Family and Fitness

Let’s Talk Running Mum Guilt

The first time I started marathon training was in January 2020. I was well into it when I decided to stop because of the pandemic. Something I never shared at the time was a letter we found from my then 7-year old daughter. Actually my dad found it and it said something like “Mummy is always running.” Admittedly, before we found this letter she had asked questions like – “Do you have to run today?” “Why do you have to run all the time?” So I guess her note wasn’t a complete surprise but seeing those words written down shook me. I sat on the couch and cried. So many emotions swirled around in my head, the most prominent being guilt. Was I selfish for running? How could I have made her feel this way? Was I not spending enough time with my kids? Had I become a bad mum? Should I stop running? How do I stop something that has so improved my health and happiness? Guilt, anger, sadness, confusion – I felt it all.

How To Deal With Running Mum Guilt

Remind Yourself Why You Run. Before I started running, I’d reached a point where I was unhealthy and it was affecting my physical and mental wellbeing. Being unhealthy was not helping me and it certainly wasn’t helping my kids so something had to change. Even though I was always with my kids, I wasn’t always present – I had started getting quite impatient, I was sometimes quite resentful and was generally not very happy with who I was becoming. Running changed that. It made me feel healthier, happier and stronger as a person and as a mum. A run (and break from the kids) usually leaves me feeling rejuvenated, energetic and cheerful. I can honestly say that running has helped me be the mum I always wanted to be.

Have A Conversation With Your Child. For my daughter to have written that note, there was clearly something that was bothering her. I knew how important running was to me but dismissing her feelings was just not an option. So although it was hard, I needed to have a discussion with her. Some of the things that came out were that she wanted me to play more board games with her like my mum used to do, she didn’t like it when I ran for too long and she didn’t like me running when we were on holiday. It was a very mature discussion and I had to stop myself from being too quick to defend myself. I listened for most of the discussion and asked questions to get a better understanding of what she was feeling. At the end, I thanked her for being so open and honest. I then took some time to explain why I run but I also promised to play more with her and to adjust my running times so it didn’t feel like I was always running.

Find Options That Work For Both Of You. Up until this point, I had prided myself on being an expert at the balancing game. But clearly my daughter’s note was a sign that I needed to adjust something. I was doing most of my runs in the late afternoons as my mornings were for getting the kids ready for school, packing lunch boxes and then getting myself ready for work. But I decided to change my routine so I could go for a run as soon as the kids set off for school with my husband. This means that now many of my runs actually take place when they aren’t there and it frees up my evenings for more quality time with them. If I’m forced to run in the evenings, I put more effort into organising fun activities for them to do while I’m out. And if ever there is a time either one of them needs me, I simply skip my run. For my weekend long runs, they are usually with their grandparents which has also helped to nurture those relationships.

Include Them Where You Can. I’ve found it’s so important to include fitness as part of your family lifestyle and discuss it in more depth here. At least once a week, I take the kids for a cycle while I run or we go for a walk together, often in the neighbourhood but sometimes we venture further afield to the Sebele Agricultural Grounds, trails around the Block 10/Airport area as well as Oodi and Kgale which are great hills for hiking. More recently, I’ve included them for the first 2km of some of my runs. It serves as a nice warm up for me and is good exercise for them. At the end of these sessions, we always feel happier, healthier and closer as a family.

Always Remember You Are A Positive Role Model. Our kids don’t always appreciate what goes on behind the scenes – getting them ready for school, school and afternoon activity runs, checking homework, helping with school projects, organising playdates, preparing healthy meals, all while working to pay for it all. So it becomes easy for them to complain that we’re not doing enough! But one of the key responsibilities we have beyond all the practical stuff is to be positive role models in their lives. Keeping fit and healthy is one area where we can show them by our very example how to do it. Being active is then seen as normal and not some foreign concept. And running is not just about the running is it? They see all that comes with it – the commitment, the hard work and determination to get it done, even on your worst day. These days if I skip too many runs, my kids are the first to ask when I’m going for a run again.

Unfortunately, guilt is something mothers all over the world struggle with. We are harshly judged by society, work colleagues, friends, our children, family and sadly even by other mothers. But perhaps, we are our own harshest critics. In our pursuit of being super-mum, we’re often left frazzled, unhealthy and unhappy. But to be good mums, we have to take care of ourselves. So when guilt creeps in, keep reminding yourself why you run, how it makes you feel and how it benefits both you and your children. But also make sure that you have regular conversations with your kids where you are also open to taking feedback from them.

Spending some time on YOU, keeping yourself fit and healthy, both physically and mentally, doesn’t make you selfish, it makes you a better mum. If you’ve been struggling with running mum guilt, I hope my story and these pointers help you in some way.

Do you get running mum guilt? What ways do you deal with it? Let me know in the comments!

I’m joining Kooky Runner and Zenaida on their link up, Tuesday Topics. I’m also joining the Runner’s Roundup with Mile By MileCoach Debbie RunsConfessions of a Mother RunnerRuns with Pugs, and Laura Norris Running! Be sure to read their blogs and catch up with other runners from around the world.

