When our kids were babies, Mike worked a lot. Beyond the long hours each day, he also traveled out of town for work multiple days each month. With the birth of our eldest I went from 10-hour workdays in a hectic hotel kitchen, to endless hours of solitude punctuated by regular intervals of desperately bouncing and rocking a crying baby. At a certain point I became someone I didn’t recognize: someone who spent the day watching the clock waiting for her husband to return home. Was this 1950 or 2005?
I started running with a jogging stroller as a way to fill time, picking up the sport I had largely abandoned during my working years. Yes, even in those years I still ran a few days each week, but that was more out of vanity than anything else. I didn’t like the way I felt or looked when completely sedentary.
But the baby jogger was a way out of the house. An escape in the days when the walls threatened to close in on me. It was also a way to find a little piece of myself again, when every other part seemed to belong to someone else.
Within a few years Mike was lucky enough to find a business partner who helped him stop the insanity. Who shared the same work-life philosophies and helped create a business that enabled him to get off the road and out of the office. We moved out of the city. The kids grew and started school. And I kept running.
In the years in high school when I fought to get into a good college, then fought through college to achieve anything academically and athletically, I always felt that I was working toward something. A respectable college, a good job, financial security. I never realized this was all achievement for achievement’s sake. That there is never an end until you say there is.
I never went back to a serious full time job. But once both kids spent a majority of the day in school, I needed to justify my time. A reason to exist, something to achieve. For the last few years running has given me this, and more.
At first it was a way to organize my day. Then it was a way to connect with my friends who continued to work. Something to talk about beyond the platitudes about how great it is to be a stay-at-home mom.
But now that it’s gotten more serious, it has circled back around. Now, instead of running to justify my time, I find myself chasing achievement to justify my running. To alleviate the mom guilt I feel for the mental space I dedicate to running and cross training. For traveling to out-of-town races and missing swim meets and soccer tournaments. For sticking Mike with the parenting responsibilities made easier by the presence of two people.
I find myself striving to earn my running. To achieve higher heights to justify its existence. To make it cost as little as possible in both time and money. And as I look ahead to 2017 races, and back at those of 2016, I’m realizing the fallacy in this. That all the victories in the world will not fill that hole. That no amount of free gear, prize money, or recognition will make me an elite runner or bring about the end of the achievement wheel. Or release me from the mom guilt.
May 2017 be the year that I release myself.