Running in a Blue Dress

I come from a long line of mommy martyrs.

My grandma was one. My mom was one. My aunt was one.

They sacrificed their own interests, desires, and in my mom's and aunt's cases, their financial security, in the name of fulfilling their own definition of the "good mother."

For the women in my family, being a good mother meant you first and foremost did not work, especially when your kids were young. Working meant time away from them, even though you might have enjoyed your pre-motherhood career and you really, really needed to be working to avoid financial ruin. With the little money you did have, you bought for the kids and not for yourself. You shuttled junior here, there, and everywhere without complaint, even though you might have just wanted to sit home and read a book. You squashed your own dreams, and you lived for your kids. Oh, and you did this with a smile on your face because this is just what good mothers do.

I am not denying that motherhood comes with a certain amount of sacrifice. 90% of my wardrobe is made up of clothes purchased before Isabella was born. I get my hair cut much less frequently than I would like, simply because my fabulous stylist charges more than I can afford to spend every few months. And I muscle through exhausting trips to the playground with all three kids by myself, because I know they love it.

But there is one thing that has become increasingly important to me that I absolutely will not sacrifice, and that is my running and my September half-marathon goal.

Whenever I talk about going to the gym, or my running schedule, or my plans to run a half-marathon in September, my grandma and my aunt (the two relatives that see me and the kids most often) cluck their tongues and give me disapproving looks.

"You're trying to do too much."

"You have too much on your plate."

"Do you really need another "thing"?"

In this essay, which I hope you will take five minutes to read, the writer tells of an expensive blue dress she bought - a dress she ordinarily never would have purchased for herself because she was used to saving money to spend only on her kids. But this dress made her feel beautiful and successful and alive. And then she says this, a statement that makes me want to reach through my screen and kiss her:

"Sacrificing the things that make us feel feminine or happy or heck, just human simply because we are mothers isn’t helping anyone in the long run."

She goes on to say that our kids are not better off if we live in sweats, that they did not ask us to give up our designer purses or our daily showers.

Women are not better mothers because they're martyrs.

I would not be a better mother if I gave up working, my running, or Starbucks. In fact, I would be a much worse one.

Running is my blue dress. And no amount of mommy or grandma or auntie guilt is going to make me give it up.

20 Responses to “Running in a Blue Dress”

  1. # Blogger Jesser

    It's probably not a mystery how I feel about this topic. You go girl ... and if you ever do run in a blue dress (and I for one think you should!), then I want photos. ;)

    You are a great mommy, a WHOLE mommy, and not SOLELY a mommy.  

  2. # Blogger Sasha

    It is funny. I am so past feeling guilty about running. Sure, I have other things and there are aspects of running that make me miss my kids (and granted I am an extreme case since I spend 8 hours a week working out), but it would never occur to me to think you should feel guilty for exercising.  

  3. # Anonymous Mary

    Beautifully written.
    And so true.
    Ceasing our own development/sanity savers just because we've entered the (mother)Hood also sends it's own strong message to our kids, and not necessarily a good one.
    Modeling self-care is a part of caring for kids. Monkey see, monkey do.  

  4. # Blogger Holly at Tropic of Mom

    Oh, bless you.

    I love the comments too!  

  5. # Blogger Tracey - Just Another Mommy Blog

    Go Kristi!  

  6. # Anonymous Ness at Drovers Run

    I actually *did* read that post in question - didn't the writer look just like Miranda from SATC? I took a lot from it as well.

    You're right to hold onto your running - because after all you are holding onto YOU in the process.  

  7. # Blogger Christine

    Go you K! You are awesome, all around.  

  8. # Anonymous Lisanne

    No matter how much you *adore* your job, you need a break every once in a while. Every mother needs a "blue dress."  

  9. # Blogger shokufeh

    Good for you! I think it's important to maintain our sense of self, however and whenever we can.

    Perhaps it's coincidental, but when I clicked on that link to the blue dress essay, I got all kinds of attempts to infect my computer. My antivirus and our IT guy came to the rescue, but I'll just take your word that it's good.  

  10. # Blogger Kristi

    Shokufeh, That's really odd. The site is Meagan Francis's, and she's a really well-known writer/journalist. I tried the site just now and didn't have any weird stuff going on. Sorry about that!  

  11. # Blogger Rachel

    Oh, I loved this post! I always feel that I am more than a bit self-indulgent (3 week fab vacation? Check) but not so much on clothes anymore. A large part of it is that I both hope that I will lose weight, and that I will gain oodles and oodles of weight soon and so spending real money on clothes is SO hard. But then I do look really frumpy most days, and it's also unnecessary.

    Anyway, I also wanted to add that you've inspired me to -try- jogging with baby this weekend. We were gifted a gorgeous jogging stroller which we immediately relegated to my in-laws (small apartment problem) so this weekend I'm going to try it out and if I like it I might just bring it back and park it squarely in our bedroom, next to my desk. I even bought new running sneakers for the 1st time in 5 years last weekend. So I hope running works as well for me as it seems to for you.  

  12. # Blogger Jamie

    I'm not a runner, but I wish I was... I so need to get back to exercising!

    I'm hoping to start taking the kids to the childcare at our local Y this summer. But, of course, I'm already feeling guilty about the entire situation. And yes, that's ridiculous. I love this post (I'm always nodding right along with you!) and love the comments too. It is ridiculous to feel guilty for exercising. Now how do I make it stop? :)

    BTW: You look amazing!!  

  13. # Anonymous Ellen K.

