Surviving the Marathon of Motherhood
by Amanda Williams 12/28/2007 / Family
Get your running shoes on ladies! The marathon of motherhood is here and survival is the name of the game! What is a marathon anyway? One dictionary defines a marathon as "a contest of endurance" (www.dictionary.com). Another definition, my personal favorite, states a marathon is "a main event of the manifestation for the most prepared sportsmen" (www.dictionaryofeverything.com). The manifestation of what you might ask? Your precious babies, that's what! Whether they are 2 or 22, most young people exude their presence on everyone around them and only the "most prepared sportsmen" or women in this case, are equipped to stick around for the duration of the event. I, personally, enjoy the whole sports comparison. I never prided myself on being an athlete, but I challenge even the most skilled triathlon to balance two sippy cups, a box of cheerios, a diaper bag, a baby doll, a one and a two year old and push a stroller that no one wants to ride in, while changing diapers and wiping noses. Therefore, motherhood, like a marathon, requires training, endurance, and vision.
The idea of training, or preparing, to be a mother might strike you as bordering on the hilarious! Come on, we all heard the stories of our mothers and their friends detailing the pain of labor. And if you were like me, and waited until your late twenties to have a child, you got to hear about it from all of your own friends as well. What we all learned is that no one can prepare you for the pains of bringing a baby into the world and the horrifying and delightful reality of that precious being squirming in your arms, wanting its first meal and knowing that you are the sole provider of that nourishment. Having two toddlers in my house and under my care is a lesson in maintaining sanity under the most bizarre conditions. Did watching my cousins, niece, and nephews roll about prepare me for my life? No! Similarly, having the experience of teaching teenagers for ten years will not prepare me for my children and their adolescent years. But, what we can teach our daughters, nieces, and friends is that having a child is not necessarily the picture that is painted on the movie screen or depicted in books. Every experience is unique. Your pregnancy is just that, yours. The race of motherhood is equally precious. It is unique to you. Enjoy it, take it all in, but ask for help when you need it and don't pretend to be super mom.
The endurance of running the mommy race is all about taking care of you. A runner wouldn't last the race if a huge meal and a liter of soft drink were downed five minutes before the starter gun was fired. Marathon runners prepare their bodies, minds, and souls to finish the race. So must a mother. According to the National Mental Health Association, twice as many women suffer from depression as men. Why? There are a plethora of contributing factors including hormonal imbalance and chronic stress (www.nmha.org) Check yourself spiritually and emotionally. Take care of your body. Eat right. Drink enough water. Go to the gym or take up an exerting past time. Pamper yourself. Take pride in your appearance instead of hiding behind the work you put in your kids. Children, young and old, learn best from modeling. If you want to see that happy, bouncy baby transform into a confident, balanced adult, show them what one looks like. Most importantly, nurture and maintain a few good friendships. Someone once told me the most important investment we make is in people. So true! I have a couple of girlfriends and we have an accountability code. We are honest with one another and lay it on the line if one is looking haggard or strung out. We plan survival outings, otherwise known as play dates. We swap stories and cry on shoulders and laugh at the ridiculous. But we will ALL run across that finish line, even if we have to join hands and push one another across.
Long distance runners have a vision of the end of the race. They can picture each mile, the crowd, the smells, the cheers, the way the ribbon is balanced waiting to be broken. They can feel the relief of that first drink of water after the run is over. The vision gives them hope and the hope helps them persevere. Although our children are always our children whether they are 9 or 99, mothers have to be able to visualize their personal survival. That requires the realization that we are not responsible for the choices our children make. We provide them with opportunities and we model decision making, showing them the delicate balance of choices and consequences, but in reality they all have their own race to run. Bask in the glory of completion while enjoying the spectatorship of watching the next set of runners complete the race.
Amanda Williams is a freelance writer and poet. Mrs. Williams holds a Bachelor of Science and a Masters of Education, both specializing in the education of students with disabilities. She has ten years of experience working with preschool through college aged students in the public education setting. Amanda has published one book, Becoming Visible.