Friday, September 15, 2006

I Am Runner Therefore I Am Mother

I am having trouble starting this post.
I know what I want to say.
But every time I start writing it sounds like I am writing a paper for a feminist theory class.
And that tone bugs me.
Not that I am not a feminist.
I am.
I am a woman, so of course I am a feminist-- if not just by default.
But having taken my share of gender issue and feminism classes I am pretty turned off by the hardcore feminist writing where man and motherhood are the enemy and that we exist in this misogynist world where we must "fight the power". I don't buy it and I find all the finger pointing and bellyaching tiresome. If you've got a complaint, fucking state it and either come up with a solution or move the F on. 'Nuff already!

However, I do often think that there still exists a tendency for women to feel that when they become mothers they must simply hand their life over to their children. Surely, in this day and age, we are well past where women hand over their lives for their husbands. I mean, I suppose that may still happen too-- I just know a lot of kick ass women, so I don't know any woman personally who when they got married just became wife with a capital W: you know, The WIFE. That's all they wrote about her, wife. Really, at this point, I think we put to bed the 1950's housewife a few decades ago. If they still exist they should be in a museum, something to marvel at, not mock-- for their homespun American antiquity. I think they are that rare.

And while The WIFE may be almost extinct, I do think that there still exists among mothers this mascochistic need to sacrifice your life for your children. If you don't do it then it is telling to all that you are not a very good mother. A failure on the most basic animal level. And worst of all, you run the risk of-- that's right girls-- being judged.

This pressure is put on women not by men or society at large but rather by women themselves. We are, as a gender, just too damn hard on ourselves and often live these martyr like existences in the name of childrearing. Enough! Mothers of the world you deserve to have life and will better serve your children if you do. No more guilt. It is your life too.

I know I am being boring so I'll get to my point:

The very best piece of advice my mother ever gave me on mothering was this: Do something, find something for yourself and do it. Otherwise you will lose your mind.

Anyone who has spent that first month at home caring for a newborn lump of sugar knows this to be true. While preggers you thought: Okay, so I'll have the baby and lose all this weight and wear my jeans and I'll have this cute little accessory that I can take every where: a mini me or mini hubby, whichever. You have all these imaginings of what you will do and exactly how it will be but then you have the baby and are too fucking scared to even leave the house. So you do nothing and try really hard to remember who it was you were just a mere few months before. I am going to tell you right now that you will never see that girl again.
Get over it.
It will be okay.
I promise.
So when my mother warned me while I was still pregnant to "do something" I think she was specifically encouraging me to keep up my writing and devote daily time to that. A wonderful ideal but after my master's program I was pretty burnt out on writing. The flame had plain gone out. And even if I had wanted to write I think it would have been a frustrating endeavor because me as a writer needs HUGE blocks of time to create, compose, delete and salvage one workable page. Writing for me--right now, just isn't terribly conducive to being a SAHM.

However, I did find that running was conducive to being a mother. And it IS the only thing I do for myself. It is my sanity. So if I seem selfish about getting my runs in-- that is why. They are as sacred as self. And being able to know myself, remember myself, makes me makes me a better mother. Plain and simple.

