When I first started boot camp a year-and-a-half ago, I didn’t experience too much Mommy Guilt about time away from the family because no one was awake while I was gone. I didn’t have to deal with the battle of exercise v/s guilt until I started the training program for that half marathon last August. (Has it not even been a year? Jeez.) The first few weeks I didn’t stress about my mid-week 3-mile runs because I knew that boot camp was keeping me in shape for those. So, I only had to leave the family for the Saturday long runs.
Once those got a bit longer, and once my mid-week runs were more than 3 miles, I started feeling guilty. I was having to miss soccer games and practices. So…to deal with the guilt? I skipped the runs. For about 3-4 weeks early in that program, I did my best to still run while the kids were sleeping, without my group.
But then, the Saturday runs got longer and I knew that I needed the group to motivate me. To hold me accountable. So, I sucked it up. I started letting myself miss a few games, miss time with the kids, just to accomplish this one goal. This one half-marathon. Somewhere along the way…the guilt lessened. I stopped feeling bad when I left the kids. I stopped thinking that I was being a bad Mom. Somewhere along the way…it became okay. And I’m so glad it did.
We used to talk about Donnie and I leaving to exercise a lot. Sometimes the kids try to say, “Why do you run so much?” or something similar. I explained to them the importance of exercise and being healthy. This is just standard knowledge now.
Now, the conversations are much different.
“Did you have a good run today, Momma?”
“Did you have a good swim, Dad?”
“I play softball…that’s exercise too! I’m healthy.”
“Dance is exercise! I’m healthy too!”
The mood is different now. This is just our life. The kids know that there are many times a week when routines are shifted to accommodate Mommy and Daddy training for races. They know that sometimes they have to go someplace boring for awhile just to scream for 10 seconds when one of their parents crosses a finish-line. They don’t question anymore because it’s just…our life. And the knowledge that the kids are now growing up with this default setting that exercise is part of an adult’s life? Is worth so much more than those hours missed.
I’d heard that before…that we should get over our guilt when we exercise because our kids learn more life lessons from us being gone than they do from us being there. But it never really hit me until Nikki started showing off her muscles one day. “I have big muscles like you, Mom!” Or until Wes asked if he could wear my medal from my race. Or, especially that time when I overheard Nikki telling her friend when I was picking her up from daycare, “I have to get up EARLY tomorrow because my Mom and Dad have a big race in Tennessee.” And she wasn’t saying it with bitterness that she had to wake-up early, she was saying it with pride because her parents do things like go to BIG RACES!
I wish I knew the magic formula: Suffer through the guilt for 1 month and then things will get better! But it was a gradual change. Gradually the guilt subsided and it was replaced with pride. Pride that my kids will grow up assuming that exercise will be part of their adult life. Even big brother goes running sometimes, everyone does! Since our current society seems to be the breeding ground for more and more unhealthy lifestyles…the fact that I’m providing a foundation to combat that? Gives me more pride than guilt.
So…if you feel guilty every time you leave for a run? Hang in there. That will fade, I promise, and the feeling it leaves in it’s wake? The pride that maybe you’re doing something right after all? That maybe there’s one part of your kids you’re not screwing up? That maybe they’re learning something positive from you after all? It’s a damn good feeling. Because – someone like me passes on a lot of bad examples to her children: I’m stressed, anxious, I watch too much TV and I stress eat. But – if they’re also seeing that I exercise often and take time to set goals and train for them? Then maybe the bad stuff won’t have as much influence on them.