Finding the Balance- Mommy Guilt vs. Inspiring our children

Finding the Balance- Mommy Guilt vs. Inspiring our children

My kids know I’m a runner.  They know that if they wake up early (before 7) on any given morning I will most likely be running.  Even my youngest (who is 2) assumes that whenever I’m gone and it’s just daddy here that “mama’s at runnin.”  Deep down I know that I am setting a good example for them and I do my very best to minimize the time I run while they are awake but why do I still feel guilty sometimes?

Most of my kids get it.  In fact, my oldest loves that I run and has decided that it’s her “talent” too.  She’s had the Boston Marathon poster I was given at the expo proudly displayed on her door ever since I returned from Boston.  She runs in a handful of local races a year and gets excited when she sets a new PR.  Truly a mini version of me! 

My mini me

However, my youngest daughter has definitely had her share of reservations when it comes to me and running.  Often when she sees me in my running clothes in the morning she asksin a panicked voice, I might add- “Did you already go running or are you going to go running?”  The majority of the time I assure her, “I’ve already gone.” Then she smiles and relaxes- and usually asks me to make pancakes!  She loves me being home.  If for some reason I haven’t gone yet (this happens more in the summer or when J doesn’t have to go in as early) she asks “How many miles are you going?  Can I come?”  She definitely knows how to pull on my heart strings. 

The infamous first day of kindergarten picture…

Yes, this is the same child who has had a bit of a time adjusting to being in school now that kindergarten has started.  I am happy to report she is doing better and we’re going on a full week of no tears! She’s just my little girl.  She doesn’t mean to make me feel guilty.  But nevertheless I do because I don’t want to let her down. 

I want my children to see me value health and fitness.  I really do.  I love when they are able to come to one of my races. Hearing them cheer means more to me than they’ll ever know.  I want them to see the importance of hard work and dedication.  But more than that I want them to know that they are loved.  I want them to know they mean more to me than any job or hobby I could ever have. So I find myself trying to balance the two.  It isn’t always easy.

So imagine my surprise last week when my little Anna told me what she did in PE.  The kids were running around the gym playing some game and she said she ran a few extra laps so she could be like meWhen I heard this I was actually driving the kids home from school and I immediately teared up.  Of all my kids she’s the one I thought liked me running the least.  I was completely caught off guard when I heard her say she “wanted to be a runner like mama.”  It’s no wonder when the older two wanted to run in the one mile race this past weekend that she decided to jump in and run too. 

Anna & Abi at the starting line of the one mile race amongst all older girls!
Her first race…

I wish I could offer “5 easy steps” to handling exercise mommy guilt but I’m here to say there is no set answer.  The bottom line is that we love our kids and want the best for them.  As parents, we also need to exercise and be health conscience so we can take care of our bodies and be around for our kids- and someday grand kids!  Setting a good example for them is just one of the many benefits of living a healthy life.  It may or may not mean much to them now but they are watching us and we are making a lasting impression.  The older my kids get the more I realize how many of our habits (good or bad) they’ve picked up from John or myself. 

As a mom who also happens to be a competitive runner I do my best to make the most of my workout time and be productive.  Usually this means running before the kids are even up in the morning.  I am more motivated now to do this than I was a few years ago.  I remember having 3 kids ages 3 and under and there was NO WAY I was going to wake up at zero-dark thirty to run or workout.  It just wasn’t realistic.  I still ran but I had different goals and expectations.  A simple 3 mile jog took less than 30 minutes which is a lot easier to “squeeze in” during a busy day.  Right now every run/ workout takes at least 1-2 hours and if it’s a long run a little more.   At one time (years ago) I would push them in our double jogging stroller but as they’ve grown and as we’ve had more kids it’s just not an option anymore.  Besides, I’m not a huge fan of jogging strollers.  I would much rather get up earlier to go on my own than push multiple kids around while I’m trying to run.  But I know this works for many moms and if you enjoy it- go with it!

Find a system that works and stay with it!  Know that your kids are watching and do your best to set a good example.  When you make a mistake- admit it.  Involve them in your sport when you can but also allow some time for you to be alone.  Some days- usually most days– I find that I am with kids all day long except for the wee hours in the morning when I’m running or when we finally get them all to bed at night.  I’m not complaining.  I love being a stay at home mom and I’m extremely thankful that I can be here with my kids.  But it’s a non stop day full of giving and care taking.  Making time to take care for yourself is important too.

It’s not always easy trying to keep the balance but as a mom- it’s what we do! Hearing my daughter tell me that she wanted to be a runner like me someday was just about the sweetest thing she’s ever said to me.  I think it’s right up there with hearing her say “mama” for the first time or “I wuv you” in my book. 

