When I think about my roles in life, the list is wife, mother, physician, athlete. I have lots of other roles, like daughter, sister, friend, boss, chicken farmer, but these four fill my days most consistently. I usually think of them in that order, as well. It is a challenge to balance them. Work-life balance is a whole separate issue—this focuses on family-tri balance.
I have an amazing husband who supports me in my crazy schemes and helps out with whatever needs to be done. As a mom, a caregiver and a type A overachiever, though, it is my first instinct to figure out how I can take care of everything on my own. When my workouts consisted of 45 minutes on the elliptical and could be done at any point in the day, changes to my schedule didn’t interfere with getting exercise. I just pushed my workout to later in the evening. About 4 years ago, I did my first triathlon with my son. I loved it and triathlon became part of my life. Workouts were longer, with swim times dictated by pool hours and bike rides better done in daylight. My challenge wasn’t just physical or mental, it also became time management, learning to say no, learning to ask for help and learning that sometimes, putting myself higher on the priority list made me a better mom.
Fortunately, when I started tri, my kids were old enough to get dinner started while I was doing a run. They took their own showers and did their own laundry. But they still needed me. There were meals to plan and groceries to buy. There were days of injury and illness, phone calls from school (fortunately not many) and times when they just needed some Mom-time. There was also a lot of driving to be done. And so began creative time management.
My daughter Sophie rides horses. Some days, I take my bike to the barn and we ride at the same time. Horse shows are all weekend long with a LOT of downtime. I run with one of the other moms during downtime. One rainy day, I took my bike and trainer to Grace’s volleyball tournament. I set up in a corner of the venue for a 3 hour ride. I missed her first game, but watched the other four. I made sure to discuss it with her first as I truly didn’t want to embarrass her. She at first was a little reluctant, but realized that I was going to spend the whole day there and that I needed to get this ride in. Her teammates and the other parents actually thought it was pretty cool. When we returned to that tournament a year later, she told her new teammates about that ride.
I am delegating more. My older 2 children have more responsibility to get the younger 2 to their activities, especially if the timing is right in the middle of when I need to work out. I ask my husband for more help stopping at the store or picking Lucy up from dance class. I am learning that instead of getting annoyed if he forgets and saying, “Never mind, I will do it,” it is better to send him a reminder text 30 minutes before I need him. I am also learning to sometimes tell my kids no, I can’t take you there at that time. They might walk home from a sleepover on Saturday morning because I am on my long ride and Paul is at work. They ask friends to pick them up. They call their grandma, who is generally happy to help. Putting some of the responsibility on them makes them appreciate that these things don’t happen magically.
Does this make me a selfish mom? Not at all. I am teaching my children the importance of physical fitness. I am showing them that it feels awesome to set a very high goal and reach it. I am teaching them creative problem solving and time management skills. I am setting an example for my daughters that you can be a good Mom and still take care of yourself. I am also teaching them to respect me as a person, not just to view me as a mom. I know that on the days I get my workouts in, I am more calm and patient with my kids. I certainly don’t have this perfected. There are days when I log in Training Peaks that I scored Mom-points, but didn’t get a work out in. There are days when I do my workout but the mom-guilt gets me. The kids like these days as they sometimes result in a trip for ice cream to assuage that guilt!
As training for my first 140.6 kicks in, there will be more hours spent as a triathlete. I told the kids that this may mean I have more days when athlete edges out mom and wife on my job descriptions. So far, the response is positive. That may change as reality kicks in. Ultimately, this mom-ing and tri-ing balance will likely be a struggle until the last one is off to college. But just like triathlon, I will keep doing my best. So to other moms struggling with this, hang in there. They get bigger and more independent. They might even start racing with you. But no matter what else, know that activities that make you a happier person tend to make you a better mom.