Having a mother who takes endurance sports seriously differs greatly from having a mom who simply exercises to stay in shape. As a child you learn that being a mother is also about being physically strong and mentally tough enough to ignore pain in the pursuit of victory, even if that victory is only to beat one’s own personal best time. Nobody has to tell the child of a runner-mom that women have to be especially strong to survive and flourish in this world. I hope that my daughter Annie will be a third generation competitive runner, and I know that there are many other positive qualities she will pick up from her grandmother. Last Spring another workingmother.com blogger suggested that I write more about how I am able to continue to be competitive, even though I am a working mother of a toddler girl. I am competitive with a great deal of help from my husband, my parents and in-laws, and even with all of this local help, I do not always reach the markers that I hope for. Like anyone who has set a lofty goal, I often fall short. Specifically, instead of running the sub-eight minute mile for the Hartford Full Marathon last fall, I had to settle for running a slightly sub eight minute mile Hartford Half. While figuring out a new teaching position and coaching teenagers for a 5K race, I didn’t end up finding the time to train for a full marathon. I did improve my own 5K race time in 2012, and I was able to win a 5K race in Old Saybrook, Connecticut with a 6:46 mile pace, which is only slightly slower than the times that I posted as a college runner. I will have to attempt to bury my mother’s age fifty, sub-three and a half hour, full marathon time sometime during 2013.
Exercise has always been a reward for me. I force myself to make it home each night at a decent hour to eat dinner before the early high school teacher bedtime which makes it possible for us to greet live teenagers five days a week by 7AM. Similar to most volunteer sports coaches, I spend about ten hours per week coaching during the three month season. After the 2012 cross-country running season ended, I ended up spending more time at the gym, which is much more convenient for my family, because the price (well worth it for our family) of my gym membership also includes kid’s classes and two hours of babysitting per parent per day. In addition to competing with my mom’s middle age feats every year, I also set a goal of being able to press my body weight on a flat bench. I lie down on the bench and say, “I am strong” out loud before I complete my ten repetitions with the seventy-five pound weight. So far, I have never been able to lift more than ninety-five pounds, which falls about twenty pounds short of my goal. If more people focused on positive goals like running faster, swimming farther or lifting heavier weights, weight-loss and improving fitness would be a breeze.
Limiting the amount of time that I spend watching television certainly gives me more time to exercise, volunteer, visit friends and write articles. I understand that some people have more stressful jobs than I do and perhaps need the alone time that watching television can provide. My husband often tells me that the ten to fifteen hours that I spend at the gym each week can also be considered a waste of time, especially since I spend at least twenty minutes of each gym visit exercising only my jaw. When I read a fellow blogger’s statement that she had previously watched twenty to twenty-five hours of television per week, I was initially shocked. The author of “Joyous Living”
http://www.workingmother.com/blogs/joyous-living/are-you-active-or-productive recently cut her screen time down to two to three hours per week.
According to Nielsen Statistics from 2012, the average American watches thirty-four hours of live television per week, plus an additional three to six hours of taped programming. The author profile states that Debbie is a working mother with a demanding career, which to me indicates that she works sixty or more hours per week. Thankfully, she replaced many of her screen hours with writing hours and now shares her inspirational articles with working moms and others all across America in her blog “Joyous Living”. Now that I have examined the widely reported Nielsen Statistics, I can conclude that there are probably a great number of other working mothers who spend most of their waking, non-working hours in front of a television screen. In stark contrast, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 30% of women and 23% of men volunteer their time, and of those few who volunteer, the average number of hours is a mere fifty-one hours per year, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/volun.nr0.htm. Many community or ethnic service organizations have folded over the past twenty years or consist entirely of the silver-haired set. I know that my parents who are in their late sixties are often the younger ones at the meetings for their Italian-American Society. My parents also told me, even during booming economic times, that not one of their bosses would ever consider interviewing any job applicant who was not an active member of a volunteer organization. Extended families used to live in close proximity, but today families are spread across the country and even across the globe. I am fortunate that my local family members are willing to watch my daughter while I complete long runs and bike rides or volunteer activities.
I will not hold myself up as a paragon of virtue for not wasting time. Send me into the coffee shop or grocery store and I will exit twenty-five or more minutes later with the containers of tea and coffee, the detailed account of how the store clerk discovered a new brand of long-wearing lip gloss (I had to ask her because her gloss matches my new eyeglass frames!), and what one of the customers is learning about in her graduate school marketing class and how this curriculum contributes to the success of her food and fashion website. My hubby can be in and out of a coffee shop in less than ten minutes, even at a bustling, prime-time.
In addition to my family, many friends and neighbors encourage me to set high goals each year in a variety of different areas of my life. I’m even thankful to many people whom I have never met, including the directors/editors of workingmother.com who give me this opportunity to represent their organization as a blogger at local charity events and professional conferences. I know that working mothers hold themselves to higher standards than the average American. I’m certain that most working mothers volunteer more than fifty-one hours per calendar year and watch less than thirty four hours of television per week. If you do have a more introverted tendency, you may have to step out of your comfort zone in order to volunteer. You might even have to work alongside someone like me who asks questions such as: “Oh wow! Tell me what it is like to be half Italian and half Iranian?”, “What were you thinking when you decided to have five children? ” and “How long ago did you put on that lip-gloss?”
Ask any recent college graduate who has managed to begin his or her career in their chosen field, and you will hear about the hundreds of hours that he or she spent volunteering. “I would have never been considered for my job with The New Britain Rock Cats Baseball Team without the time that I spent coaching and doing other volunteer experiences with youth in New Britain, Connecticut” says twenty-three year old Scott, a Glastonbury resident who also spends a dozen free hours of each week at the gym, and very few hours watching television.