    Great post. For myself, the blue dress is my weekly "day off" (actually 5.5 hours). My 18mo twins spend this time at their grandparents' house, and as soon as I leave them, I head straight for the coffee shop and sit down with a good book or some freelance work; later I run errands. And it's so wonderful that I'm actually quivering with happiness as I step up to order my coffee and decadent pastry.

    But I have received a few eyebrows when I disclose this. And on one memorable occasion, I struck up conversation with a woman who was there with her toddler granddaughter. When I told this woman about my weekly routine, she said, "Oh, that's great; all moms need some time off," and then a few minutes later she said, "You know, they have story time at the bookstore; you and your MIL could take the girls there instead of your coming here and having to be away from them." Thanks for the tip and hint! Wow, I'm so selfish!  

  14. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Just a different side to the story -
    Why is it that there is so much disdain towards moms who truly do not feel the need to get that one day a week to themselves away from the kids? Why is it thought that there is something wrong with those women or that they must feel like their lives are so not their own? We are happy giving ourselves to our children. We don't feel like we have lost ourselves in motherhood, rather we feel completely at home and most like ourselves in our role as mother. While I certainly enjoy my daily two-hours at the gym while my kids are with their friends and incredibly wonderful caregivers at the gym childwatch, I miss my kids! Every moment with them brings me such utter happiness and joy. I am a mom first and foremost and I love it! I have a few hours each night after they go to bed to spend alone or with my husband or to plan for the next days adventures with my kids. I still dress myself each day, make time for a cup of coffee while reading to them or playing tea party, go for long runs after they go to bed, go get a haircut, etc. I'm not some weirdo...I just love time with my kids and have never once missed my life before kids or thought about the last time I bought something for myself. I have never felt burdened by motherhood. And I am not lying in order to make others jealous or to feel guilty - this is how I feel. And I realize others do not feel this way and I don't judge them. But those of us out there who feel the way I do are just plain annoyed with people mockingly calling us martyrs and the like. Our lives are better because of our children - we don't get sick of singing the ABCs, it isn't a task for us to take 4 or more kids to the market or to the park. Why is that so hard to understand for some?  

  15. # Anonymous Mary

    To anonymous:

    It sounds like you care for yourself as equally as for your kids. Kudos for that.
    Is is possible that part of your joy and presence in being with your children is due to having your other needs met (daily exercise, coffee, hair care, etc)? These habits you describe can be real sanity savers for moms who can also make them a habit. (I'm still working on that, myself!)
    I don't think it's strange at all that you don't crave days or blocks of time alone, but it sounds like you've already struck a balance that works for you.  

  16. # Anonymous Meagan Francis

    Thanks so much for linking to my post! And I'm so sorry for the weird snafus with the virus thing...I was away from my computer all day yesterday but heard from more than one person that my blog was acting up as were other WP blogs hosted by GoDaddy. Hopefully it's now been resolved...I haven't heard about any other problems.

    I did want to address Anonymous's comment--I hear you and this is actually something I've written about before. I don't personally have disdain towards moms who don't take time away from their kids regularly. In fact, I've been that mom. And I may be again. And I was happy during that time so it never felt like martyrdom to me. In fact, I've also written quite a bit about how I think the idea that moms and dads MUST take regular date nights starting when baby is two weeks old is completely bogus. If you don't want to leave your baby--and are happier with her--there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, I'd say it's biologically normal.

    The issue becomes when the mom is always putting her needs and desires (whether they are time for herself, new clothes, or what have you) last simply out of a sense of obligation...and isn't happy about it. Then she's not really serving anyone...not herself, certainly, and not the kids whose lives she is trying to make better by always putting them ahead of her own.

    I totally understand feeling fulfilled by motherhood and nothing irks me more than people making happy motherhood out to be some kind of pathology. On the other hand, not everyone loves every minute of motherhood and there's nothing wrong with that either. We all have different strengths, different skills, different tolerance levels for the noise and mess that go along with having kids...etc. We're all different! And we have to be true to who we are as people AND as moms. As far as I'm concerned, as long as you're doing that there's no way you can be considered a martyr.  

  17. # Anonymous Meagan Francis

    And Mary, I agree with your comment wholeheartedly. It is much easier to feel happy and contented with mothering when you're already taking steps to care for yourself. Very well put.  

  18. # Anonymous Anonymous

    I think the most important thing is not losing your sense of self in being a mommy. Anon- I think the mommy-martyr is different from what you describe. You seem to have a strong sense of self which is different than twisting yourself into nothing but mother. I completely agree with Mary and Meagan.
    I also want to add something, something that may be unpopular but I will say it anyway. My mother is a mommy-martyr. She became nothing but her children, she had nothing outside of us, and when we grew up and left she was alone with nothing. I swore I would never turn into the invisible woman, that I would have something for myself and be someone that my children could be proud of. I swore this, whether I worked or not. I am lucky to have a job I love, a job I would do for nothing if I was independently wealthy. I love my children too and I love that I can arrange my schedule to be with them, but I will also be myself too.
    GREAT job Kristi! You rock! I am so happy that you are making time for you.  

  19. # Blogger Simply-Mel

    I think you know exactly how I feel Kirsty. :-)

    I would suffocate without a couple of *blue dresses* of my own.  

  20. # Blogger serenity

    Here from Jamie's blog (Sticky Feet). I have gotten into running since my son was born, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE it. In fact, my post today was about it.

    I love that there are others like me.

    Thanks for the post!


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