After a run around the block- she was so proud she went one mile

My advice- just do the best you can with where you are right now.  Make the most of it and be content with whatever phase of life you are in right now. (I know- easier said than done!)  I am surrounded by all these little people right now but I know that I’ll blink and they will be all grown up so I’m just taking it one day at a time. 

If you have children, how do you find the balance? 

13 thoughts on “Finding the Balance- Mommy Guilt vs. Inspiring our children

  1. This is a great post Tia. I’m not a mom, so I don’t get it 100%, but my sister is a mother of 2 and she’s had mommy guilt over setting aside her exercise time. But she knows she needs that time to herself so that she feels good and is also setting an example for the kids too.

    1. Thanks Heather! Your sister is absolutely right. It does get a little easier as they get older but I know what she’s going through. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Awesome awesome!!! I was just thinking about this today. Like right this second. Someone posted something that I really enjoyed this morning but it got me thinking too. Lots of reflecting all day about selfishness vs. Self time as a mother (so important). We need to take this time for ourselves. And when we do (in your case, using your gifts and fulfilling dreams), we have more to give our children. Being intentional in our mothering doesn’t mean we have to make our every moment all about mothering and giving every part of our day to them. They are better off when we don’t….when they see that Mom is an individual…a person…a wonderful and strong woman who strives to be the BEST her. I think you sound like an extraordinary mother Tia. Keep on keepin’ on! Your kids are so blessed to have you. And yes, be where you are right now. BAg the guilt (so much easier said than done)!! Great post!

    1. Amanda– thank you for your support! I actually thought of you while writing this because I consider you the motherhood/ running expert on the subject. I am constantly inspired by your words and thoughts on this subject. Thanks for the FB share on Motherhood as well! 🙂

    2. Wow! Expert! You are so kind to me! Flattered that you’d think of me in that light. 🙂 Thank you. Far from expert but so glad we have other mamas out there to help us keep being the best versions of ourselves. Thanks again for this post today.

  3. Bookmarking this post for life! Or at least until (if) I have kids! Not only is your running inspiring, Tia, but you are such a great example on how to balance this seemingly all-consuming sport of ours with the far more important things in life, like family. I know you don’t think you have all the answers, and Im sure everyone’s experience is different. But this is a great starting point to understanding how mothering fit in with running (or the best Ive read anyway… 🙂 xo

    1. Wow- you said it! It can definitely turn into an all-consuming sport if we don’t watch it! It’s definitely a day to day effort and I’m constantly learning in the process. Thanks for your kind comment!

  4. Great Post Tia! I wondered how you are able to blanace training as hard as you do with 4 small children.

    I have two under the age of three and training for a marathon is just not in the cards for me right now. I am currently training for a half marathon and I only get about 25-30 miles in a week. I drop my kids off at daycare a half an hour early so I can bang out a 30 minute run (tempo) a few times a week and on Friday’s I get off of work early so I try to run long on that day. On the weekends my husband will let me escape for a long run on either Saturday or Sunday, but I don’t feel carefree like before I had my children. I worry that I am missing out on something while I’m gone.

    1. Dolly- I can so relate! You are doing better than I was. 🙂 I wasn’t training for anything back in those days. Sometimes I wonder what “could have been” if I would have stuck with some sort of training/ running but I know I needed the break and my babies needed me. Like you- I didn’t want to be gone and miss anything! Good luck with your HM training!

  5. I still get mother guilt at times. My eldest is 26 and is doing prac work for his degree away from home for the next five weeks. I’d texted him for the first couple of days just to let him know I’m thinking about him then left it on the third. He rang me on the fourth because he thought my texts weren’t coming through. Oops! I felt immediately guilty but then decided that he also has a phone and can text me if he wants.

  6. Oh the mommy guilt! I have it a lot too, but am slowly learning how to find better balance in my life. It helps the older the kids get and the more they understand where you are and what you are doing. I have found in my own life, with constant reminders from my fabulous and supportive husband, that taking some time and doing things that fill me up and give me joy are so worth it, and beneficial to our entire family. I am trying to give the time I do spend away from my children to people and activities that build me up and renew me in many ways, and to start cutting out the things that take away from me or drain me. It is NOT easy, and I try to spend as little time out running/exercising when they are awake as possible, but in the end I know that being healthy and accomplishing my dreams/goals is a good thing for my family too. You do a great job and I know your kids and husband are proud of what you do!!

  7. I’m usually able to hold the mommy guilt at bay, but with the start of school, it has reared its ugly head a bit. Kaylee started first grade and is still anxious about school, so there was crying. I felt awful leaving her. Also, I had an evening track meet a couple weeks ago, which forced me to miss bedtime (which never ever happens). Even though I had explained the whole situation to her prior it didn’t go well, and now she’s having trouble going to bed at night. Sigh. She’s a worrier.

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