Not too long ago, I was at a party where I was talking to some people I knew and a couple that I met for the first time that night. We were all runners or triathletes, and of course the topic rolled around to training and racing. I’m not exactly sure what was said or how it came to this, but I mentioned my races and how often I have to train. Then somebody mentioned the baby, my daughter. One particular woman that I had met for the first time looked at me and in not so many words said, “Do you EVER spend time with your daughter?”

I calmly explained to her when and how I train. But inside, I was PISSED. How dare she judge me? Now, you might say that maybe she didn’t mean it like that. Maybe she was curious as to when I work out and how I balance it. If you had been there, though, you would have known that it was said in a disapproving way. It was not worded in such a way as to make me think she was curious how I did it all. No. She asked me point blank if I ever spent time with my child. It doesn’t help that she is single with no children.

Balancing working out and a family is very hard. It’s tough. I completely understand why a lot of people don’t manage to do it. In fact, when I was pregnant and people learned I planned to continue racing and running after the baby was born, I was told that it was going to be much harder than I could imagine and it just wouldn’t happen.

Yes, it is very hard. I manage, though, because I make a point to make it work. Sure, my house is a mess, my little side projects don’t get done, I don’t read as much as I would like…and let’s not even open the door to the office, as I haven’t filed bills in more than six months. Oh, and I should mention that I’m often fighting sleep when I drive.

But I calmly explained to this girl that, during the week, from the time my daughter arrives home from daycare until she goes to sleep, it’s family time in my house. I rarely go out. I rarely work out. I’m usually taking care of my daughter and playing with her. I explained that I get up around 3:30 a.m. Monday through Friday in order to work out before dropping my daughter off at daycare and heading to work. If I get in a workout in the evening, it’s after 7 p.m., when my daughter is in bed.

On the weekends, I don’t get to sleep in. The day I go to the gym, I’m there before 6 a.m. My husband and I usually put our daughter in the gym daycare, so we can get in a workout. On the day I do my long run, my husband sleeps in (until 7 a.m.) and I get up when my daughter does. Once he’s up, I head out. The weekends are the only time that I work out while she is awake.

Do I enjoy getting up at 3:30 a.m.? No. I hate it. I’m exhausted most of the day. I fall asleep driving to work, I fall asleep driving home from work. I want to go to bed at 7 p.m. when she does. Only I can’t. But I somehow manage to do this day after day.

I feel I manage my time well, I manage to somehow balance training and family. Family and friends. I make sure I spend a lot of time with my family but also enjoy myself and do what makes me happy — what makes me “me.”

I know that when I get to do the things I enjoy, it makes me a better person. It makes me a better mom. Because then, when I am with her, I WANT to be there.

Saying all this, though, doesn’t mean that I don’t still carry around guilt. I do. I have a lot of guilt. But I also know that I shouldn’t. I just wish people wouldn’t judge. Some people just don’t understand what it takes to do what I do — what it takes for any parent who is an athlete in their “spare” time to do.

I’ll remember this woman’s comments the next time I feel like I can’t do it, so I can remember to keep my chin up, get up the next day and the day after, and get in that work out. To prove that I can do it. That I can find the balance.

Author: Kris Meyer is a St. Louis-based mother, IT professional and triathlete.
Image: Manduka