Here is an example of my day:
Wake and make bed
Start a load of laundry. Put dry clothes upstairs to fold for later in the afternoon(often this step doesn't actually happen and clothes sit in basket for awhile. I really hate the folding and putting away step of laundry duty)
Make kid lunches and my after run lunch
Make kid's breakfast
Make self tea
Unload dishwasher
Check calendars and make sure everything is in their bags for school.
Ryan leaves for work.
Put breakfast on table and go wake kids.
Kids sit and eat.
I go make their beds and straighten their rooms.
I bring their outfits picked out the night before downstairs.
I put toothpaste on their tooth brushes.
Clean kitchen
Put laundry in the dryer.
Kids finish breakfast and they are sent upstairs to brush teeth and hair.
I sit down to drink now cold hot tea and eat Uncle Sam's cereal.
They get to go downstairs and watch cartoons while they get dressed-- provided they ate their breakfast and didn't cause me any difficulties. If they did they have to dress in their rooms and clean and/or look at books until it is time to leave for school.
I put on running clothes and we are out the door by 7:40.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays Beau has speech from 8-8:45 so I volunteer in Carmella's classroom during that time. The other days we either go to the grocery store or we come home and Beau watches TV and has snack while I vacuum, mop, clean a bathroom, do work for Ryan--like payroll, tax crap, get deposits together,emails, memos etc., or fold laundry (almost never).
On Monday thru Thursday I drive Beau to school. (Fridays we either go to the gym or Lala's after we drop Carmella off and I go run. Soon Beau will start his sports class so he'll do that and I'll run then, or do errands.)
We get to his school about 9:15 and we play until 9:30 when he is allowed into the classroom.
Then I go run. This is my time. Some days I run for the entire 3 1/2 hours, some days less, but I always try to run an hour at least. Then I eat lunch in the car and do errands until it is time to get Beau.
I pick up Beau.
Sometimes Beau and I run an errand or visit friends/family or read books at home or play games. If Ryan happens to be home I let Beau nap beacuse I won't have to wake him to get Carmella. This is a hard time of the day for Beau because he is tired but it is better if he doesn't sleep since I'd only have to wake him in less than an hour.
We leave to go get Carmella.
We are all home. If it is Mon, Tuesday or Thursday they play outside if it is nice while I clean the house/ fold laundry after they have a snack. Sometimes Beau naps and Carmella and I do a project. Sometimes on those days we all go for visits or to the park. If it isn't nice we will all do a project or read or do computer games to pass the time.
On Wednesdays and Fridays Carmella has dance so I drive her there and Beau and I do more errands or go for a walk.
5 pm
Whatever the day, the kids have a bath. We pick out the next day's outfits.
They play while I make them dinner.
They are done eating. If they ate their dinner they get to watch a movie. Sometimes Ryan is home but more often he doesn't get home til after 8, sometimes later. Just depends.
Kids brush teeth and I read them each one book in their rooms.
The kids are in bed. Carmella is usually right to sleep. Beau talks to himself for about 30 minutes and then dozes off. He doesn't get out of bed but he complains a lot.
I make Ryan and I's dinner if I haven't already done that.
8 pm
We sit down to eat and watch TV.
Then either Ryan or I clean the kitchen and dishes.
We are both in bed.

So that is my average day.
Typical housewife stuff.
Not real exciting or very enviable.
That is why running is so important to me. It is my time to be with me and do something for me and have thoughts that are mine.
--Not that I don't think of my family, Ryan while I run but it is a time when I can contemplate, compose, consider, just be and not have to answer to anyone but myself.
Running, for me, I suppose, is like Jesus Christ is to some people: Running is my savior and it keeps me on the straight and narrow.
I live for those days where I forget about breath.
I forget about the pain in my thigh, calf, foot.
I forget that I am running up a hill and it is hard.
I forget that I am sad that my son doesn't speak as well as other boys his age.
I don't worry if I am good enough mother to my daughter, a good enough wife to my husband, a good housekeeper, a kind friend.
I care about nothing and care about everything and I forget my thoughts and I am just gone.
And THAT is the best feeling in the world.
When I finish, it is like how you feel after great sex: spent, sweaty and exhilarated--ready to face the world and all that it has to throw at me.
Bring it on.
Bring. It. On.

And that is why running makes me a better mother. That is why it is so important to me. That is why I make sure to get my fix everyday. I am getting my fix of myself. Running lets me remember who I am so that I don't completely lose myself to all this mothering and wifing stuff. It lets me sweat out all that frustration so that I can be a kind and caring person, a loving mother and wife and patient friend, daughter, sister.
Without it, without running: I'd have a nervous breakdown, everyday.


  1. You have an enormously busy day, you're a great wife and mother, but without running you would be a "Stepford Wife!" Happy trails, Bruce

  2. I've often wanted to post the list of "what I did all day" because it just seems like so much. You are so right about the running - it gets you to the happy place. Even if I can only run 5 minutes at the time, 2 reps.