In defense of the lululemon mom

I logged onto Facebook (that great black hole of wasted time) and a friend had posted this:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/deborahljacobs/2012/04/15/a-working-mom-defends-the-lululemon-stay-at-home-mother/

The lululemon-stay-at-home-mother.  Good god, I am a cliche.

As I sat there reading the article, and as I sit typing this, I am wearing a lulu yoga top with a lulu running skirt.  The only non-lulu item is my Holiday Lake finisher’s shirt….a testament to the fact that I clearly have enough time on my hands to train for and run an ultramarathon.  I am stressed out right now about making enough casseroles for next week’s PTA fundraiser.  I’ve dropped the ball on several volunteer commitments.  I feel like Physical Therapy and massages are taking up too much of my mornings.  I am starting to hate me too…

…And I have a feeling I’m not the only one rolling eyes at this image.  A lot has been blogged lately about the whole stay-at-home v. working mom divide.  The way I see it, it breaks out into three camps.

  1. SAHMs have no idea the sacrifices that working moms make.  Working moms have to do all the “mom” stuff while also balancing the needs of a demanding boss/client/career.  Not everyone has the luxury to stay at home all day.  Its worth the sacrifice because we can give our children more opportunities that come with financial stability.

2.  Working moms have no idea how hard it is to be at home.  SAHMs sacrifice a higher standard of living/autonomy/self expression for their family – a sacrifice that’s not always acknowledged or appreciated.  Its worth the sacrifice because we are building a stronger family unit.

3.  Motherhood is HARD.  Let’s just acknowledge that its a challenge for us all, and start supporting (rather than judging) each other.  (For the record, I am solidly in camp #3.  My working mom friends are rock stars and balancers, and they are GREAT mothers.  My stay-at-home moms are fantastic jugglers, and they are GREAT mothers too.  Party on, sisters!)

I’m not here to rehash this debate – it’s been discussed beautifully here.  I just want to share my story.

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I spend a lot of time talking, writing, whining about the problems I have as a runner.  What’s harder for me is to discuss the problems I have as a mother.  See, the running problems are physical.  A poor diet, poor training, or insufficient recovery leads to burn out and injury.  A genetic flaw (i.e. uneven leg lengths) causes a gait problem.  These aches, pains, and setbacks have no bearing on who I am as a person, a mother, a wife, daughter, or friend.

But the mothering issues…whoa – that gets right at my moral failings.  My quick tempered-lack of patience-yelling-disorganization-messiness-laziness-inattention-helicoptering.

I live in fear that my neighbors and friends will realize that I am a horrible mom that yells at her kids.  I weep when I think of how I am screwing my children up, and how it will take years of therapy for them to get over the mom who always in a hurry.

The cloud of depression darkens over the bedtime hour, when the accumulated stories, hugs, songs, cuddles, glasses of water, and kisses are not enough and at 9 pm they are still competing for my attention.

I have a really good life.  My husband is a strong man, who provides for us all.  But his job is stressful, and our partnership has evolved with parenthood.  He gets to be the fun dad in the mornings, playing guitar and walking to the school bus. In the evening, he’s home in time to see them before bed, but he usually falls asleep before they are settled.  I do not begrudge him this at all.

But it means that 95% of the parenting is mine.  All of the AWESOME stuff:  giggles, wiggly teeth, play dates, dress up, drawing, walking through the parks, baking cookies, and decorating for the holidays – I see this through the girls’ eyes.  First steps, first words, the thrill of learning something new – I am there.  But, I’m also there for the nasty parts of parenting – the tantrums, time-outs, night terrors.  The bickering, jealousy, and competition.  I define the boundaries, and constantly patrol them.  My kids are young, and their every need  – from runny noses to glasses of milk – I must meet.  I do not begrudge them this at all.

But I get tired.  My husband doesn’t always understand (in the moment) what I do behind the scenes to keep our world spinning.  My girls don’t yet see that I can not be everything to all of them at all times  (Sorry, honey, I can’t….

watch your rendition of the Star Spangled Banner while

getting your sister her fifth snack of the hour while

changing the baby’s diaper while

pulling the dog off the wheels of the UPS truck while

explaining to my mom on the phone that I haven’t had a chance to email her a family  picture while

texting your father that he needs to bring milk on his way home tonight. )

This is why I run.

