We all do it, and it makes sense. In fact, I believe it’s simply instinctual. And we do it so much, we just get used to it. We’re women, mothers, wives, personal chefs, personal shoppers, CEOs of our households, the list goes on and on, but the point is we wear several different hats. And they all fall under one job description: We’re mothers, and we almost always put ourselves last.
When I first became a mom, it seemed the saying “take care of yourself” was almost a buzzword of sorts, a phrase that was casually thrown around. But it seemed to be the first thing I tossed out the proverbial window. It felt right at the time, which I guess were my maternal instincts kicking in, focusing only on my children. But by doing so, I was wearing down far too quickly. So I started to take the saying seriously.
I got my act together, I exercised when I could, and I watched what I ate, and after a year had lost the whopping 80 pounds I gained while pregnant with my twin sons. Then to my surprise and utter joy, I found out I was pregnant again. The next nine months came and went, and I found myself back in the same position as two years before, 55 pounds heavier and never finding time to exercise or eat right.
Until I discovered running.
Discovering this newfound passion took root through one simple yet powerful human emotion: pride. Pride, and the accountability that it provides. I set a goal of running a half marathon and simply told other people my plans. Thanks to the power of pride, I HAD to do it. Too many people knew and were actually interested. It turned out to be one of the best things I ever did for my physical well-being and emotional health, which as we all know, become increasingly more important as we have children.
But it wasn’t all grit and ego that got me to complete the half-marathon and get to where I am now. I had help along the way … from a book.
Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving – and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea got me off the couch and into my running shoes more times than I can count. The book was essentially developed throughout email correspondence between McDowell and Shea. They had originally envisioned it as a magazine series for Runner’s World that detailed the highs and lows of balancing motherhood and marathon training but quickly realized that it was much more. And I’m glad they did, because it is.
Aside from having a clever name, this book is chalk full of motivation and – perhaps even more important – a sense of camaraderie. It’s very well written, with a “hey you, you’re a mom, I’m a mom, we’re in this together” type of feel. It’s often funny and always inspirational. My favorite chapter – and the one I turn to most often – is written by Dimity. It deals with motherhood being a life of nonnegotiables, that there are things that we, as mothers, have to do for our children and our family’s well-being. She makes a point that we should include ourselves in that category by making our health and fitness a nonnegotiable factor in our lives.
It was this thought, conveyed in Chapter Two that profoundly changed my outlook and, inevitably, my life. Now, like the puke-soaked sheets that need changed in the middle of the night, my bathroom slippers get tossed aside for my running shoes nearly every morning.
Running and motherhood are a lot alike. They both take infinite amounts of patience, dedication and stamina. Rest days help too. Running used to be something I despised, but now it’s my lifeline, my escape. It fuels me and makes me a better mom, wife and woman. Run Like a Mother is more than just a book, it’s a training partner, a confidant, a friend.
So, go. Run like the mothers you are, to your nearest bookstore (preferably to The Paperhouse) and buy a couple copies, one for you and one to give away to other mothers. The great thing about this book is that it’s for everyone, for mothers who don’t run or runners who aren’t mothers. We can all gain something by owning and reading it.