Sunday, September 11, 2016

Pick 3: Notes from 1+ year of running, working, parenting, and life.

This entry was originally composed as a comment on Outside Time, but it began to take on a life of its own, and I reckoned I ought to give it the space it deserves. 

There's certainly some truth to the oft-heard lament: "After all my favourite running bloggers had babies, they all quit their jobs and started selling BeachBody!"
I have nothing against BeachBody. (Fine, I might, but let's leave the direct sales for another post.) But I do have a 16-month-old, and I work roughly 9 to 5, and seriously, it is [family, work, hobbies/ self-care (including running and blogging), keeping it all together (cooking, cleaning, other quotidian tasks), sleep]: pick 3. It *is* possible to work, spend time with your family, and run, but as you can see I blog roughly once a month...

So what is the relationship between running, momming (i.e. physically carrying and caring for a small child - which is why I'm focusing on mothers here), and work? It's not an easy one. At various times you are going to have to give up two and focus on one. For serious.

The first days - 0 to 4 months. Pregnancy and giving birth really does a number on the body. I don't care what bloggers say. I am not a professional athlete who trained through pregnancy and bounced back to run in the Olympics. (99.9% chance - neither are you.) I went stir-crazy and ran/ walked a mile at a couple weeks postpartum; this was better for my mental health - also essential! - than my physical health. If there is a next time around I'll probably err even more on the side of caution.

I had the luxury of being able to stay home with the little squirt for just over 4 months, but even that was a mental and emotional challenge: daytime isolation, going stir-crazy, mentally wanting to get back to work, feeling guilty about wanting to get back to work, taking on more freelance mini-projects than I really should have, while at the same time being physically tired, not getting enough sleep, etc.

Running during this time was...sporadic. Some mornings during the week, and on weekends, I'd be able to sneak out for a few miles. Mentally, I felt less guilt (why is it always mom-guilt? Why moms? I should've read Anne-Marie Slaughter earlier) about taking time out for self-care *because* I was still home with baby and thus able to spend hours gazing lovingly at him. In late August, 3.5++ months postpartum, I ran my first and only race of the calendar year - a 5k - to get a rough baseline of where I was. It was just that - a baseline.

The next few months - 4 to 9 months - were the early daycare months. I had a great deal of milk-related anxiety. Supply issues, pumping schedules, you name it. I am not one of those lucky overproducers, and struggled to get enough for daycare each day; you pump what you can, and the occasional bottle of formula is not poison.

Amidst all of this, how to run? What helped me was pumping then running at lunch, eating while working, and doing the working-mom split shift: a couple of hours at night after baby went to bed. I no longer pump, huzzah! But that's where my workday runs used to fit in. And my personal rule: if you have time for only two miles, do the two miles. As a working mom who would see baby for only a few short waking hours during weekdays, I was loath to take any time out before work to go running on my own.

Pumping and running can be a concern for overproducers, who may need to pump immediately pre-run for comfort. It's also a concern for people like me, who worry that running might affect milk supply. ('Always be drinking' is my motto. For reals.)

Around 6+ months, baby became sturdy enough to enjoy the jogging stroller, and for a few blissful months he would even consistently fall asleep in it, so I often scheduled runs for nap time on weekends! (Our BOB manual suggested a minimum age of 6-9 months and up; I understand the guideline is now closer to 12? Either way, he seemed to enjoy himself and was certainly comfortable enough to conk out.)

Other things that helped, mentally - I started texting back and forth with another running blogger whose baby is a month younger. She no longer blogs, alas, but we ran Pittsburgh together in May when our kids were around a year old. A half marathon a year postpartum is a pretty reasonable goal, though even that gave me milk anxiety. We might not live in the same area, but a support network of working running mothers is invaluable.

Baby on the move - 10 to 15 months, and beyond:
Around a year, a couple of things happened: at 10 or 11 months, baby was eating enough solids that we were able to give him two 5oz bottles instead of 3 4oz bottles at daycare. The extra two ounces went a long, long way towards preserving my sanity, let me tell you. I also went from pumping 3x to 2x (another time- and sanity-saver) and then 2x to 1 soon after. Suddenly I had an extra hour in my day.
I also started a full-time job, working mostly from home. That meant far less hustling and stress (if you haven't noticed, the journalism market is rapidly shrinking and there are so many freelancers competing for a smaller pie).

After PRing at Pittsburgh - yes, my half PR is post -baby; it was a pretty soft PR to begin with and I'm not surprised to see it go - I signed up for the Baystate half (goal race) and the Cambridge half (backup, or fun run) . That extra hour in my day from pumping once or no longer pumping? It goes straight to running. It's a hard hour, meaning not 'run for an hour' but 'decide to run, get changed, run, cool down, drink, stretch, shower'. That means, typically, 3 to 5 miles. But it's enough. Running at 3pm or lunchtime also means a lot of sunscreen and a gnarly shorts tan because I always wear the same 4 pairs of shorts.

