Now that I have your attention, I’ll write it again. Running does not make me a better mother. The more I write it and repeat it over in my head, the more that I am able to come to terms with the truth that this statement holds.
For years, I lived by the belief that the act of lacing up my shoes and heading out the door for my daily run somehow made me a better mother. I justified many runs where I left my kids for several hours at a time as the thing that was going to make me more patient with them. I set many marathon and ultramarathon goals, with the mindset that I was setting an example for my children on how not to give up on goals even as a parent.
I preached, oh how I preached, this mindset to others in many of my columns, hoping to inspire other mothers like me to start running for the betterment of motherhood and in turn, their children.
I have come to realize over my years of mother running, that my old mindset was wrong. The act of running is not something that makes me better at being a mother. In fact, it is quite a selfish endeavor.
I run because it feels good. I run because it defines me. I run because I want to be good at something, and to have goals. I run because I need a break from life. I race because I like the way it feels to run fast. I go far because six to eight hours of time to myself — even suffering blisters, cold and hot temperatures, extreme energy depletion and mental anguish — is sometimes more desirable than being called Mom. I run because it is hard to be a mom, and sometimes I just want to run away from it all if just for a moment.
If I’m honest with myself, I know that my running is not something that my kids will look back on as the or even a defining thing that made me a better or even good mom. If I’m honest with myself, it is more likely the times I’ve decided not to run, but instead stay home for the morning to make sure I’m there for breakfast, or so that we don’t have to rush to the soccer game because I had to squeeze a run in, are the moments that they’ll remember most.
If I’m honest with myself, my kids may think it’s cool that mom came home with a marathon win, and even lunch money to share because she reached her goal, but those memories will not be positive ones if I neglect to help them achieve their goals.
What makes me a good mom is not getting my daily run in, filling my own cup in the process, but it’s my ability to sacrifice my needs for the sake of my family. What makes me a good mom is not the early morning hours on the road, but the sleepless nights and often exhausting days spent raising children.
Now, if you think that this article serves as my official resignation from running, think again.6 comments on this story
I will continue to do what I can to fit in running in my daily routine. I will still seek solace in the mountains or long, country roads. I won’t stop trying to get faster and stronger at the sport that has defined me for most of my life, because without running, I would cease to be me.
But I will stop telling myself, my kids and others I come into contact with that running makes me better at being a mom, because it simply doesn’t.
And I hope to regain my focus on what it truly means to be a good mother — who also likes to run.