Last week, I talked about culturally constructed mom guilt. It it a pretty serious problem, yet one that I know so many of us have joked and been flippant about for years to cover the true, deep influence it can have on our lives. I think it is a great place to start with moving the cultural needle away from pressuring parents to fit the defined idea of “perfect.” But, I also know that in the meantime we gotta do what we can to individually show up as our best. So, this week I promised some strategies for all parents who want to live a life honoring themselves while raising children. 

Enjoy a few tips from what worked for me to chase my dreams while being a mom. 

Read Last Week’s Blog

It is important that you have a clearer understanding of what mom guilt is and how we all can make change toward supporting moms better. Seek to understand how cultural and societal influences impact us in so many ways, some that might steer us off of our true desires, or how it influences our willingness to ask for help or offer to help others. 

Be a Student of Yourself 

It is important that you learn to connect to your own needs and wants so that you can clearly communicate them (to yourself and others). You want to make sure you are spending your time in ways that honor, or curiously move toward your desires. This requires curiosity, intentionality, presence, and self compassion. We will benefit from seeking out mentorship of those who have gone before us or have training, experience, and education, but we still need to find cultivated and nurture our own self trust. While you learn, lean into your own intuition and vocalize your dreams. Spend time assessing your priorities and crafting your “why,” or purpose, for choosing a goal. Then commit to working toward it with gratitude.

Reflect on how you can be a visible role model for your kids. Not only for creating healthy lifestyle habits or doing hard things. But also for maintaining their individual identity throughout their adult life. Kids do what they see, not react only to what we say!

I won’t go into this too much— if you want to learn more on self awareness, etc you can read my blogs from the beginning! 

Do Your Research   

Before committing to a goal, take the time to research the potential time, energy, and financial demands of not only the end result, but the entire process. The specific amount of training time highly depends on your individual goals, but anyone will most likely feel the daily pressure more with the volume of training that is usually suggested for half and full distance races. 

With most plans starting at an hour or less of daily training, sprint schedules can closely mimic a daily fitness/wellness routine, while still keeping you sharp and engaged in the sport. Seek out blogs, mentors, and social media accounts from other triathlete parents to read and inquire about their experiences. Consider the commitments beyond the day-to-day workouts, especially when interested in longer distance race goals. The longer races not only require more training time, but also more overall life focus on recovery, sleep, nutrition, gear, and mental/emotional investment. Then choose a race that best honors your values, priorities, and interests at each stage of your life.       

Get Creative With Your Training

I do suggest (at least loosely) following a plan, but also don’t be afraid to get creative with your training workouts. My introduction to cycling included pulling my two boys uphill behind my hybrid bike. I didn’t always cover the full distances noted in the plan, but it was hard as hell and made me physically and mentally stronger. You can also do much of your bike training on an indoor trainer, or run on a treadmill – sneaking in focused cycling workouts at home while you can otherwise occupy your kids (no guilt for some screen time!). Or, have your kids bike alongside you while you run (again, not perfect. You will run the risk of a higher heart rate and/or getting hit by a bike. Manage expectations here)

Organize play dates with other parents at open water locations, and take turns watching the kids and swimming. Run small loops around the park while older kids play, keeping them in your eyesight. If able, join a gym that provides childcare and tackle most of your training indoors (and you might even get time to take an uninterrupted shower too!). 

Find a Family Friendly Triathlon Network 

Connect with others not only for advice, mentorship, and/or support, but also to have valuable social time while training. Training with friends can add immense value to the racing experience. Research local family-friendly clubs or teams. Before joining, ask the leaders and other members about the group’s demographics, focus, and policies. Some teams not only allow kids and teens to join some workouts with their parents, but they also include partners, kids, and other family members in post-workout and race gatherings and celebrations. A team is also a great place to find options to co-op childcare for workouts. 

Sign up for family friendly races (many even have free kids’ races!). 

Plan Like a Boss 

Start by planning time to plan. Hire a coach or find a training plan to take the guesswork out of training. A solid training schedule not only requires commitment and forethought, but also clear communication with a partner, friends, or other support systems. Talk to your people about what you want and create strategies to be able to pivot when needed. Contrary to common beliefs, taking time to honor what you want is not selfish

Plan ahead for other parts of life as well. One year, when Jamie and I both trained for a fall Ironman, I offered to take a couple of hours in the spring to make a dinner menu for the entire summer, noting commitments on the same calendar so we knew when we needed crockpot meals, or planned to make sandwiches for baseball games, etc. It was nearly a couple hours of work. And… it took the guesswork out of grocery shopping and nightly decisions for three months!

A few other like hacks: Rather than keeping a long to-do list, put each item on your calendar to be completed on specific days. Have your kids take on and pitch in with chores – it might not get done “perfectly,” but “good enough” just might allow you more time to do what you love. If financially able, assess where hiring others to help with cleaning, mowing the lawn, etc is money best spent. 

Triathlon can add much value to your life in many ways. Take the time to communicate, plan, and assess how your goals fit into your “big picture” and daily life. Learn and educate, dream, commit, and pivot to find ways to keep tri-ing.

One day your kids will be thankful that you were an example of honoring yourself in the parenting process.