The biggest thing is being able to set my own work hours, to a great extent. And I mean truly set my own hours, not work funny hours in response to something else. Of course I have days packed with conference calls and project work, but knowing the meeting schedule even two days in advance is a great luxury and enables me to run during the workday.

Something else that helped was meeting another local running and working mom (Connie), and going on run playdates - run to the playground, chase our respective toddlers, run on, repeat as needed! This strategy was key once baby no longer napped readily in the stroller.

I do carve out a couple of hours each weekend for a long solo run, but am still reluctant to make such a big commitment as marathon training. At my level, a 20-miler realistically would take in excess of 3 hours, and I'm just not willing to commit that kind of time away from my family just yet. But YMMV! I try to go early and spend the rest of the day with family. A 20-miler would also sap my energy in a way that 13 or 14 miles, which is where my half plan peaks, would not.

Right now, I've also just committed to rejoining my track group for Monday evening workouts. I don't know what took me so long!

Annnd...that's where I'm at now. It's taken a good degree of fortitude and much kindness to myself. And late-night stretching. And eating all the things.

So: which running bloggers have continued working, running AND blogging through their transition into parenthood? Here are some I've read:

Running Bun
A Case of the Runs 
Meals and Miles (alas, now more Disney/ mommy blog)
Chocolate Is My Life (currently kid-focused - I'd say having 2 under 2 is an excellent reason to fall off the running wagon for a season in one's life)
The Wannabe Athlete (now sporadic, and less focused on the eponymous 'athlete' bit, but extremely thoughtful when she does post)

Sadly missed:
Run Write Hike
Health On The Run 

Can you think of any others who have continued blogging while running, parenting, and working a regular job? I get it - it's HARD. Working, running parents are almost certainly going to have very little time to blog. List 'em here in the comments, please!


  1. This was really interesting. Thanks for posting this. I'm not a mother, but it's something that I'm contemplating soon.

    1. You're welcome! The Salty network will have much more run-work-parent-blog wisdom, I'm sure.

      This is by no means comprehensive - just a year of my experience. I'm certain the toddler, preschool, school-age, and subsequent-kids years will bring their own work/ life/ run challenges.

  2. I was about to refer Outside Time to your blog, but you beat me to it! I can only imagine that this post will be helpful to so many new moms out there. Thanks for sharing! Even though I'm not a mom, I appreciate hearing other people's perspectives and how they try to juggle all of the things in their lives.

    1. Aww, thanks! On some level, I think I wrote this to help remind myself and others: you are not alone. There are lots of people struggling with the exact same thing: how to make time for the priorities in their lives.

  3. Hi! I also just commented on Outside Time. I haven't blogged about running since before I had my baby almost a year ago, but now I'm feeling somewhat inspired to start again, because as I was commenting I realized I had a LOT to say. I'm excited to find your blog!

    1. Hi, and welcome! You should start blogging again! I'd love to read what you have to say :)

  4. Great post! It is certainly not easy - that's for sure. I'm a working mom of a 5.5 and almost 2.5 year old and I'm currently training for my 7th marathon. I am in Canada so I was fortunate to have a full year of maternity leave after each of my kids and ran a marathon around each of their first birthdays. When I went back to work between kids, I ran a couple of half marathons by getting up super early to run during the week and using the treadmill when my husband traveled for work. With two super early risers, that doesn't work now, but I use run commuting to get in most of my week day runs - lots of planning required!

    Just found your blog via Salty and look forward to reading more!

    1. Thanks, and welcome! Oh, what a luxury - to have a year of maternity leave be the norm rather than the exception! (If everyone does it, it doesn't disadvantage those who choose to take a year out.) And run commuting is brilliant, but it does require tremendous planning...on top of all the other planning you do, right? You should share your tips on run commuting! Do you blog/ are you on social media anywhere else?

      What I'm noticing is that the physical logistics of milk, for those who choose to breastfeed and pump while working, is one of the top obstacles to finding time to run/ for self-care. Another major obstacle is sleep, if you have early risers/ late bedtimes/ babies who don't yet sleep through the night - argh!

  5. I'm a committed non-mom myself but I still find reading about the different situations & challenges others face interesting! Case in point, "The Runner's Plate" is still one of my favorite blogs. She blogged and ran consistently throughout her pregnancy & after & I think her kid is almost two now. (As you mentioned, it's not that I think people should compare their own situations to others' necessarily, but some new/soon-to-be moms might find her inspiring, or at least find some tricks?)

    1. You might not have kids, but everyone has times in their life when they're juggling various priorities! And thanks for the recommendation - I peeked over there and liked what I saw. A whole section for recipes? SOLD.