Monday, March 14, 2016

For the moms...

I've been thinking a lot lately about being a mother, being an athlete, being a career woman, being a wife, and how they all can fit together. It truly is impossible to "do it all", but you can do a lot of it. What's important to remember is that it is your choice and if possible, tune out the noise from all over of what you should or shouldn't be doing. Do what is right for you.

My daughter is admittedly no longer a baby (she's nearly 2!), but I still find myself drawn to posts, articles, podcasts, and people who are going through pregnancy, childbirth and life with a newborn.

As I look back on the story that I shared with 'you', I feel as though I didn't do many of the new moms justice. Somehow, without meaning to, I made it look 'easy'. Sure there was the odd 'help me get some sleep!' tweet. But mostly, it was all "Oh, I popped out this baby, now let's do an Ironman yahoo!"

Funny enough, that's never really the story that I wanted to share. However, I felt, at the time, that others were making it so 'easy' for me that it wasn't my right to complain about mastitis, or trying to cook dinner when you are so f*&cking tired from caring for a newborn and training that all you want to eat is a big bowl of sleep.

After all, I had recently left my full-time job to focus full time on being a professional athlete and being a mom. I had lots of family help and a supportive partner who encouraged me to get babysitters every day to ride my bike and be the best I could be. What did I have to complain about?

And so, I went about acting like it was all so easy. But in doing that, I feel as though I've sold all you other mothers out there short. Because even with the amount of support that I had, I still (2 years later!) cannot imagine ever trying to do that again. It was ludicrous, but in saying that, I wouldn't change a thing and I love the journey that I have been on with my family.

I think that part of the impetus for this post is that I recently read a blog post criticizing the "competition" for women to see who can get back in shape the quickest after having a baby. Ew, this a race now?

I want us to stop judging each other for how quickly we do or do not get "back in shape" post-baby. The most important thing after you have a child is to be their mother. Period. Forget about how everyone thinks you should parent or work out or not work out (except your doctor, of course.)

And guess what? Everyone's circumstances are different. Everyone's circumstances are different while they are baking that child as well! I continued to exercise 1.5 to 2.5 hours per day throughout pregnancy but guess what? I wasn't doing much else! I was coaching athletes from home, but other than that... free time to sleep as much as I wanted and exercise for fun. Not many other moms have that luxury during pregnancy. If I had been going to the office every day from 8-5, you can bet your bottom dollar that I wouldn't have been waking up at 5 every day to get a workout in. Because you know what? Pregnancy is TIRING!

For me, after I had Wynne, I was returning to my job as a professional athlete, and unfortunately, I had some really time-sensitive goals that I wanted to achieve to help with my long-term job security. I had one year from my daughter's birth to amass enough points to qualify for the Ironman World Championships with 35 other women in the world. Big goal. Stupid timeline. But you know what? It was important to me to try. And it was my job. I think it's ok for me to have "rushed" back to the start line a bit more than an age grouper with an office career or a stay-at-home mom. My job is different. And that should be ok.

As someone who has always been able to support myself, not creating an income from my new career  as a pro triathlete was not an option for me in my mind. At 35, I also was facing potentially my best few years in the sport head-on. So, I resolved to get my ass back into the sport as quickly as possible after having my daughter. Not to prove anything to anyone or do something shock-worthy (or dumb) like completing an Ironman basically in the 4th trimester. I did it because I wanted to go back to work and I wanted to be good at my job. I wanted to put myself in a position where I could help support my family, help us buy a house, secure better long-term sponsor partnerships. And what I am most proud to say is that I did that.

But I sacrificed a lot for that. I didn't have too many lazy snuggles with my daughter. I was only able to breastfeed for 7 months before I didn't have any more milk (yes, probably due to training).
In fact, if I do it again (not planning on it at this point, though), I would do it differently! I wouldn't be racing back to a start line because although I have no regrets, I'd like to enjoy being a new mom a bit more and have that experience as well as the one that I already had. I think it can be really enjoyable, but I admittedly took some of the fun out of it with all of my rushing.

I guess this is all a long-winded way of saying that you should honor your own journey as a new parent, whatever that may be. I like that I've given (along with the likes of Sarah Haskins, Gina Crawford and many others) professional women another story about what is possible after having a baby. In fact, when I see other professional triathletes get pregnant, I like to hope that they think, "she came back, so can I."  But I also want to say hey to all the other moms out there who should know that just because something is possible, doesn't make it right for you, or even something to strive for. I am honestly more in awe of moms who have a child, go back to work full-time, and then bust out a sprint or Olympic distance triathlon a year later.

They're the ones doing it all. I'm just doing my job.

And with that- here's a pretty cool documentation of that journey I took. Thanks to Gatorade Endurance for believing in me, being a part of my dream, and documenting it.


Bri said...

Beth you rock. Thanks for putting this out there. You're such an inspiration! <3

FitnessFatale said...

Thanks for sharing this! I think it'll help a lot of moms who feel the pressure to get back in shape take a hard look at why they are doing it. For me personally, so much of my identity and happiness is wrapped up in fitness that it has been therapeutic to get back in shape - it makes me feel like my old self in the midst of some serious lifestyle changes. Since I had 6 months of maternity leave, I was also able to get back in shape more quickly than a working mom since I had extra time to workout and to sleep (luckily I have a pretty good sleeper). I hope my comeback inspires people but this post made me think I could also be contributing to people feeling pressure to do the same even though we don't have the same circumstances. You may have inspired me to write a similar blog post!

