still have big, competitve goals. You are still you and although your life is forever changed for the good by being a mother, the things that made you you are still there. It’s ok to focus on those goals and focus on your family. You just learn how to do things differently. If you need a 90 minute window to get your workout in, and you only have 60, you do what you can in 60. You’re meeting family for dinner? Run to the restaurant. If you take the time to shower, you’ll be 5 minutes late? Be five minutes late.
    As far as races go. Some people have a baby and knock out huge p.r’s right away, some do not. Neither of these outcomes defines you as a runner. It just means your body is busy doing what it needs to do and I promise you, you will get back to p.r shape. Do not put the pressure on yourself that you only have a small window to get a marathon in. We don’t know what life will bring. Maybe you’ll have time for 2 marathons, maybe you won’t have time for even one. Don’t stress about what you can’t control. Run, train hard, set your sights on big goals, but don’t worry if life sometimes alters those goals or pushes them aside for a time. Hang in there, I have no doubt you’ll figure it out.

    1. Thanks, Dill. I appreciate your advice to not ask for advice <3 it's true though! I still look to you for motivation and how to handle certain things. You amaze me, with all your marathons and the girls and your sweet husband. I am so grateful to know your family!

      1. well in all fairness, I think it’s good to ask others for advice. I just meant that you are going to get quite an array of opinions… people have lots of opinions on babies, running and being a mom. So just sift through that advice and find what works for you! :)

  6. Hey there lady, all I can say is what a fellow mama in McDonald’s told me one day when our kids were bounding off the walls, “Give yourself grace, sister!”
    We all struggle- you’re doing amazing, and you’ll figure it out. Love yourself, love that lil’ guy, love your hubs’, and hang in there. Oh, and what everyone else said too.

  7. No mother can do it all. It’s impossible. I know I haven’t put in all the hard work like before, but who cares. I work now, the kids are all in activities and there is still house work and homework to do. Just enjoy the runs you do- none of us are going on an elite running team anytime soon, so enjoy the stroller runs with baby. Our motivation can shift towards different things. I run on my treadmill while I’m waiting for the oven timer to go off. If that’s 3 miles it’s 3 miles. Or after work, I change at work and run before going home. You will get it, don’t be hard on yourself. If your “fuck yeah” moment right now is just squeezing in that 2-3 miles celebrate that. Don’t let some arbitrary time goal steal your joy of running.

    1. I love the idea of squeezing in a little here or there. I think, too, our kids will see that. “My mom runs while she’s baking bread in the oven!” I remember my dad running up and down our small street as a kick, dressed like Rocky. It’s the small things. Thanks, girl.

  8. First, you cannot compare yourself to your pre-kid self. Your body, your mind, your priorities infinitely change over night. You also cannot compare yourself to other runners, specifically mother runners. Every mother lives under different circumstances. Some work part time, some full time, some stay home. Some moms have tons of help, some have no help. My other answer is that you simply cannot do it all. And anyone who says they do it all – I call bull s*%#! Something usually is sacrificed, whether it be the house work, your health, your relationship with your spouse, time spent with your kids, etc. What I have found over time is that you have to focus on a goal, yes, but it has to be realistic. A goal that fits within the time constraints of your life. Racing for me the past few months has really fallen to the way side and I am so totally fine with that. Why? Because my number one goal the past few months bas been to feel good, to feel healthy, to not feel bloated, lethargic, and crappy all of the time. So, I have really had to focus on what I eat, sleeping more, taking rest days, and backing off of any hard training. The result – I have never felt more fabulous than I do now. I am more present for my kids, I have more energy, and I am very happy. I, too, wanted to try and run a qualifying half too for New York before January, but it just isn’t realistic for me. I would also like to run a marathon next year to BQ again one more time. But, I am taking my goals more day to day and week to week, basing things upon how I feel. I know you can run a respectable time!! But, you are in the trenches of motherhood right now. Losing sleep is killer!!! You were also pregnant for 9 months, you can’t expect your body to bounce back to where it was before you had your little one in even 6 months time. It took over a year for me to repair my core after I had my last baby. I think you just need to be more patient with your progress and know that in time, better races and finishes will come. I PR’d in the marathon when my twins were five. FIVE. Of course I had some hiccups along the way that prevented me from getting there sooner. My point – it took time and I was patient. The first year of your child’s life has so many special moments that are fleeting. Enjoy those more than the thought of crossing any finish line. There will always be finish lines to cross. There will only be one first steps, one first words, one first time saying mom and dad. I know this is a frustrating time. I have been there ….times four. And each time I wish I could have gone through the postpartum recovery with speed. In this day and age it is hard to wait for anything. Trust the process – cliche- I know. But I know you- you are driven. You will get there, just give it some precious time momma;)!

