A little over a year ago I became a mom, and along with that came the title of “Mother Runner”. I love being a mom, I love being a runner, and yes, there are times I wear the Mother Runner title proudly.
Before I had Hannah, I had a lot of opinions about the whole #MotherRunner thing. As a childless runner, I had my accomplishments diminished many times because I wasn’t a mom, or because a mom out there did a similar thing but hers was considered more impressive. I always fired back that we ALL have responsibilities and things in life that make it hard to fit things in, doesn’t make one easier or harder than the other. I usually also used the pros as examples saying it would be ridiculous to compare female athletes by their childbearing status. Are Desi and Shalane less accomplished because they don’t have kids?
Now that I have a year of being a mom under my belt (which in some ways feels like a lifetime, yet I also still feel like I’m a pee-wee quarterback lining up with NFL pros) I have reflected a lot on my personal experience with being a mom, being a runner, and how my beliefs about both have shifted and grown over the last year.
Reflecting on pregnancy
I chose to not run most of my pregnancy and it was one of the best decisions that I made. I felt a combination of badass and uncomfortable when I did run, as pregnancy progressed the scales tipped (literally) and most times I tried to be active I felt more uncomfortable than badass. Sometimes it makes sense to ignore pain and discomfort, like when you’re in the final miles of a marathon and about to PR. But it didn’t make sense to me to push myself through pregnancy.
Activity was even more limited after I went into preterm labor at 30 and 34 weeks (neither of which were running-related). That was not a personal choice I made, but even before preterm labor I’d made the choice to be less physically active. My experience with all of this really made me appreciate a woman’s right to make that choice of whether to remain active or not during pregnancy, I commend and admire the women out there running up through their delivery day but I also commend the women who choose to sit on the couch and eat their weight in chips and salsa. I fell into the latter category, and proudly.
Given the extended time off from running, I initially worried about how to get back to training: would I be smart? Would I give myself time? Is my competitive fire going to take over?
Then I had an emergency cesarean at 35 weeks. Now I was a new mom who just had a major surgery and running certainly wasn’t on my mind. I went for my first run around 7 weeks postpartum, and it went way better than expected. It was probably the excitement and thrill, like taking a new car out for a test ride. The second run a few days later was when I found out that new Ferrari had a rusty clunky broken engine in it and should probably start working on repairing it.
Having Hannah to take care of kept me grounded though, kept me and my head in the right place, focused on the process and not the end goal. I soon found myself gaining a bit of traction, occasionally a few steps back but always in the general direction of forward progress.
I never felt more like a #motherrunner than I did those first few months back to running. Because at that point, being a mom absolutely did dictate when and how I did my running, or things related to running like those pesky PT exercises and rebuilding the core that was slashed with a scalpel. My days blended together so much without the structure and routine of work and training, I never felt like I was really taking off one hat to put on another one — more like I just kept my hats on all the time.
Life of a working, running mom
When I went back to work, the routine was welcome even if it was hard being away from Hannah. It was a big adjustment and took time (I’m still working on it, actually) to find the right balance but being able to take my different hats on and off throughout the day really helped me. I had to start prioritizing, planning, and utilizing my time efficiently. Some days that meant keeping a few of my hats on at once, but a lot of times it meant being firm in dedicating X amount of time to just one thing. When I’m with Hannah, I’m with Hannah. When I’m at work, I’m at work. When I’m running, I’m running (though sometimes it’s hard to shut the brain down while running).
In other words, I found that sometimes the best way to “do it all” is not to do it all at once but to devote specific time to each to make sure you’re giving it the best attention. I admit that is still a work in progress, but I function best when I’m wearing as few hats as possible simultaneously.
Training and racing again
I’m a mom and I run, so that makes me a #motherrunner, but I don’t feel like I wear that title every time I lace up and hit the roads or the treadmill. Sometimes, I’m just a human being going out for a run. I guess my belief in this has shifted from before Hannah and even through the first year of her life. I am always a mom, of course. But sometimes I enjoy just being a runner who goes running.
