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Just Keep Moving Forward: A “Selfish” Mother Runner

After receiving accusations of being a "selfish" mother, this athlete explains why pursuing a healthy lifestyle is better for her family.

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How Selfish Could It Be?

“Who is watching your kids when you are doing all that working out and marathon training?”

I wish I had a dollar for every time some holier-than-thou Mom-of-the-Year sent me an email with feigned concern for my poor children and all the time I spend away from them. This is the new version of women hating on women in the same way that generations ago women hated on working moms.

[We really should quit hating on each other—but that’s another story.]

So yes, me. That “selfish” mom runner. I spend about seven to 15 hours a week working out, depending on what is on the training calendar.

Since I found the sport of triathlon in 2010, the third discipline of which is running, I have chosen to fight for my right to be an athletic mom. I am not quiet about it. I know what great things running has done for me, and I get really testy when people want to judge me for a choice that truly makes me and my family better as a whole.

Let’s pretend for a second that we, as women, earned the right to choose—with not only our own bodies, but our lives, and voting and things like jobs and spouses. Amazingly, we also have the choice to not take a spouse or have kids (who knew?). Who says we, as women and mothers, don’t have the right to make our own lives better in the process of raising children? When did I sign on the dotted line that I was giving up my soul, dreams and everything that I have worked for to get married and raise children? Where did I sign and pledge that I don’t have the right to take care of myself?

For some reason, there is a small subculture of women who feel that we can’t be fit and healthy and be a mom—that we must sacrifice so much for our kids. And truth? Yes, motherhood is a giant sacrifice. My boobs, for one, were the biggest sacrifice. But my health and fitness do not need to be.

Being an active parent (and human) matters big time. We don’t have to run or race or do anything competitive, but for the love, we must do something to prove that we have a pulse. Kids don’t care what we are saying as we hover over them saying, “Eat your vegetables” when we are sucking down a giant latte and muffin.

Kids care what we are actually doing when we talk to them, walk with them or play with them—even the older versions of these kids. I am not talking about fat or thin or chubby or svelte parents—who cares about what we look like—truly. It matters what we do and how we provide our best selves for our kids. What matters is our very best example and version of health. This is not about size or weight or the way we look. We are moms with goals, soul and life well behind our tired eyes. We are women who didn’t give up everything “for” their kids—that rather do everything for ourselves in order to be there for our kids.

Failing to take time to do what makes us happy and healthy is actually far more selfish. Stop spending your time hating on women making time for health for themselves and their family—and go outside for a walk—with (or without) your kids. If you take them, they’ll learn about the joy of fitness; if you leave them for some much-need sanity time, they’ll learn that you value yourself enough to take care of yourself. In the end, there is no downside.

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a weekly contributor to Women’s Running. She is a four-time IRONMAN triathlete, recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. You can download a free copy of the book here. Meredith is the host of the hit podcast The Same 24 Hours, a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. Meredith lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children, and writes about all things at


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