    1. Thanks, Fennel. You have gone through more than I could ever imagine. I always look to you for inspiration, because you “seem” to have it all put together, although I know you have had plenty of bumps in the road. I admire your drive! Let’s qualify for NYC together soon, or push each other to do so when the time is right. <3

  9. Have a big hug….and a big mug of coffee…or whatever your drug of choice is…..Those first months are all about survival…My whole first year was survival…i had a voracious breastfeeder who wouldn’t sleep through the night til he was 14 months old (he’s only 15.5 months old now and weaned…finally) It wasn’t til I was sleeping through the night and no longer nursing before I felt like I could achieve any balance. I went back to work full time when he was 12 weeks old and kinda did what you’ve been doing – soft goals, and ran a few half marathons. I couldn’t get my PR…and couldn’t run consistently, so I backed off for the summer….and ran when I could, but felt like I would just let running take a back burner til the baby was more independent…you know, in about 18 years…

    Almost immediately when he started sleeping through the night (and stopped nursing), my paces picked up, and then I hired a coach with the very specific goal of PR-ing a half marathon in February. This course is where I PR’d 2.5yrs ago, and now with a coach, I have work outs I feel like I “have” to do, so i don’t skip. My husband and I split the housework and baby care pretty well 50:50 (now…it wasn’t like that when the baby was nursing) so that helps, and I wake up to get my workouts in before work, and before anyone else is awake. Our house is also only ever ‘kind of’ clean. Livable, but would likely need a good clean before a dinner party or something. (hah…dinner party..no way) This is the most balanced I have felt since the baby was born. We keep talking about number 2 (sometime after March races…) but both of us continue to be very hesitant because life is finally feeling balanced again.

    Good luck…and try not to pressure yourself too much. Baby raising is really hard. Fun, worth it and all those things, but so so hard.

    1. I appreciate this comment so much. I admire those who are BFing as long as you are, and even longer for some. My son had some bad allergies and I had a poor milk production (long story, sought out help from lactation peeps and even a BF doc) so he has been on formula for a long time that costs more than my groceries for the week do. My husband does help with feeding him, which is awesome. He is getting around to doing more house work some days :) It’s all about balance, you’re right. Thank you for your insight! Good luck to you, with baby #2, please keep us updated!

  10. 1. If husband is encouraging you to make time, he better be doing his fair share of laundry, dishes, sweeping, entertaining baby, walking the dog and cooking the meals, too!

    2. I have a type-A personality in work and life, but in running I am a super type B, so this may not work for you, but: I let go completely of my racing timeline. I knew that I would be really annoyed with myself in a race situation if I wasn’t performing up to my standards (and not just time-wise, but putting in the effort I demanded of myself).

    I also knew that if I was running a half and was going to be like 10 minutes slower than PR and it was a blah effort, I’d be like ‘why should I bother to finish?’* So…I didn’t race. Didn’t plan the next race till I had done the first. Just trained, slowly and consistently, to work my way back to where I thought I could perform well enough to be happy with my races. (It worked!)

    *Alternatively, these situations are a really good opportunity to train your mental toughness when a race isn’t going the way you planned. Do you throw up your hands and walk off the course? Do you finish with the best effort that you could muster *that day*? etc. I am really bad at this.

