Three years ago, shortly after my first son was born, I made the life-changing decision to become a stay-at-home mom. While it was something I always considered when I pictured myself as a mother, it wasn’t an easy choice for me like it was for many SAHMs I know. In fact, I went back to work and agonized for three months. On good days, I felt like a superhero and thought I could do it all. On bad days, I sobbed to my mom and husband about what a failure I was as a working mom. In the end, there were more bad days than good and something had to give. It ended up being my career.
While I knew staying home was the best decision for my family, the sense of failure subsided but never left completely. So I threw myself full force into motherhood. On rare occasions I would get a night out, usually with other moms talking about our kids. Not even one month after our son’s first birthday, we conceived our second son. I went from pregnant to breastfeeding, to pregnant to breastfeeding again, with virtually no break in between. I had no escape, no life outside my family.
I resented my husband for being able to flee to the office every day. Even going to the bathroom alone seemed like a novelty. I longed for adult conversations about things other than poop color and temper tantrums. Looking back, I realize how depressed I was throughout my second pregnancy and into postpartum. I knew I had to do something for myself. The monotony of mom life was wearing on me.
When our second son was around four months, I decided to start running again. I’ve been a runner on and off since high school, as time and energy permitted. This time was different. I wasn’t just running to keep in shape, I was running for a purpose.
To keep the momentum going, I began signing up for races. Some 5k’s, a couple half marathons. Then my friend convinced me to run a full marathon with her. Training for 26.2 miles is a totally different ballgame. I needed a support system, which was pretty easy to find since Birmingham has an incredible running community.
As a female runner, it is intimidating to run alone, in the dark, away from the comfort of your neighborhood; especially when you’re directionally impaired like me. I started running on Saturdays with the Birmingham Track Club, which provides running routes as well as water stops (much needed in Alabama summers). Soon after, I stumbled upon Birmingham Running and Training Society (BRATS). These runners are crazy. At least one BRATS member is up for a run every day of the week, usually starting at 4:30 a.m. (yes, 4:30 in the MORNING!). Not only are they amazing running partners, but they also give advice, support and accolades. It felt so good to have conversations on runs that weren’t focused solely on my kids.
In October of last year, after 16 weeks of training, my friend and I flew to Minneapolis to run the Twin Cities Marathon. It was only the second time since becoming a mother that I’d been away by myself. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Not only did I run 26.2 miles, but I crushed my goal of a sub-4-hour marathon (3:47:24 to be exact).
Earning a medal at the end of the race was great, but what I learned was the ultimate payoff. I need to set goals for myself. It’s how I thrived when I worked, and it’s what was missing in my life as a mother. Without goals, I don’t feel like I have a purpose. Yes, I have goals as a mother. I want to raise happy, healthy, polite and empathetic boys. But those goals are long term and never ending. Running gives me more instant gratification.
I need adult conversation and friendships. I love my husband, but having relationships outside of my family and kids is so important. I worked in such a social world, traveling to trade shows and constantly interacting with new people. To all of a sudden leave that behind was also leaving a part of me behind. BRATS and the Birmingham running community has made me part of a team again.
Being a mom is a huge part of who we are, but it doesn’t define us. It took me awhile, but I’ve found myself again. I’m proud of being a runner. A few months ago someone asked my son what I do, and he said “Mommy runs.” It made me feel so good knowing that my kids recognize I’m not just a mother, I’m a person that has interests and goals. This month I ran my second marathon, and I completed my latest goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Now I’m working on what my next goal will be . . . running a marathon in every state is at the top of the list.