I’ve come to believe that it’s up to me when I want to wear the #motherrunner hat. When I have Hannah in the stroller, you bet I’m wearing it while pushing her around watching her feet kick and listening to her gibberish. I LOVE stroller running, and love that it allows me to wear a few hats and do a few things and be together with her at the same time. But beyond that, not every run is filled with the #motherrunner mojo.
When it comes to racing, it’s harder for me to define. I’m proud of my times as a runner in general, but yes, I will admit that I feel a special sense of accomplishment in what I have been able to do since having Hannah. Yet at the same time, I don’t want my times to be viewed as “OMG that is amazing for a mom”. I just want my work to speak for itself without any qualifiers or clarifying statements. Still….to the cocky 20 year old kid smiling as I tried to pass him in the finishers chute at St. Patrick’s Day 5 mile race (we got the same time): dude. You just got chicked by a 30 year old mom. Yes, I totally feel badass in that case.
I have occasionally found myself comparing and saying exactly the kinds of things that used to really grind my gears about mom vs. non-mom runners. I just try to check myself on it, and remind myself that is about me and not them. Usually it’s my own insecurity about something that makes me feel like I have to compare myself with others, I’m human after all. Do I think coming back from having a kid is a bigger hurdle than some other things? Yes, but at the same time I cannot fathom the return to running or other obstacles some face. Are there things I used to feel were crazy obstacles or accomplishments (that at the time were big deals to me) and I now laugh at the thought that I could ever have thought those were obstacles or accomplishments? Yup.
One lifestyle isn’t harder than the other, they’re different. As someone who has been squeezing in training however I can for years, juggling multiple jobs and random life things, I felt all that prepared me for parent life in some ways. It may sound paradoxical, but with Hannah, in many ways I’m actually more flexible. Before Hannah, most of the things I had to work my training around were things that I HAD to do, like get to my second job on time and work my assigned shift. With Hannah, yes I HAVE to take care of her (gladly!) and I HAVE to work; still, there are times I could run at more convenient hours but choose not to. Why? Because I want to do it that way. Occasionally I will choose to miss post-work time with Hannah because I have a workout to do that shouldn’t wait until 9 p.m. Other times, I will absolutely choose to spend the afternoon and evening with Hannah and then run in the dark, in the hour or so between her bedtime and mine. In that sense, it’s all about choices.
What does being a mother runner mean to me?
I have this meme that constantly rolls though my head. Maybe you’ve seen it? The “this is what people think I do” versus “this is what I really do” meme? In this instance, it’s people thinking I run in my heels and blazer from work while simultaneously cooking, cleaning and pushing the stroller. What is it really? Last summer it was running in mismatched outfit, pushing the stroller and stealing my infant’s burp cloth after she falls asleep to wipe the sweat from my out of shape postpartum body trying to figure out how the hell I ever ran the things I did prior.
These days I’m in better shape, I’m clawing my way back to times I used to run and scratching the surface of some new PR’s — but still stealing my kids blanket or burp cloth to wipe sweat, taking sips of her water sippy cup while picking up her pacifier or toy she chucked from the stroller that was 2 inches from falling into the Erie canal. It’s not glamorous but it’s life and I embrace it. I don’t do it all, none of us do (despite what they tell you on Instagram). It’s a lot of work.
I’m always a mom but I don’t always need to be labeled as a #motherrunner, sometimes it’s nice just to be me.
Motherhood didn’t change my goals, it simply changed how I go about achieving them. Being a mom has changed me into a better runner, or at least a runner who’s better at the process. Not better than others, but definitely better than former me. I prioritize better, I relax more, I make smart adjustments and not knee jerk reactions. I like this version of me better in a lot of ways, but I don’t regret my priorities and choices I had before as they were what best suited me at the time.
I still don’t believe that one’s childbearing status makes their accomplishments more or less impressive or significant than another’s. There are more than enough people trying to pit women against one another and we don’t need any more of that. In short: my stance on being a #motherrunner changed a little in the last year since having my daughter, but my core beliefs are the same are before: focus on what you’re doing, compare to yourself not others (and even then, be kind to yourself) and just run.