R said...

There is a pressure to not complain because someone has it worse, but that is a silencing tactic (that works). Each person has their struggles, no matter who they are and sharing _that_ you struggle helps people connect with you, even if the actual circumstances are different.

Kate B said...

I'm not a mom but I am obsessed with all things pregnancy and motherhood and I think this was so well articulated. YES YES YES to everything you said. Everyone should honor their own journey. Yours happens to be incredibly inspiring and I am in complete awe of you. Loved this post.

Julie Drolet said...

I just had my first baby, he turns 3 months today. I trained and worked until 39 weeks and I just got the ok to go back to running and it feels so good :) You are such a great source of inspiration! I think when you do what you love it reflects on your life and dreams. Best of luck for your 2016 goals

Natarsha Wendt said...

Love it Betty Sister. Great blog. Thank you sharing. I'm not a mother yet, I'm trying but this post helps me to understand everything a whole lot better. ❤👍

Sonja Wieck said...

I know where that comment came from (a man) about the competition of new momness.... and I must say it made me a little sick to my tummy, it was meant to shame you, and it was uncalled for. The real truth, the female truth, is that 99% of new moms support all other new moms out there. There is no competition. We all love and care for our babies a boat load, and just as you were not racing any other new mom, neither are other new moms. I celebrate the time line you returned to your job just as much as any other timeline because it was right for you. And honey, if it was easy, or hard, it doesn't matter. It was your journey!

I agree with you wholeheartedly that the judgement must stop. Compassion....bottom line!
Hugs, mama!

Beth said...

Thanks for the post Beth, as usual your honesty and support of women is refreshing. As I enter my third trimester I have been thinking a lot about getting back in shape and getting back out there. I don't think I will be posting up at an Ironman 4 months out but I find your story inspiring. I wish we could all just support each other, it's completely fine that all of our journeys are different.

Sharon Curciarello said...

Thank you for sharing this Beth! I wanted to let you know that your story, about managing to do both, be a Mum and qualify for Kona, inspired me and allowed me to realise that it was possible for me to do the same (well race Ironmans as a new Mum at least - to qualify for Kona is my ultimate goal!!!). Until I found your story about 9months ago, I was petrified of what it would mean for the athlete component of my life to start a family. Your story showed me it was possible! Now....I'm pregnant...and with identical twins!!, and I have to say that I am so grateful that I have allowed myself and my husband to have what has been a wonderful journey so far!
I have a goal to race IM South Africa next year after the twins are born and I'm using that as motivation and inspiration to stay fit during my pregnancy and have something to focus on after. Now saying all of this, I am also very aware that each woman's pregnancy is very different and so I plan to take it as it comes, I have the goal there but if it doesn't work out there will be another Ironman. Your story has inspired me and so many others to know what is possible, but it is also up to each individual to listen to her own body and do what feels best. Anyone who goes against their own intuition is crazy, to simply follow what someone else has done, but you can't control whether someone chooses to do that so don't let any of that shaming get to you, what you have shared with the triathlon community is wonderful!
I'm from Perth WA, and I watched Luke break the male Australian IM record last year. Seeing you and Wynne at the finish line for him was magical, so happy for you all!
All the best with this year's season, hope you rock it!
Thank you again

Hannah McKelvie said...

It is incredibly generous of you to reveal some of your motivations behind your post-baby accomplishments, and I'm staggered that you have experienced circumstances that warrant sharing such personal information in the first place.

You inspired me when I was pregnant, when I was nervous that my life as "Hannah" would soon be over and I would become someone different post-baby. That fear was never realised and, as all mums can tell you, I'm still the same person just a better version of that person.

It doesn't matter to me that my role model does ironman (though it is interesting and exciting!), what matters is that she sets goals and accomplished them, that she continued taking risks after her baby was born, and that she remained true to herself whilst supporting her family.

Integrity and dedication and talent and family values.

Thank you for sharing your journey and for honesty. You have done us new mums justice and then some!

ks said...

Thanks for this honest and inspiring post! I just had my first child (he's 2 months old now) and I only took three weeks off of work - I'm a musician and educator. Part of me still feels like it was too fast/soon, but taking time off of a performing career can set you back months or years in the music scene and I knew it wasn't an option. You've made me feel a lot more comfortable with my decision!

I also have a really supportive husband who has helped me make it happen - it's incredible how important that component is in being able to make everything work.

Thanks again for sharing - I can't explain how much your words have helped me.

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akittel said...

I have been inspired and encouraged by your story. I am an age grouper with a little boy who has just turned one. With no family support where we live and with Max being a terrible sleeper, finding the time (and the energy!) to train has been a monumental challenge.

I appreciate this follow up post about the struggles you faced in achieving such an awe-inspiring feat.

I have accepted a wait list slot to Port IM 70.3, and whilst it won't be easy given the amount of preparation I've been able to fit in, I am proud that I have had the courage to step up to the challenge.

I am so looking forward to cheering you home on the day!