As a mother of five, FitLegally’s Rachel Brenke, understands the feelings of guilt while out training or racing. In this video, she shares how to alleviate this guilt and use it as a parenting tool.
Hey guys. Rachel Brenke, from Fit Legally, and today I want to talk about overcoming mother’s guilt. Now, I’m not a therapist. I’m not even a professional at doing this. I fail at this every single day, but I want you guys to understand you’re not alone. When you’re out there and your training or you’re wanting to commit to a new hobby, it doesn’t even have to be athletics, you may feel this guilt of taking away from your family. And I want you to realize, that’s natural. There’s nothing wrong with you and it’s also not a bad thing. It shows that you care about your family. What’s interesting is when I do these athlete, everyday athlete tips, I typically and giving you like these very specific steps and calls to action. I really don’t have much more of tips to give you guys when it comes to mental stuff like this.
I think because everyone is so specific in their psychology and their circumstances in life, that you just have to break it down, and to figure out how you’re gonna manage that mother’s guilt yourself. I can share with you what I do as much as possible to help overcome it, but just know that these tips may not work for you. You may have to just dig in, take the information that I provided and just look within yourself, or even see what other similar people in similar circumstances are doing. I think it’s a really unfortunate thing that in today’s society, we have to have this guilt. And I say have because you see it everywhere. You know? There used to be on one end of the spectrum where moms were guilted about everything that they did. We’ve kind of swung this other direction where it’s this champion of, “Yes moms. You don’t have to feel guilty,” but yet there’s still this underlying idea that if you’re not taking care of your kids 100% or your family, then you have this guilt, but you’re not allowed to share it because all you’re going to get our platitudes of don’t feel guilty.
That’s not what I want this video to be about. What I’m trying to target is not just the external guilt pressures that are put on us, but more of the internal guilt pressures that we put upon ourselves. I feel like mom guilt is multilevel that way. And society can do whatever they want to do and yes, it does have impact on our psyche and how we approach things. But I do think as moms, we take and attach a lot more guilt to things than we really need to do. And this is especially true when it comes to training.
For me, if you guys know any of my backstory, which will be another video, I’ve lost over 100 pounds. I got into this through couch to five k APP and I progressively have lost weight over the years. I had had cancer, I had five babies, I had gained a lot. I was very unhealthy in my 20s, and it wasn’t until I turned 30 and had our last child that I decided I was going to do something about that. But what was interesting was, when I was obsessing, because I was at the time, I was obsessing more about weight than health, which is something that’s kind of interesting and beyond the scope of this. But I was obsessing more about weight and my physical appearance, and that manifested a lot of guilt because then I started thinking, “Am I only getting into doing sports because of my physical appearance?” Which there’s nothing wrong with that. If you have placed a lot of value in your physical appearance and it’ll make you feel better, and in turn a better parent and a better person, I’m good with that.
And that’s kind of how I justified it and I’m thankful that I kind of took that approach, because in that journey I learned that I am not just a physical being that needs to take a less amount of space. I learned that I’m my physical being that needs to be healthy, which you would think after cancer that I would’ve thought health would have been ultimate importance, but it wasn’t. And I’ve learned through that journey of seeking to be skinny and to be thin, and back to what I was before kids and cancer. And I actually found health. Now, that being said, my guilt actually just increased throughout the years and it really wasn’t until I started getting into the last few years that I realized that what I do has a profound impact on my children.
That sounds cliche. You’re probably thinking, “Well yeah, you’re a parent. You’re going to have an impact on your kids no matter what.” But I never really considered how much an impact that I have, and this is probably the key aspect to what helps to alleviate my mother’s guilt. I can give you guys tips like, integrate them into your workouts, which I do. We go running together. Prep them for races. And I’ll talk about all those tips here in a minute. But I think the key thing for this was realizing the example that I was really setting for my children.
One of the best moments that I’ve had in my triathlon career, his last year at Ironman World Championships in Kona, I was able to have my family at the finish line. NBC sports was doing a feature, they made this accessible and I am so grateful for it, because the photographs that came out of that event, not just finish line, but through the entire day and the entire week we were there, really shows me that my impact and my presence of what I’m doing in these activities that I have mom guilt in, are making a profound impact on my children.
