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Mother Runners On “Mom Guilt” And Finding Time To Run

Running Off “Mom Guilt”

When we started polling moms about the biggest deterrent to their running and racing, something unexpected was discovered. The real issue preventing moms from getting out on a run is not time: it’s guilt. Whether you’re a working mom (full-time or part-time) or one who stays home to do domestic work, we all have the same issue: mom guilt.

“I am a working mom and it’s [all about] finding the time either before the kids wake up or after they go to bed to train,” is how Nancy Capen started her response to our Facebook inquiry. But then she added, “On the weekends it’s finding time between sporting events, so I would say it’s probably a mix of time and mom guilt for not being there!” Or just mom guilt—since it seems like time would not be an issue otherwise.

Related: 4 Runner Moms Share The Best Advice They’ve Received

Mom guilt was the recurring theme as I polled friends that both worked and didn’t. One would think the stay-at-home moms would not suffer the same guilt as their working counterparts…but that assumption is incorrect.

“Sometimes I think SAHMs (stay-at-home moms) have more guilt because we often feel like we should be doing something more productive than ‘just’ working out,” confessed one mom who preferred to remain anonymous. “It’s viewed as being selfish if you’re taking all this time for yourself instead of making your kids’ lives better in some way while they’re at school.”

Interesting.

However, it is important not to use guilt as an excuse. There is no mom guilt involved when you get up to run in the wee hours of the morning while your family sleeps, but there are real issues of safety and sanity to consider if you’re already not getting enough sleep and have to run in the dark.

“What prevents me from making the time?” asked Courtney Sloan via Facebook. “Everything else I need to pack into the day! I have a 5 year old, my husband leaves for work by 6:30 a.m., I work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., pick up my son around 6 p.m., get home, make dinner, spend time with my family and put my son to bed by 8 p.m. To sum it up, I get 45 minutes in the morning and two hours at night with my child. Then two to three hours after that to do all the rest of the things I want to do or need to do, and training two hours before bed is just really rough to then be able to fall asleep–oh, and I am uncomfortable running alone in the dark, so my solo training is often on the treadmill.”

We thought that summed up quite nicely the struggle of the working mom–but then, Sloan almost immediately added a second comment: “That feels like a big list of excuses. [Getting on the] treadmill at 5 a.m. is what usually happens, then [I get] Saturday long runs and my husband gets Sundays.”

Sloan’s list actually reads like reality…and then she casually slipped in that her husband gets Sundays. Having a partner who is also jonesing for a run sometimes just complicates the matter. There’s that guilt again.

So how do working and non-working moms get rid of the guilt and train regularly? The answer, simply, is with a ton of planning. More than one mom heralded the importance of good planning where training was concerned.

Shannon Kelleher, a working mom and parent of four kids, said, “Time is my biggest issue–and patience. When I know I don’t have a ton of time, or I don’t plan well because I run out of time, I end up getting injured because I ramp up too fast. The time I have happens to be at 4:30 a.m., when it’s dark outside and I can’t [run] alone. So, time and planning.”

Tips For Finding Time To Run

There is no single answer to finding more time to run when you have a full life that revolves around the unpredictability of work and kids. According to the moms who responded, these things may help:

  1. Buy a treadmill. Obviously having one in your home gives you access at a moment’s notice and also lets you run while the kids are sleeping, watching TV or are otherwise distracted.
  2. Plan ahead and ask for help. Sit down with your partner, talk with a friend or babysitter and figure out how you can escape to your happy place with their help.
  3. Own your run time. Taking time to run is not selfish. All moms deserve to have time that’s dedicated to doing something just for them.

Do you have advice on this topic? Let us know on Twitter by tagging #runoffmomguilt.

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Allie Burdick

Allie Burdick

Allie is a freelance writer, athlete and mom, but not in that order. Her work has appeared in Runner's World, Triathlon Magazine and ESPNW. On her blog, VITA Train for Life, she chronicles her life as a runner/triathlete and hopes her successes and failures help to motivate and inspire others, even the over-40 crowd she somehow found herself in! The rest of her time is spent raising her twin boys with her husband in the Northeast where they live a big life! See it all on Twitter and Instagram.