    This is really a ‘do what feels right for you’ situation, because you know yourself and your attitude to racing. Some people race a lot as a gauge of their fitness and are happy with whatever results, while others, like me, race rarely and to hit specific process or outcome goals. And the timeline is so different from person to person. Tea, for instance, just ran a marathon at 8 months pp! I didn’t run one till last month, and my son is 2.5. I knew I wanted to run at least one marathon before trying for baby #2; I’m happy enough with the former that I can go do the latter :)

    1. PS: a lot of parents (including myself) will be told things like: take things easy, be patient, the baby will only be so little once. What I love is that I’m hearing it from some of my male runner friends too; they, too, are saying “I think I need to be more patient with my running because my kids will only be small once”. Obviously it’s physically different for them because they weren’t pregnant for 9 months, which does a number, but they’re recognising the value of stepping back while life is up-ended for a short while.

      1. You’re right. It’s about perspective. I have a tough time “racing” when I know it’s not my full-on effort or close to a PR. If I run a marathon next year (which I want to, it’s been 2 years since I’ve completed one)–I want to RACE. But I also want to give myself the opportunity to have a life and enjoy my son. It’s a balancing act! It makes me think of my son’s favorite book (well, he coos and screams during it, so it seems to be his favorite, anyway): “So be sure when you step, step with care and great tact, and remember that life is a great balancing act.” That Dr Seuss man, he knew what was up.
        Anyways, if I plan to race a marathon next fall, I want to also give myself time to work my way up, like you said, to that expectation. Do some fun smaller races in the spring, and not place that pressure on myself all year long. Thanks, Mango :)

  11. I am hesitant to offer advice because I think everyone survives these early days of mom-hood in their own way and I didn’t even start running until my two were a bit older. That said, here is a bit of advice after all from a mom who is a bit older and whose kids are a bit older. It’s cliched, but I think still true. 1) Be compassionate with yourself. YES, make time for those goals, whatever they are, but do not beat yourself up. The world will be harsh enough with you. Give yourself the gift of gentleness. 2) Outsource whatever you can. If hubby is keen on your “making time” perhaps he would like to dust or do laundry. I hope he already is. If you can hire someone to help with housework, do it. We started using peapod when my son was a baby and it’s still my favorite way to spend $6 each week. 3) Never regret tummy time. It feels like my first-born rolled over last month, but it must have been longer ago than that because he went on his first homecoming date last week. I don’t need to stare at him every second, but I was happy to delay going to the gym last weekend when he was in the mood to talk. 4) It gets easier. In those early years, kids are not just tied up with your heart; they are all tied up with your body. Then suddenly they are out of the stroller and trotting alongside you and before you know it, perfectly capable of running faster than you can. Early baby months (and let’s be honest, a couple of years) are hard, but they are not endless.

    1. Oh my gosh, I feel like time is already flying by. Wasn’t he just in newborn clothes? Now I’m putting away 6 month outfits ahhh! Thank you for all of your advice :) I look forward (but dread) the day that he runs faster than mama!

  12. Big hugs Tumeric! I can totally relate to this. As a mom, working a full time job and chasing big running goals, I know how you are feeling and have been there myself. Honestly, it’s easier said than done, and the solution, or algorithm for fitting everything in, looks different to everyone. The one thing I learned was not to force what isn’t happening. I would beat myself up over everything, and constantly had to remind myself that I just had a baby and my body was constantly going through changes – not to mention hormones adjusting. I am also a firm believer in running a time given the point in life that you are at. Don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t sacrifice the little moments with your baby. Running will always be there, but as cliche as it is, babies grow up too fast and you won’t want to have missed those moments. For me, what I find works best is a priority system. I can’t be firing on all cylinders and crushing everything at the same time. During marathon training, it was often house work and my social life that took a toll. The formula changes when I’m not in a training cycle. Also, I never fit in as much core, strengthening and mobility exercises as I hope to – the good intentions are there, but I know I can do better. Sorry for the long comment, but, I wanted you to know that you aren’t alone, and not to be so hard on yourself :) You are amazing!