Which brings be back to the lululemon mom.  According to this stereotype, she takes her children to school, unloading them with grace and patience.  She then grabs a cup of coffee with a friend, before heading to the gym for Pilates with her personal trainer (this explains why she has retained her looks and pre-pregnancy weight).  She then heads off to lunch with the ladies, before her daily grooming appointment (waxing, hair, or nails – take your pick).

Maybe.

But probably not. (It’s like saying that every woman who heads to work in a business suit takes a private corporate jet to the board meeting, where the executives are served lunch flown in from Paris).

I tend to think that, for most of us, days are a blend of highs and lows**  Maybe the baby didn’t sleep, and the toddler is throwing a tantrum.  Maybe an ill-timed stomach bug means someone has to skip school.  Perhaps the boss is being unreasonable, or an important meeting means you’ll miss the school play.  But somedays that is balanced by having coffee with a friend.  Or laughing over lunch with co-workers.

We wear the clothes that our jobs require.  Personally, I’ve traded in my power suits for power yoga.   I can keep up with MagPie and JuneBug much better in garments that stretch and breathe.  And I am OK with that.

**  I feel like I need to caveat the hell out of this post.  I know I do not speak for those who straddle the poverty line.  For the single or divorcing parents, for those caring for sick or dying children/parents.  There is an incredible amount of pain and suffering in the world, and I ache for those of you enduring such heartbreaks.  Similarly, I do not speak for the elite.  Those women who have ample help and support. Who have the luxury to plan and control each moment of their day, free from worry or compromise.  You must have excellent karma.

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#10: Doucument the Journey

At long last, almost three months after starting, I’ve come to my final 2012 resolution. Clearly, I could be doing a better job documenting the journey!

I started this blog for my daughters.  I hope to have some record of the thoughts and philosophies that bounce around in my head.  I want them to understand the connection between me as an individual (i.e. runner) and me as a mother.  And I want them to see how vitally interconnected these two personas are.

I could not be the runner I am today without first being a mother.  Motherhood has given me strength, grit, and endurance that I utterly lacked.  Since becoming a mom, I’ve stopped expecting much in the way of physical comfort (try saying ‘no’ to three little munchkins that all want to sit on the same lap at the same time!).  I’ve stopped expecting solid, long periods of sleep.  I do not rest.  I clean the same messes and wipe away the same tears – hour after hour, day after day.  I am a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, a counselor, a guardian, a disciplinarian, a spoiler, a chef, a recycler, a housemaid, a laundress, and the biggest cheerleader these girls will ever have.

But I could not be a good mom without my running.  It’s in those runs that I find my rest.  In the miles and the footfalls, I find my peace.  It is in the hills and across the streams that I find my soul.  I return to the chaos ready, and thrilled, to tackle the day

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I am really, really bad about taking pictures.  Even worse about organizing them.  The girls’ baby books gather dust, incomplete.  But when I open the images saved on the computer and scroll through the last six years, I see how far we’ve come.  This little, srawny infant:

is now in kindergarten.

This heartbreakingly young couple:

have 15 years under their belts, have built a home, a business, and family of five.

It’s in this reflection that I can see what we have done.

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I must admit I am a bit down today.  Last weekend’s race, which I scrapped in deference to my aching achilles, still chafes a bit.  I wanted to be there, on the trails, having fun.  Instead I sat on the sidelines.  Promised Land, a gorgeous 50K, is coming up next month.  I know I can’t run it.  Aside from my aches and pains, there are several family obligations that take precedence.  But it still rankles me to think about missing the fun.

But there is a blessing in these missed opportunities. The chance to rebuild, to make myself stronger.  I’ll take a deep breath, and know that there will be other races, other adventures.

And if I keep my resolution to document the journey, through words and pictures, maybe I can look back at the trail this time next year and see how far we have come.

Marathons & Motherhood

I continue to be amazed at the parallels between running and motherhood.  Both are exhausting.  Both can be tedious.  But both bring unparalleled joy and rewards.