I have five kids ranging from 13 down to four. Now my oldest daughter is number two and she’s nine years old. She is my biggest cheerleader, and she is most like me. And because she’s the most like me, and because I know what she’s going to face when it comes to society and pressures as a mom and as a female, I want to set the best role model I can for her. If you guys have seen on my feed, I’ve got pictures of her cheering me on, her writing an Ironman poster, and she is part of that iconic, I say iconic because the photo is like everywhere, at the finish. She’s the first one to run up to me. And it actually took all these years, which I’ve only been doing this for about four and a half years, but it took until I got to the finish line on [inaudible 00:05:55] drive to realize, this mom guilt that I have is kind of wasted. Because the kids aren’t feeling upset that I’m gone. They’re only seeing what I’m doing and they’re impacted by it.
My daughter is so encouraged, not to be a triathlete necessarily, but she’s so empowered and encouraged from that moment and from those photographs, that I feel it is setting her up for bigger and better things. She already was strong willed, wonder where she gets that from, and she was already very type A and knew what she wanted. But now I feel like she has a lot more confidence in the action she’s taking. And I truly believe it’s from those moments, and her seeing my journey to get to the Ironman World Championships. Now you don’t have to go to Kona to have these moments. You could simply having your kids around you when you’re working out, explaining to them why it’s important to be healthy and important for you to have things for your own self care.
Okay? But the number one tip that I have put … This whole video, if you get nothing else, I’m going to give a couple more tips that I’ve already alluded to, if you get nothing else in this, is realize you are making an impact. And that for me was a huge pivotal moment. And when I see that photograph shared all over again, I still have moments of excitement, because in that moment when I’m looking at this photograph, I’m taken back to all the moments after that. Not the photograph itself, and not necessarily the hug at the finish line, but all the moments and all the comments that my daughter has said about how proud she was, how excited she was, and then seeing how confident she is displaying herself in other activities and things that she wants to do in her life.
So for me, when I start to feel mom guilt because I’m taken away from my kids in order to go train, or I’m going to be gone on a weekend for a race, I think about the fact that I’m probably the only one feeling guilty. They’re not necessarily feeling upset that I’m gone. Even if kids are like, “Mommy, I don’t want you to go,” that’s a natural reaction. It’s not that they’re upset that you’re actually training or racing. They just want to be with you because you’re their parent. Okay? So understand when you’re in those moments, you’re setting examples, and it is for you. Self care is fabulous and that’s probably one of the best gifts you can give them. But setting an example, I feel, even goes beyond that, because as a mother that’s the number one thing I want to do. I want to raise them up to be confident. I want my girls, I have two girls, three boys, I want my girls to know that they can do anything and I want my three boys to see that you can be with a strong and powerful woman and champion that as well. Okay?
So number one tip of this is just understanding that the actions you’re taking are going to make a positive impact as long as the positive actions. Right? And these are positive actions. Now again, getting into some other tips that you can do to help integrate your family into this, to help alleviate some of your mom guilt, identifying that the guilt’s on you. The family may not be putting the guilt on you, right? This is all self imposed guilt. You can integrate them into the activities. Like I’ll go out and I’ll catch my kids for the end of the run and they can finish the last half mile with me, or we’ll work on the bike together at home.
One of my favorite things to do is when we go to races, is I’ll create bags and I’ll put all sorts of things in there for them. Glow sticks, if it’s going to be a full Ironman, it goes into the night. A bubble wand, chalk for them to color on the sidewalk when they’re waiting for me to come. Because let’s be real, in a race they see me for all of 10 seconds, but they’re out there for hours. So activities and things that they can do while they’re there, helps my husband out a bit, gives them a little something and they also know that they are loved by me while I’m out there.
On top of that, also encourage them to create signs for cheering, getting them cowbells and those sorts of activities, will integrate them. Keeping in mind, the family is not placing guilt on us. They’re not upset. In fact, they’re excited to see you race, right? They’re excited that you’re out there, but integrating them a bit more can help them feel involved and even more part of the process. So I get it. This video was a little different than the other ones. Not really true tangible tips. Just more of a thought provoking thing to remember. These are just more thought provoking tips for you guys to understand that it’s okay. What’s you’re doing is phenomenal. You’re setting a great example. You’re doing everything that you probably want to do as a mother, from inspire confidence, inspire your kids, empower your kids and set a good example.
We are out there getting healthy, we’re committing to self care and we’re getting active and we are making a profound impact. It just is something for us and maybe we just need to change the narrative on this, y’all. Moms don’t have to be giving in to their kids all the time physically in order for it to be for them. We can do stuff for ourselves and it still pours into them as well. You guys are awesome. Moms, pat yourself on the back. This is a hard thing to deal with. I just encourage you, please alleviate that mom guilt, recognize you’re doing the right thing and keep at it. Schedule.