The other day, another mother told me that, in an overwhelmed moment at home with her kids, she grabbed a box of Lucky Charms cereal from her pantry, locked herself in the laundry room, sat on a pile of dirty clothes and hid from her kids for a few minutes while eating handfuls of cereal. She also confessed that she doesn’t even like Lucky Charms. Replace the cereal with a candy bar I stole from my middle child’s secret stash and I’ve been there.
As women and mothers, we constantly give for our kids, spouses, coworkers, neighbors and others. We give our time, love and energy to everyone else until we reach the point of exhaustion. Then we give a little more. After all that giving, no time, energy or love remains for ourselves. That’s how we end up overwhelmed, hiding in the laundry room with a box of Lucky Charms or a stolen candy bar.
How many times have you reached your breaking point from lack of self care that you snapped at your kids or your spouse? How many times have you broken down in tears, overwhelmed by the responsibilities you’ve shouldered because you can’t tell others no? How many times have you felt guilty for taking an hour, a half hour or even 15 minutes to go running or to do something else for yourself?
Think about what those unhealthy habits are teaching your children. Yes, your kids must learn that it’s important to care for others. But they must also learn to care for themselves. Just as important, they must learn to respect your need for self care.
I used to feel guilty for running on weeknights after getting home from work. I’d feel bad for spending yet more time away from my kids after not seeing them all day. I’d also feel guilty for ignoring the dirty dishes, baskets of laundry and unswept floors while lacing up my running shoes. That guilt led to me running less often than I’d like and feeling agitated after running when I should have instead felt refreshed and clear-minded. The situation wasn’t good for me and it certainly wasn’t good for my family.
The thing is, I didn’t just want to run. I needed to run. Running brings the motion I need after sitting in an office all day. It also resets my mind and keeps my anxiety in check.
When the tension between needing to run and feeling guilty for running reached the breaking point, I made a decision. I was either going to create a weeknight running schedule and stick to it, guilt-free, or I was going to put my running shoes in the closet and only take them out on weekends. I chose to keep the shoes out of the closet.
I’m happy to report that my family hasn’t fallen apart from my weeknight running schedule and my kids don’t feel abandoned by their mother. On the contrary, I’m now happier and more energetic on weeknights, which leads to my kids feeling happier. A side bonus is the kitchen is usually cleaned up from supper by the time I’m done running.
If you’re currently facing the dilemma and guilt that I faced about running, I hope you take the following lessons to heart:
Your running habits are teaching your kids the importance of being disciplined in sticking with a goal.
Your running habits are teaching your kids the necessity of keeping self promises.
Your running habits are teaching your kids to take care of their bodies.
Your running habits are teaching your kids that you are more than just their mom.
Last, your running habits are teaching your kids to respect your need for self care.
Lacing up your running shoes is about more than staying fit or training for a race. Running is about reserving time for self care and about teaching your kids crucial life lessons. So, keep your running shoes out of the closet, stick to a running schedule and don’t ever let yourself or anyone else make you feel guilty for it.
Want to build healthier habits but struggling to make lasting changes? Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear is a fantastic book that provides an effective roadmap for creating and achieving positive habits. Also, check out our article Running Tips: Achieve Your Goals with Running Mantras to learn more about the power of positive self-talk.
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