23 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Running Mum Guilt

  1. I love the idea with the first and last photos!
    I admire all the running mums. It’s not easy to carve out time and to juggle all the responsibilities.
    A great idea to have a conversation with the kids. How hard it must have been to focus on listening without interrupting your daughter!
    I’ve been reading the blog “hungryrunnergirl.com” for many years. She runs and has 4 young kids! Very inspirational.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If I’m not careful, my kids will soon want to get paid for all these photo shoots!! LOL. Not easy to listen fully especially when you feel you’re in the right! But I’m so glad she opened up to me. I will definitely have to check out that blog – 4 young kids and balancing it all? Now that’s a tall order!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We moms just can’t win, can we? When the boys were little, I never got the guilt from them, but occasionally my husband would give it to me. Since I have boys, I think it was a little different for me. When they were little, I had to run early in the morning while they were sleeping. On the weekends,
    I could head out for a long run and they hung with my husband. They came to some of my races, but my husband always made it fun for them.

    It’s a tough balance, for sure! You have to do your thing. We have a saying here in the US: “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I must say my boy couldn’t care less about my running, LOL. All he wants to know is how many kms I did! But my girl Kaia took a bit of work that’s for sure. Also, she was really close to my mum so I think it was also her way of expressing that she missed the things they did together. I love that saying!!!

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  3. I don’t have kids, so thankfully I don’t have to deal with it — except with Bandit. The look he gives me when I’m getting ready for a run! I used to take him, but he’s too old for it now. Obviously I don’t equate that with “real” mom guilt.

    This is such a great post, Shathiso, although I’m sorry about why it came about. However having that honest conversation with your daughter, really listening to her — and making those changes — all I can say is you do a great job as a mom. And yes, I’m glad you realize how important running is, because it still is!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Judy. I think the conversation really helped and I was just saying to Wendy that I think my daughter also missed the stuff she used to do with my mum. So on top of my running she was probably also missing her and couldn’t quite express it. She just kept talking about board games a lot which is something they did so much together. But really glad I talked to her. I got to hear where she was coming from and I think she also understood my side.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t have children but the tips you outlined here on how to deal with running mom guilt are great. It’s frustrating because I feel like moms are judged for everything – there is never a “right” answer. However, I do think that women, especially moms, need to carve out time that’s just for them. If that includes running, that’s great! I also love how you include your children in your running activities – such a great way to set a good example!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My kids are grown and I wasn’t a runner when they lived at home.

    Is there husband guilt? Ha Ha

    As far as that, long runs take all day but in the summer, I made sure that I had Sunday free to go boating with him. He also plays tennis and I can’t complain that’s its sometimes inconvenient for me.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Running can take over your life esp if you are training for a big race and your significant other is not a runner.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. So true! My saving grace is that my husband is a runner too so our challenge is scheduling runs with childcare. But because he is a guy, he is okay with running in the dark, something that wouldn’t be safe for me to do. So it works out.

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  6. Thankfully, I didn’t really become a serious runner until our youngest was in preschool, or I would have really struggled with the guilt. Back then, I had a lot more free time to run while they were in school, so I didn’t have to sacrifice much time with them. My mother was not much of a hands-on role model, so I’ve really tried to change that pattern of parenting. I think you do an excellent job including your kids (and hubby) in so many “active” activities!

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  7. I had alot of guilt when I first started running again after my son was born. Its gotten better now, but I have wondered what it will be like as he gets older and is more aware of when I am gone. But I do think its important for that time to take care of yourself. I know it makes me a better mom!

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  8. I struggled with this so much when my kids were younger as well. It sure is important to carve out time for yourself especially this past year. Looks like you have a great balance!

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  9. I don’t have kids so I cannot relate. However, I know that moms are judged for everything they. It is dammed if they do and dammed if they don’t”. No matter what they do, there will be someone there making a comment. I truly admire mom for everything they do. No matter what, you are still a role model to your kids.

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  10. I have exactly zero mom guilt about running. Now, I do arrange things so that I do my runs mostly when it’s not effecting family time, and I wouldn’t miss a big holiday or birthday because of running plans, but I think it’s so important for our children to see us dedicating ourselves to goals, our health, and an identity outside of them (especially true for only children). My mom never did this and it definitely led to some warped expectations and ideas on my part (and also left her without a life of her own).

    I love being a mom and I love A. He is my priority and will always come first, but moms are allowed to have things for themselves, too, and I can’t feel guilty about that ❤

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  11. What a great post. That note from your daughter made my soul hurt! It’s a juggling act for sure, and it sounds like you’re doing a great job of it. It may not be perfect, but if you weren’t a runner things still wouldn’t be perfect- being a mom is hard.

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  12. I try to arrange my runs before my daughter gets up (which is easy now, since she sleeps until 8/8:30), but I definitely get mom guilt in other areas of my life like work (I’m a work at home mom without childcare). Some day though our kids will look to us as role models for how we took care of ourselves and them!

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  13. This is such a great topic! Now that I’m half marathon training, I’m starting to worry about whether I’ll be spending less time with my daughter. She’s too little to verbalize her concerns if she even has any, but this definitely something I will keep an eye on!

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  14. This is such an honest post. You are a great mum! Taking the time to listen and work with your daughter demonstrates that. Coming up with solutions so that everyone is a winner is never easy and you aced it!

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  15. Seriously, this post should receive more than a 100 likes! It was good you sat your daughter down and a heart to heart talk. I know she will never forget it. You were able to erase that bitterness that was building up in her. You are a good mum. Keep it up!

    Like

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