After waiting 42 weeks, gaining 30 pounds and embarking on 98 runs into the wilderness, my second baby was born — a girl, weighing 7 pounds, 9 ounces.
She was healthy, beautiful and pink as soon as she entered the world. Her cries quieted as she lay on my chest and in that moment all the waiting and work were more than worth it.
Three months later, I’m back working and trying to find time between motherhood, babyhood and a career to squeeze in moments for me.
“I just don’t know how you do it,” people often say.
It’s certainly no walk in the park and often nothing is perfect. But, it’s doable and frankly, it’s necessary.
Because — and this may sound cliché — a parent is made better not by devoting every minute to their children and family, but by finding balance between the pulls of parenthood and their personal passions.
During the snowy month of November, I was itching to stave off the weight of dark days and too much time at home. I resolved to run, no matter the weather, whenever the opportunity presented itself. A day later there I was, out in a near whiteout snow storm, running into a headwind that bit and pushed. My baby was in tow, bundled into our jogger happily snoozing away. Our border collie mix trotted next to me, ears pinned back, squinting and smiling into the storm.
The run that day wasn’t perfect. I ran my normal route 15 minutes slower than usual and lost my positive attitude somewhere along the way. But as I cruised along, head bent into the stiff wind, I found a rhythm that worked. After arriving home after 45 minutes in the weather, I found myself refreshed and relaxed.
But those fleeting moments of relative kid-freeness are just that — fleeting.
Most often, I think moms are asking themselves the following:
How do I fit in a run between that doctor appointment and a trip to the grocery store? Could I escape for an hour run without total infant meltdown? What if she won’t take a bottle? How could I possibly exercise while being so sleep deprived?
The list goes on. And I assume, all mothers who hope to regain some shade of their former bodies through exercise ask themselves these same (or similar) questions.
The key, I’ve found, is to just let go.
Outings in the beginning will not be perfect; one hour runs may have to be cut in half. Dinner may have to be a little late. Perhaps, that trip to the grocery store will just have to wait. And that’s OK. Even if it’s just a trip around the block, those moments of alone time will refresh even the most deflated and exhausted parent.
I managed to tally 12 runs in December. That’s nothing compared to where I was back in July, while still pregnant — a fact that is a bit disheartening. But those dozen runs lifted my spirits and put me closer to getting back into pre-baby shape.
There’s another side to this coin: fathers need time, too. My husband has a standing request to head up into the mountains whenever more than six inches of snow falls overnight. Just like me, he needs time to recharge. He always comes home cherub-cheeked and smiling.
Of course, it’s never easy to see him go. I try hard to wave and smile as he rushes out the door (as if he’s afraid I might change my mind) while the kids cling to me. Yet, with both parents carving out “me” time, I find our family is not only happier, but it is also stronger. Parenting stems from individuals who find a way to manage stress, instead of letting it manage them.
So get out there parents! And leave the kids at home — supervised, of course. Even if it’s just a walk around the block, a stroll on the beach or to take out the garbage, some alone time is better than none.
Next week: How to start back into an exercise regime after a major medical event like childbirth or surgery — what to do and what not to do.
• Contact Outdoors editor Abby Lowell at firstname.lastname@example.org.