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As another Mother’s Day approaches, I find myself thinking back a lot about the time before I was a runner, when I was a mother, and had not transitioned to being a mother runner. I’m going to put myself at risk here and admit something that may get some criticism. While being a mother is the title and role I’m most proud of, and while it is the one thing I always dreamt of more than anything else in the world from when I was a little girl myself, it is also the role that caused me to lose myself.
About five years ago, I found myself in a bad place. On the outside, everything looked perfect to everyone. I had the dream job, in a dream city, a great supportive husband and three beautiful healthy children. On the inside, I didn’t know who I was anymore, and the rat race of the prior 15 years to get me to exactly where I thought I wanted to be left me exhausted with no time to actually think about or process how I was living. When I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t see me. I could see a wife, a daughter, a pediatrician, a friend, a sister, and most of all a mother, but I couldn’t see me. I knew that if I didn’t find myself, I’d lose all those other roles that I had worked so hard for. When I put on a pair of running shoes for the first time, I had no idea that my non-athlete self would actually find herself in running; that my attempt to run away would actually not be running away but back towards myself.
If I could go back and talk to my non-runner self, this is what I would say:
The energy that you put into running will result in even greater energy that you can then give to your kids. When you feel guilty about taking time for yourself and putting yourself on the list, you are teaching your children that as adults, they should feel guilty every time they practice self-care.
If you want your children to be strong, you must model strength. If you want your children to be resilient, you must model resilience. If you want your children to be patient, you must model persistence. If you want your children to be compassionate, you must have self-compassion. Running will help you model all of these behaviors for your children. If you want to show your children that every time you fall, you get back up, then run.
Running will help you find yourself. It will let your children know that it is okay to have a title and a role that is all for yourself and doesn’t define you in relation to someone else. Being a wife is a role based on a partner. Being a doctor is a role based on relationships with patients. Being a mother is an all-encompassing role in relation to your children. You will own runner as the role and identity that is all for you; they will as adults choose their own role that is just for themselves, whether it is runner or artist or writer or pianist or yogi or whatever they choose to nurture their sole and find themselves in.
You must put on your oxygen mask before you can put on someone else’s. Running will become your oxygen mask; use it.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mother runners out there. I hope you choose to run for no one else but yourself today.