Several years ago, as I was preparing for a big race, I had one of those weeks where family and training collided head-on. At that time, most of the training happened while my kids where in school and/or while my youngest (then 18 months) napped in the afternoon. But as I headed into the final stages of race prep, I had a few high-volume weeks where a few training sessions just had to slide into the weekend—two days usually reserved for soccer games, church and family time.
One particular week, I accidentally overlooked a 20-mile run scheduled for that Sunday. Holy panic. We (as a family) were booked all day with church, sport obligations and a family gathering. There was not one spare minute in the day, nevertheless multiple hours for a 20-miler. There was no way I could say, “Sorry, guys, have a 20-miler so momma out!” On the other hand, the timing of this particular run was critical enough that I couldn’t just blow it off either.
Something a bit extreme was in order. So, that cold Sunday morning in October, I set my alarm to 3:00 a.m. and hit the road—running down the middle of the usually busy street because it was dark and the street lamps didn’t illuminate the sidewalks. In somewhat of a dream state, I ran through three different towns—returning home 20 miles later. By 8:30 a.m., I was sitting in church with my family and my hair was perfectly coiffed (meaning, in this case, a de-greased ponytail free of rogue oatmeal chunks. I have standards, y’all!)
The very next day (Monday) I ran into a friend of a friend. She asked about my training and before I had a chance to respond, blurted, “Must be nice to train all day! Your husband must do all the cooking and laundry, huh? Does he take the kids all weekend or do you have a full-time nanny while you exercise?”
Um, I always hate to let the facts interfere with a good story, but… no, no, no and no. And I don’t exercise, I train. There’s a difference.
Now, I suppose if I hadn’t done the sunrise 20-miler the prior morning, I might have had a more charitable spirit and shrugged it off. But I was deeply aggravated. Because all those assumptions were wrong. No, I do the cooking and laundry, scheduling, cleaning, chauffeuring, grocery shopping. I’m the primary care-taker of our three young kids. Also, I have a big role in the PTO and volunteer in their classrooms a lot. I chaperone most school field trips. I volunteer my coaching services. And I write. And at the end of each day, the house looks (reasonably) good and everyone has clean underwear in their drawer. And I love it. And my husband is amazing—very hands-on. But no, there is no nanny and he doesn’t have the kids while I train all day because he’s at his office working his ass off in a pretty stressful environment. That’s not to say that he hasn’t stepped in to allow me to train on the weekend, he has, but we have a nice quid pro quo: I train, he golfs. And we’re both committed to getting it done with minimal impact on family time. That’s also not to say that I never had babysitting help—I did when my youngest was home all day. Yet the hours I needed didn’t seem all that out of sync with my non-training mom friends. There are other trade-offs that people don’t always see. I didn’t go to my most recent college reunion because I had exhausted my “personal hours” on training. I can’t remember the last time I’ve done a girls weekend. And all this is perfectly fair—because we all have a choice in how we spend our free time. But I’m preaching to the choir here because you too probably juggle a lot.
The good news is that my friends and family are very supportive, so it’s rare that I run into that kind of attitude. But when I do, I stew. So I’ve been pondering this a bit more, trying to identify what else (other than run-of-the-mill misinformation) was so irksome about that comment. Because I was really irked. (Side bar: don’t you love the word “irk?” So fun to use—irk, irk, irk. Also like kerfuffle, but that’s another blog post.)
Anyway, I think I finally figured it out. It’s insulting. It’s insulting to insinuate that we, as athletes, ignore our family and responsibilities in order to race. It’s insulting to discount our meticulously-honed Martha Stewart-esque time management skills. It’s insulting to assume we never use our passion for sport to reach out to others or be a mentor. It’s insulting to not realize that we are giving our kids an example of hard work, dedication and healthy living (and as a mom of two daughters, a strong female role model). Yes, there are completely self-absorbed, self-centered athletes (and non-athletes) out there, but that doesn’t define most of the people I know.
So now I’m working on the perfect response for next time I get that kind of comment sans supporting documentation. Something like, “Oh, it must be nice that your support staff watches the kids all week so you’re free to pass completely uniformed judgment!” Okay, fine, I won’t say this—it’s immature and catty.
But it might just let off enough steam to avoid a kerfuffle.