Finding the Balance: Running + Parenting

Written by 2019 DBR Ambassador Brittney Tracey “How long are you going to be? Will we still have time to practice pitching?” are the words…


Written by 2019 DBR Ambassador Brittney Tracey

“How long are you going to be? Will we still have time to practice pitching?” are the words I hear from my 11-year-old as I put on my running shoes. 

“I don’t know, depends on a lot.” I reply, “Maybe a few hours. But, we will make time to practice. I promise.” 

I step out the door feeling guilty. While I know everything will be okay, the thought doesn’t stop the horrible feeling within me.

Balance is hard to achieve. Sometimes, it feels like the scale tips towards what some people would call my selfish hobby. My son, Dom, however, understands I’ve been a runner his entire life. 

I started running with him in the jogging stroller; it put him to sleep. At five years old, when he was a bit older, he went through a bit of spurt where he wanted to run with me.

We did a handful of 5k’s together in a two-year period and it was so great to be able to share my hobby with my son; to be able to bring together the two biggest parts of my life: my trails and my family. But, like so many things that kids try, the interest wanes with time as they discover their own passions.

Dom is no longer a runner. He’s spent six years developing his baseball skills with excitement and focus. It’s thrilling to watch him grow and come into his own, but a small part of me wishes that he would’ve kept running so we could have that time together. 

This is where the ever-elusive and fickle thing called balance comes into play. 

So many of my mom’s friends look at me with shock and awe when I tell them I did a six hour training run on a Saturday morning. They want to know how I have time, as they don’t even have time to go to the gym for an hour.

Most times I just smile and shrug but the truth is I prioritize. If something is truly important to you, you will find time for it, even if it means you take time away from something else. It’s just a matter of deciding what’s really not important to you.

When I weigh things out in my mind, folding laundry and cooking extravagant meals never win out over stunning ridge lines or playing catch with my son. It’s all a matter of how you look at things. We often have a “clean pile” on a recliner in the living room where you can find socks and undies when your drawer runs low. But, we are happy, for the most part. 

A typical weekday for me might seem like a nightmare to someone else: Five am wake-up. Make lunches. Coffee and breakfast. Out the door to work by six forty-five. Home by five pm. Have a quick dinner. Head to a board meeting for the Trails Alliance or a Run Club Run. Go to baseball practice. If I didn’t have a group run, I squeeze in one quick before heading home and collapsing exhausted into bed at eight thirty or nine pm, only to wake up and do it all over again.

The truth is, I’m exhausted all the time. But aren’t most parents? It seems like a part of the job description. 

When I step back into the house after my run, my son pops his head out of his bedroom and asks “Did you have a good run?” with a smile. I no longer feel that horrible guilt.

I smile back and joke about how there were more hills than I remember, then grab our baseball gloves. We go outside, and he pitches balls at me with a scary speed until he needs a break.

It’s our routine. It’s what works for us, even if sometimes to the outsider I look very selfish for spending so much time running and hiking. 

What those people don’t see is the laughs at the ball diamond, the fishing expeditions, the campfires and the movie nights. They don’t see the tenuous balance I’ve found.

Sure, I don’t cook home made meals every night and sometimes my counters are sticky for an entire week, but something has to suffer in pursuit of happiness. If it has to be my floors and laundry pile, then so be it.

Despite all the craziness, backlash and exhaustion, parenting also has its moments of greatness when every stressful and guilt-ridden situation becomes worth the daily struggle for balance. They come when I cross a finish line to see my son and fiancé cheering for me and smiling and so proud, or when I watch him pitch a shutout inning (even if it means I have to miss a run for it). 

If you feel like you’ve found balance in your life, embrace it, protect it and brush off the comments. No one knows what works for you like you do.

If you haven’t been able to find it yet, keep trying, and keep pursuing. At the very least, your kids will grow up knowing that passion and fire can take them places. More importantly, it can demonstrate that making priorities that are right for you has nothing to do with the opinions of others. 

I still do hold out hope that one day Dom will come back to running and I can find that balance a little easier. A girl can dream, right? 

This was Brittney’s first contribution to DBR. Expecting? Check out Running and Pregnancy: In Defence of Running for Two