Maintaining Identity in Motherhood

I have always wanted to be a mom and am completely okay with that being a big part of my identity at the moment.  At the same time though, I think it’s important to maintain some sort of identity outside of motherhood.  While I may not have as much time (or energy…) to devote to my hobbies as I once did, it’s important to me to not completely give them up.

Running Trail in Fort Worth, TX

A few years ago, one of my favorite hobbies, and a big part of my identity, was running.  I started running in high school to stay in shape when it wasn’t basketball season (I played on our high school basketball team…we were very, very bad, but I loved it).

I didn’t love running right away, it felt so hard, but sometime in the college years, I fell in love with it.  It didn’t hurt that I went to Georgetown in DC, which is surrounded by great running trails.  Also though, as an introvert, I craved solitude, which can be hard to find in college.

Running gave me that outlet and felt so freeing.  I ran somewhat sporadically in college.  I started training for a half marathon a couple of times, but kept injuring my foot, probably because I was playing lots of basketball with friends around the same time, and was not at all careful about preventing overuse injuries.

After college, I signed up for my first race, the Virginia Beach Half Marathon, and from there I was hooked.  I am a super competitive person and, while I am not fast, loved competing with myself and reaching new goals.  Especially as a newer runner, there are always new time and distance goals to strive for.

Spectating the London Olympics Marathon Trials in Houston – Go Kara!!!

I ran four marathons and a bunch of other races, and loved them all.  I briefly joined an early morning running group in DC, but quickly realized I really prefer running alone.  I would 1000 times rather listen to music while running than have to think about talking.

Walt Disney World Marathon with My Little Brother

I had a few injuries over the years, but they were all gone within a couple of months.  One day, I was running in Wisconsin while we were visiting my husband’s family and my left foot started to hurt.  I kept going.  I may have taken a day or two off, but then went back to it.  It wasn’t excruciating, just a nagging pain.  It got worse and worse and I kept on running.  I still wonder how things would have turned out if I had just stopped and gone to a doctor, or at least taken more time off.

Months later, I eventually went to a specialist and it turned out I have an extra bone in my foot, called an accessory navicular.  It’s a tiny little bone, but can cause tendonitis, which is partially what was causing me pain.  The bone itself hurt too.  The doctor recommended some different shoes and insoles and told me I should I go to physical therapy (which I did not do…).  There is a surgery to remove the bone, but it is largely unsuccessful.

I stopped running for months.  I would try again periodically, but even going for walks was really painful, which was one of the hardest parts.  I was teaching at the time, and was on my feet a lot, which probably didn’t help.

Anyway, this a long way of saying, I did not stop running because of James.  I actually started running again for the first time in a long time in my second trimester.  Probably because I had been resting more than usual, my foot finally started to feel a little better.  I was going slowly and only about once a week, but it felt SO good.

Similarly, I started running about once a week six weeks or so after having James.  I would either go on my treadmill in the garage or outside on the weekend while my husband was home.  Now that I can run with the stroller though, I can finally run outside more often again.

It feels so, so great to be out running semi-regularly again.  It also has me itching to do a race.  I want to sign up for either a ten miler or half marathon for sometime next Fall.  I know this is probably not smart in terms of my foot – but I’ve also mostly given up on it ever getting 100% better again and am not okay with never doing a race again.  I want to do at least one more and ten milers / half marathons are my favorite distance.

Now I just need to research and choose a race, which I love doing!  Any recommendations?  I’ll keep you posted…

Do you like to run?

Have you ever had a long-term injury?

If you’re a parent, how do you maintain your identity outside of parenthood?

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  1. I feel like I could have written this myself – so many similar thoughts and feelings! I had NO idea how difficult it would be to keep running after having a baby. When I was so sick while pregnant, it really discouraged me and I think it impacted my joy of running because I really haven’t given it another chance. I had just run my second marathon about 2 weeks before we got pregnant, so it really was a slap in my confidence to go from marathon shape to puking my guts out every day! I love your thoughts on maintaining your identity in motherhood because I think that’s SO important. I still try to work out regularly, and sometimes I feel the most like “the old me” when I’m at the gym, sweating it out, jamming to my favorite music. I need to pick a 5K and JUST DO IT, like you said. I’ve been putting it off and putting it off for way too long!!

    1. I could not agree more, I definitely feel the most like my old self when running. I sometimes struggle with the motivation to get going, but feel SO good when I do. Thanks for reading!

  2. I think it is so important to maintain some hobbies and sense of identity outside of being Mom. I definitely think that being a mother is the largest part of my identity now, but I get a lot of joy out of teaching fitness classes and think that this time to focus on my passions helps me to be refreshed and at my best for the babes.

    1. I completely agree – I feel like so much of a better mom when I have a little time to recharge and do other things that make me feel like me. Thanks for reading 🙂

  3. Maintaining and identity and doing things for yourself as a mom is so important but so hard! The first 8 months or so I felt like I didn’t do a single thing. Even getting out to grab a coffee was so hard but yet my husband had no trouble going out to golf or see friends. The baby didn’t need him the same way he needed me. So I hear you completely! I used to love running and I’m so glad you are back into it! The time to yourself, the time to think, and all the endorphins… nothing beats it! I unfortunately fractured my pelvis and tore my labrum running and while they said I could run again it is just too painful. I tried going a few years back to see if there was anything I could do but the doctor I saw was AWFUL! I should maybe go try someone new because I truly miss it!

    So glad your back out there!!

    1. Exactly! I love being able to breastfeed my son, but it definitely makes it infinitely harder to go do things on my own, compared to my husband (a little less so now, but especially in the early days). I try to remind myself that I would not trade places with him in a million years as I love having that connection to our little guy, but it is still hard not to get jealous sometimes when he’s able to go on trips or go hang out with friends so easily. I know this time is so short though and I love it so much. That injury sounds terrible and so painful! I’ve also had some really bad experiences with doctors for sports injuries. I know I should go see another one about my foot, but it’s so disheartening when they do nothing to help 🙁

  4. I used to be a dancer and had to quit because of knee injuries. It was extremely devastating because it was my career path. I know that feeling of needing it to be part of your identity. Over the years I’ve found new passions but I think that my love of dance will always be lingering in me. I hope that my daughter finds something that she loves as much as I loved to dance.

    1. That is so hard, I’m only a casual runner for fun, I can’t imagine how much harder it would be if it were a career. I know what you mean, I can’t wait to see what passions my little guy will develop, I often look at him and wonder what he will love / what he will be like as a grown up, such a mystery!

  5. I used to be quite an avid runner, but stopped a year or so before getting pregnant. I am just now getting the itch to get back into it, although I don’t know that I will ever have the same desire. (I competed in several half marathons). We shall see…..right now I am eyeing some different 10K’s in the fall.

    1. I think it’s so hard to have the energy when taking care of a little one all of the time! 10Ks are such a great distance though, I’m really looking forward to doing a race in the fall, even if I have to walk some and am nowhere near as fast as I used to be (which was never that fast lol). Thanks for reading!

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