mother health

Running Makes Me A Better Parent

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Woman runningWhen I first became a mom I believed that being away from my babies for any length of time was selfish and meant I was a bad mother. Since then I’ve taken up running as a hobby and learned I was wrong- I am definitely a better parent when I run.

I didn’t set out to be a runner. While I always enjoyed dancing and fitness classes, I hated running with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. When my twin sons were born a combination of my husband’s fear of caring for both infants on his own and my own anxieties over leaving the babies kept me stuck in the house for months. Because the boys were premature it was  recommended by our doctor that we avoid play dates for a while and I soon found myself stir-crazy, lonely and depressed.

Desperate to get out of the house, for Mother’s Day I asked my husband for a massive double jogging stroller that adapted to accommodate two car seats and came with a “Oh, shit!” wrist strap to prevent it from careening down hills without me. Back then getting the boys dressed and into the stroller took longer than the walk itself. I stuck with it, because the feeling of getting out of the house and into the world again was exhilarating and made me feel just a teeny bit like the woman I was before I became a mom. Little by little I started adding small spurts of running into my walks, usually to distract a cranky baby. Over time the running spurts became something I looked forward to and suddenly I realized that we were covering some serious ground. I also realized I was smiling again. 

My boys are toddlers now and will rarely consent to being strapped into the stroller long enough for me to take them with me when I head out for a session, but honestly, that’s even better. Now I look forward to having time to myself, time when I can literally run away from the tantrums that can feel so tedious when I am dealing with them alone for hours on end. I can clear my head and let go of all my worries, daydream, plan out my week, or just bop along to some really great 90s hip-hop. 

On a day when the sink is full of dishes, the kids are running circles around me and I feel like a failure of a mom because we are all still in pajamas at noon, grabbing my sneakers and heading out for a run gives me an endorphin rush that is often just what I need to come back home calm and ready to play blocks until bedtime. I love how running adapts to me- I can walk if I’m having a bad day or really pour on the speed if I need to get some frustration out. No matter how the run goes, having guaranteed me time carved into my schedule has really lowered my stress levels and made me a happier mom.

While I strive to focus on being strong, not skinny, I will admit that I enjoy the perks running gives my rear. I don’t use a scale, so I don’t know where I am in terms of my pre-pregnancy weight compared to now, but that doesn’t matter to me. I currently have more cardiovascular fitness than I ever did before kids. Even if I wore a smaller size back then, what’s important to me now is being healthy so I can be here for my kids. Plus I love having running as an excuse to buy all the momcore yoga pants and tank tops I want.

Being a mom can feel all-consuming at times. Running lets me hit the pause button on my parenting duties. Besides the health benefits, running allows me to stay sane so I don’t run away.

(image: Dudarev Mikhail/ Shutterstock)