Saturday’s marathon was the first I have run since having children.  And while it’s been more difficult to find time in my schedule to run, overall the training was much, much easier.

Why?  We’re supposed to slow down as we get older, right?  The kids bring extra weight gain, sleepless nights, shifting priorities.  Running is a self-indulgence that many shrug off.  I’ve gotten more than a few wrinkled noses as I jog off past the school buses.  I hear so many of my fellow moms say “I’d like to run, but I just don’t have the time…”

I do run for myself, but I take my girls with me every step.  Before kids, if I was tired or if I hurt, I stopped.  I did not want to over-exert or injure myself.  I babied my feet, my legs.  Easy does it.

Well, Easy does NOT do it when your a mom.  You’re tired, but you are out of bed to comfort a nightmare.  You’re sick, but still rocking a colicky baby.  You’re cranky, but mediating sibling fights and temper tantrums.  You push through your own emotions and deal with whatever the day brings. Day after day after day.  That’s why my tag line is “Motherhood:  the ultimate long run”.  It never truly ends.  There’s no taper, no finish line.

But boy, is there a great medal that hangs around your neck!  Nothing beats the bear hug of my 2 year old Ladybug.  Or the snuggles of my 4 year old Mouse.  Or the cheers from my kindergartener.  The pain and fatigue vanish, and I’m left feeling totally WHOLE.

So Saturday, when the pain came, I let it flow over me.  When the fatigue set in, I kept my pace steady.  I knew it would pass.  And it did.  I knew my girls would be there at the end.  And their smiles and high-fives kept me going.

Just like labor, I swore Saturday I wouldn’t put myself through that pain.  Now its Monday, I’m still sore, but I’m looking forward to Shamrock in March.  Let’s do this again!!

How quickly we forget…

Beginning

When I run, the mish-mash that lives in my head starts to untangle.  Things begin to make sense, if only for a short-while.  When I don’t run, or can’t run for whatever reason, I lose that perspective and the little things in life seem much…more…serious.

My first-born starts kindergarten on Tuesday.  Yesterday she was an infant.  A screaming, colicky, inch worm who was determined to take from me the identity I had painstakingly developed over the past 30 years.  I didn’t come gently into motherhood – it was a tsunami of hormones and emotion that washed away everything I thought I was…job, hobbies, running, friends – gone.  Husband – annoyed at my self-pity  (He’s really a great guy, by the way, fantastic father and my best friend.  Let’s just say he needed an adjustment period too).

But in the days, weeks, and months that followed that cold December day, we fell in love he, she and I.  Her smiles came, then her laughter.  She charged ahead – never afraid, never hesitating.  She’s clever, persistent, precocious, caring, stubborn, wiley, and a ray of sunshine.  And my identity was rebuilt…not as I had planned, but as it was meant to be.  Play dates and pre-school forged a new set of friendships.  Old friends reconnected over sippy cups at Starbucks.  The witching hour became the new happy hour.  Two more little girls followed to make our family complete.  But something was missing.

I needed to do something for myself.  Just me.  Running has always been a refuge, and last February I started again.  In the cold days as winter gave way to spring I pulled myself out of bed and onto the road.  I ran slowly at first, but as my legs got used to their new routine, I added distance until I could run from my house to the University Lake and back.  I ran the local 10K.  And PR’d.

What??

Where did the speed come from?  It had been nine years since my last PR and I had three children.  That didn’t make any sense.

So I ran another 10K a month later and PR’d again.

Turns out, I really didn’t need an escape.  I just needed validation.  See, the thing with motherhood is that we don’t know if we are doing a good job or not.  The PTA president can have a kid in rehab…the slacker parents have a kid that ends up at Harvard.  You just don’t know day-to-day if your creating the next sociopath, sociologist, social networking guru…or a Kardashian.

But the clock doesn’t lie.  Your legs don’t flatter.  You run your race and get your result.  And maybe, send the message to your kids that fitness is a part of life..of fun.

Still with me?  Tomorrow I promise I will tie this into Kindergarten.

After my long run 😉