The Myth of the #Motherrunner

Can you really do it all? Can you have a family, a career, go after your running goals, and be healthy and happy?

I think the answer is no. Hear me out.

When you scroll through Facebook or Instagram, you see these perfect photos of people who seem to have it all. And you might think the same about people you know in real life too. But the truth is that many of these people are beyond stressed and probably have some bad days just like you.

So, my question is, why do we think that this is normal? Why do we aspire to be perfect in all things? Is it in our DNA?

Recently I had to take a set back from training as well as writing for Salty Running and prioritize my overall health and well-being. I was doing too much, not taking enough downtime, and putting too much pressure on myself to be a perfect mom, perfect wife, and fast runner. I started becoming stressed about things and overreacting to minor daily problems. My body was telling me to slow down, and I had to listen.

Usually, in times of stress, I cut out running. Then after a few weeks, I end up missing it and just feeling kind of off balance. And of course, I remember that I’ve been through this before, and duh, running is helping me hold things together. I always find more focus and joy in my day when I start off with a run or some type of workout.

Maybe you’ve heard this story before. Maybe you think this is one of those first world problems. But I think there are a few of you out there that can identify with the concept of burning the candle at both ends. I want to tell you that it’s okay to chill out and do fewer things. It’ll be fine. Just give your body a chance to recover, and take some time to meditate and figure out what’s most important to you.

How do you handle the stress of “doing all the things”?

I'm a mom and business owner from upstate NY. I love running, coffee, and adult beverages. Also chocolate. I'm currently training for shorter distances (mile-5k) but my big goal is to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Trials in the marathon.

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  1. I agree with you 100% that you cannot have it all. It’s just not possible. There is no such thing as “balance” and I actually think that is a GOOD thing. We can pick and chose how we spend our time and deliberately throw things off balance because balance is boring and frustrating. When I’m gearing up for a big racing goal, my whole family has to be on board, freelancing takes a back seat (as well as blogging) because if I try to do it all, it will end in a very ugly way for everyone. Kudos to you for writing this. I couldn’t agree more!

    1. Right? And we all have friends and family with “helpful suggestions” but in reality what works for one person may not work for another. I tried prepping meals on the weekends thinking that would cut down on the stress of cooking with two toddlers climbing all over me. It turns out meal prep takes forever, plus you have to figure out how to cram your long run, grocery shopping, and everything else into the weekend as well. So yeah, things will never be perfect and we just need to be okay with that.

  2. I’m with you 100%. I periodically check in with myself when I’m feeling unhappy, and usually it’s a case of overextending myself. i.e., Recognizing that I have a limited amount of energy, and if I’m coaching soccer, working more, and training for a race, there is no way I’m going to make time to cook from a recipe. SO, frozen food from Trader Joe’s it is! I have no idea where we got the idea that we need to be perfect, but maybe it’s true what the other commenter said; when things get too easy, we get bored and have to add on something…

    1. Oh man, frozen food from Trader Joes is my jam! And we have a great takeout place near my house that makes a different dinner every night that you can just pick up and take home. No cooking and no clean up, that’s the best!

  3. I loved this. I needed this. I have been trying to prioritize my life ever since having my son 4 months ago. Working full time, being a good mom, a PRESENT wife, a runner, a friend, etc. Salty has taken a back seat for me, which I feel so bad about (sorry Salty, I hope you understand). I am not giving up! I just can’t keep up with it all at times. The house isn’t always clean (today, I found mounds of dog fur covering one of our vents behind the couch!!) and somedays I don’t remember if I’ve put on deodorant, but I am trying my best. Thanks for writing this!

    1. Mom guilt is a real thing. I’m pretty sure my house hasn’t been clean for the past 4 years. I try, I really do, but whenever I’m cleaning one room, the kids are making a mess in another room. It’s funny (sort of) and also annoying at times. Today my youngest told me she couldn’t go in our addition room (basically a sun porch) because there’s too much dog hair in there. So, I totally feel you.

  4. I’m not a mom, but I totally agree. I think those expectations are unhealthy no matter where you are in life. I’m a law student, and I just ran a half marathon. It was by no means a PR, but I was just happy to be able to balance school and running. The weeks that school took priority, running took the back seat and vice versa. Plus in school it’s so hard to maintain any relationships (family, friendships, etc.). I try to be present and mindful in whatever “mode” I’m in at that moment. When I’m a student, I’m 100% a student. I don’t text, call, or think about anything else. When I’m running, I’m 100% on that run. When I’m a granddaughter, I’m dedicated to being in that moment with my family. I’m doing well because I’m able to compartmentalize and prioritize!

    1. That’s a good point. I read something similar in an interview with Sara Vaughn (pro runner, mom of 3, with a full time job). I think multi-tasking gets you nowhere, and that’s such a good reminder to make sure that you are present and 100% doing what you are doing at that moment.

  5. What? No!
    I think the spirit of this article is “let’s not strive for unrealistic perfection”, but the opening line is basically “no, you can’t have it all” without the usual caveat (“at the same time”), which I find pretty infuriating. Ok, Hops, maybe you bit off more than you can chew and maybe you should get off social media, and maybe YOU, Hops, need more resources and support to pursue ALL of your goals. But to make a poorly constructed argument about how YOUR specific situation is true generally (which obviously is resonating with some) is honestly UNHELPFUL. Women don’t need to be told we shouldn’t try to juggle multiple goals. And when I read carefully your argument, I don’t think you’re actually saying that, but that’s the headline people are reading.
    The reason this article (mainly the first lines) rubs me the wrong way is that I work in a male dominated field and, especially since I had kids, am told over and over and over (by both men and women) that NO it’s unreasonable for me to have a great job AND a family. Thankfully I don’t buy that, and I’ve been successful juggling both and training for a marathon to boot (not at your level, but still…), and I do my best to help and support other women trying to do the same. And btw, I think your point is “don’t try to be perfect” and those of us who are doing ALL THE THINGS figured that out long ago. But that’s not what your headline reads. Like at all.

    1. Cool. Sorry if something I wrote rubbed you the wrong way. That wasn’t my intention. I think there are some women who are good at balancing things and there are others such as myself who are still trying to figure that out. My point is that it’s ok not to have your shit together. Some of us need to hear that. Or maybe it’s just me that needs to hear that.

    2. Funny, so I read it this way: Hops talks about trying not only to have it all and do it all but also *look* like one’s life is perfect: perfect family, great career, success in running, etc. And…people fall prey to that, and not just on social media. Maybe not you, and maybe I’m (kind of) resistant to it myself, but someone who never feels even a twinge of jealousy or stress (another sort of perfection, no?) must not be human. Plus, I just came off a month of solo parenting, and even though I recognised I was obviously never going to be able to do ALL THE THINGS PERFECTLY*, boy, did I drop way more balls than I wanted. Parenting ones. Nutrition ones. Work ones. Marathon training ones.

      * And don’t even talk about Extra Salt. A neighbour, observing my marathon training, asked me if I stretched and foam rolled after every run. HA. HAHAHA, I thought. ‘Not till late at night,’ I said.

  6. A friend of mine once told me that we are capable of handling 5 things at a time and doing them well. This wasn’t science, just an arbitrary idea she came up with. But when I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed, it helps me to think about my five things. Sometimes they get reorganized and priorities change, but I like to think I can handle 5 things.

    1. That totally makes sense. My college coach used to say something similar, which was in a way supposed to help us figure out what our top five priorities were (aka hopefully not partying as one of them). Makes sense!