    1. First off, I think you’re pretty amazing and inspiring! I’m pregnant with my first and I also work three twelve hour shifts a week as a nurse. Im trying to figure out how I’ll ever have time to train again. My half marathon times are similar to yours too, and I’m wondering if I’ll ever PR again once I have a baby. I’ve been pretty discouraged about still having to work so much once she’s born. 😕
      One thing I’ve learned about running (especially while pregnant) is that I’m not allowed to do it unless I’m going to congratulate myself for doing anything. And I shouldn’t be doing it unless I’m going to enjoy it. If I’m just going to dread doing my easy runs and hard workouts, or get discouraged because I feel like I’m slow, what’s the point? I love running and I should enjoy that time I have. I don’t completely understand how hard life can be just yet, but I do know changing our attitude and trying to relax can help. Congratulate yourself for doing as well as you did! Give yourself credit and don’t beat yourself up. As someone already said, running will always be there. Just do what you can now to stay in shape, and maybe you’ll find ways to do speed workouts more as your baby gets older.

      1. Yeah, a fellow RN! Those 12 hour shifts are so brutal but those days off are amazing. Days off with a babe are not quite the same as they used to be, but you will find a new normal. If you ever need help with the transition, please, let me know! I do miss running 5-6 days a week, though I want to slowly find a way to do it again (maybe run once per week on a day that I work a 12). You are right, I need to give myself a pat on the back sometimes. We just have such high goals for ourselves! I ran up to 2 days before I delivered my son, and began running a few weeks after having him. You will get back at it, I promise. The more time you give your body to heal, the better, though. Walking is great after having a baby. Good luck to you, and keep us updated!

    2. Totally agree with Wintergreen’s comments (I’m also a full time working mom): everyone does it differently and give yourself a break. It’s amazing how physically draining it is to emotionally beat yourself up. I’m super Type A, and more than anything, having kids has helped me learn how to REALLY let go: of perfectionism, of control. You can only control what you can control, and also everything’s a season. I remember when my first was 2 months old and wondering if I’d ever sleep again for the next 18 years (I did a mere two weeks later, which is an eternity when you’re in it). And try to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
      And when it comes to having time to do ALL the things– every successful working mom I know outsources as much as possible. In my case, I grocery (and everything) shop online (I live in NYC) and plan our meals as I shop (at my desk); I have full time child care–someone I trust completely to go to routine doctors’ appointments, etc and feed them dinner BEFORE I get home (a big change this year that makes evenings way more pleasant); I hired a cleaning lady to come every other week when my first was born; my husband is very involved with childcare and household duties; And in outsourcing, I have to ACTUALLY LET GO of those responsibilities. I see the working moms that try to micromanage home life at the same time create a recipe for burnout.
      I know I am privileged to be able to afford these things, but it frees me up to do the things I love to make the most of the hours I am home: quality time with my husband and kids (where my agenda is just to be with them); a bit more sleep; and yes, a lot of running (which I do early in the morning).
      Honestly, I’m faster now than I ever was pre-kids, and it’s in part because I’m just not ambivalent (questioning my training, waffling on what workout when, not focusing my effort) and I am more aware of the sacrifices made to get to the start line. Sacrifices themselves are not a bad thing– they give us purpose–as long as they’re not in vain.

      You’re doing a great job! I hope this helps even a tiny bit– motherhood is indeed a life changer, and it continuously gets better and better.

      1. I love the idea of getting help (ie getting someone to clean the house once a week). It’s hard to commit to something like that, but I imagine it would be SO helpful! Thanks for your input, it was very helpful!

    3. Never apologize for a long comment! I admire you so much! Your NYC journey was awesome to follow. I will get there, someday :) I look forward to reaching out to you for advice !