Rediscovering Myself After Baby

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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.

Rediscovering myself as a runner after baby
First race back after my second pregnancy.

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.

Rediscovering myself after baby - Mommy's marathon medals
Ian and Colin sporting Mommy’s marathon medals.

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.

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Beth lives in Vestavia Hills, Ala. with her husband, Grant, and their two sons, Ian (3.5) and Colin (22 months). They also have a 95lb furbaby named Bailey that gets into more trouble than both kids. Beth grew up in Connecticut and is a Yankee at heart but moved to the South where she attended the University of Alabama and fell in love with the charm (and weather) of Southern life. After a decade-long marketing career and short stint back from maternity leave, Beth made the incredibly difficult decision to pause her career and become a stay-at-home mom. While at times she questions that decision, along with her sanity, she has absolutely no regrets. When she isn't chasing two crazy boys and trying to tame their wild beast of a dog, Beth enjoys spending time with her husband, traveling, hiking, exploring Birmingham, reading, and long-distance running.

2 COMMENTS

  1. How do you manage to run with kids? Do you take a stroller? Or have your husband or sitter watch them? Or do treadmills at a gym with childcare? It’s a puzzle I can’t figure out for myself! 🙁 I’d love to know what works for someone who’s done it!

    • I figured out what’s best for me is to wake up early (4:30am some mornings) and run before my husband has to leave for work. The kids are normally still asleep and he can get ready while I’m still running. He likes to work out too so he takes M/W/F and I have T/Th for short-moderate runs, Sat or Sun for my long run. I’d love to add in one more day to run but haven’t figured that out yet. I tried to add a gym day while my oldest is at preschool but my youngest hated going to the gym daycare (shame on me for starting at the worst separation-anxiety time!). I do have a double BOB stroller but the boys are way too heavy to push up the hills by my house so walking is as much as I can do with that these day, still great exercise though! It’s definitely hard to find the time as a mother. Good luck, hope you find something that work for you and your fam!

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