Parenting takes a lot of time. There’s nap time and play time and snack time and bath time. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner time. Story time, snuggle time, time to get ready, time to go. When bedtime finally comes around, is there really any time left?
When all the other times have been taken care of and my three little ones are sleeping soundly, I try to take some time for myself, some breathing time, some relaxing time. But all too often there are other things to do: it’s clean-up time, or time to write, or maybe time to work on that costume for that party next week. By the time there really is nothing left to do, I’m either falling asleep or my brain is abuzz and needs to be reset, turned off, given a break. Which often means a bowl of ice cream and a show on the couch with my husband.
So where and when and how do I – or anyone – find that “me” time? That time that clears the mind, rejuvenates the spirit, refreshes the body, and energizes the self for all those other “times”?
I’ve found that time in running. I run several times a week, usually for 45 minutes to an hour. I can get my minutes in before my husband leaves for work in the morning, which gets my day off to a energized start and doesn’t cut into anybody else’s time.
I can run unplugged if I need to think through difficult problems or work out knotty situations and emotions in my head. Or I can turn on some music and rock out for a dance-party-esque workout. Or I can put on a podcast and listen in on stimulating conversations and well-told stories. Whichever I choose, I come back feeling mentally clear and enriched, ready to give my attention to my kids – to listen more patiently to their needs and ideas, their dreams and their complaints.
If I’m feeling a little down, a couple of solid miles can burn off some of the negativity. If I’m happy and feeling great, a good run can put me in super-mom mode: all sunshine and enthusiasm. But mostly, running keeps me on an even keel – reliable, constant, steady, unflappable.
When I’m running regularly, I don’t get consumed in thinking about managing and balancing my family’s diet. I’m more inclined to eat and feed my family well when I’m logging miles; we all benefit from the healthy diet. And my body feels stronger, I feel more confident, and I feel more capable of handling all those little things that come up in daily life, from changing yet another diaper to bundling up my three children to go into Manhattan on the subway.
Yes, running is a most efficient use of the first hour of my day. I come home mentally, emotionally, and physically primed for the demands of motherhood. I’m able to get “my” time in first so all those other times throughout the day have something solid to balance and build on. And if, at the end of the day, I still need to relax and reset with a bowl of ice cream and show, I can enjoy and savor those all the more knowing I’ve already put in my time.