Chicago mom: Parenthood, like running a race, is over in the blink of an eye

I *NEED* to run.

That’s all the text to my husband says and he understands that it means I need 30 minutes. Thirty minutes without anyone asking questions or needing something. Thirty minutes preferably by myself. Usually the only 30 minutes in a row I have without someone touching me.

It’s about more than running and fitness. It’s about my mental health and being partners and taking turns. As my feet hit the pavement in the rhythmic thud, thud, thud, it all starts to make sense. (Stick with me non-runners!).

It’s been four years since I was marathon training, easily getting in five- to seven -mile runs. In those four years I have been pregnant four times and had two babies, so I’m starting over from the beginning. I’m following a couch-to-5K program and am on week six. So I’m just getting up to running 20-30 minutes straight, without walking.

On this particular run I was a ball of stress: So much to do at home, the kids were crazy, it was hot and humid and I was supposed to run for 22 minutes. My last run had just one 10-minute stretch and it was hard. I didn’t think I could do it.

There are always things pulling at us parents when we want to do something that is for us. Whether it’s running, golf, a night out with friends, heck even a shower can feel like you are stealing from time with your kids. It’s not always easy. But as my feet thud, thud, thud into the path and the squeals and shrieks from a toddler who doesn’t want me to go fade into the background I can see it clearly.

If I focus down, looking at my feet, my form, the road directly underneath me, the run seems to take longer. It’s a harder, daunting, grueling event. Not to mention dangerous! Not that I would know about running into things or people, ahem. But the simple act of looking up, setting the focus far ahead, the end of the block, the horizon and suddenly I’m almost there. In what feels like the blink of an eye, I am almost done. My legs just go, they know what they need to do, they stretch and reach and thud, thud, thud and I don’t need to be hovering on top of them to make sure of it.

Parenthood is like that.

The day to day, minute to minute when you are focused on getting from A to B — people fed, clothes on — it’s grueling. The thought of starting it over again tomorrow is daunting. But when you look up and focus down the road, you realize you’re almost there. Soon they will feed and dress themselves and the here to there won’t be the same. In the blink of an eye you will be past the hard stuff.

So pick your head up, mama, look down the road, dad. These days of babies and toddlers are hard, oh so hard, but they are short. I’m pretty sure that like finishing a race, when we get to the end we’re going to feel like champions, and look back and think, huh, that wasn’t that bad after all.

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