Charlie's story: Overcoming guilt as a parent
11 November 2022
Being a new parent can be challenging but having a young child and beginning the transition back to exercise can come with its own set of barriers.
New mum and Run Leader in-training Charlie Paradise gives us some insight on how she battled her own guilt to get back running, and how an active lifestyle can have a positive impact on all the family.
How being a runner can benefit my child
If you are a runner, you’re probably very aware of the benefits the sport offers to your physical and mental health. You may enjoy having some 'me time' when you run, or you gain a lot from being part of a running club.
However, as a parent and a runner you might face an internal battle with yourself, weighing up the pros and cons of giving yourself time to do something for you.
As a new parent myself, every time I reach for my running trainers several thoughts go through my mind. Firstly, the new mum guilt asking myself: "Is it fair on my daughter for me to leave her and go running?"
Then there is also the 'do I have time' questions: “will I have time to get the dinner sorted if I go?” or “do I need to really send those emails tonight instead?”. These are some mental hurdles that can get in the way of me going out to do something I love.
To help navigate this I decided to focus more on the benefits running brings to my family and I'm hoping this can help other parents too.
Running promotes a healthy lifestyle
Obvious, I know, but really very important. In a world where social media can dominate our children's lives, we as parents can be up against some negative health messages. Our children can now access so much more information at the press of a button.
To be clear not all social media is bad, but as a mother of a young girl I have already thought about how messaging could impact my daughter’s thoughts on body image, dieting and what perfect looks like.
Running can provide your child with a different view on life. There isn't a set way a runner should look, people from all backgrounds, ages and body composition can all run together in the same parks, groups, or organised events. By introducing our children to a hobby like running we are offering them a different way to think about an active lifestyle, body image and who they choose to look up to.
Running as a parent doesn’t have to mean going it alone when you can squeeze a spare 30 minutes. Particularly through the rise of parkrun, you can now see many parents turning up with their children in tow to get involved whether in a running buggy or running alongside. It’s a great opportunity for all the family to have fun together.
We are also very lucky that throughout England there is a fantastic network of running clubs and RunTogether groups for you to get involved in and meet other parents or runners in your local community.
Running develops self-belief and helps us to overcome setbacks
As a runner you will have had those times where you had a goal and just didn't quite make it. Injury could have played a part, perhaps your technique wasn’t quite right, or something was too tough mentally to overcome. Being a parent, you can share your own experiences with your family, teaching them about important behaviours whilst you enjoy your hobby.
This could include those training runs in the freezing cold when you would rather be inside with a cuppa (determination); routine and structure of a training plan (discipline); overcoming setbacks such as injury, illness, or not achieving your PB (resilience); cheering on other people as they run (teamwork) and being comfortable in your own skin (self-confidence). By doing something you love you could be promoting positive life messages to your children.
Running can promote giving
Giving to others has been identified as one of the best things we can do for our mental health. Admittedly not everyone runs for a cause, but it is a sport that lends itself nicely to anyone interested in doing so.
Running for a charity can help other people whilst you take part in the sport you love. Raising money doesn’t just make you feel great, but it can also be a way for your family to get involved too in any fundraising running challenges, even if it is just cheering you on!
Now when I grab my trainers and mum guilt starts to creep in, I think about these positive influences my running could have on my daughter as she grows up. I will never insist she becomes a runner or plan to push her into anything she doesn't like, but I want to do what I can to offer her a different viewpoint on the world.
If you feel inspired by Charlie’s story and want to begin your running journey, you can find a RunTogether group near you. With sessions available for all levels, abilities, and ages throughout England, there is something for everyone!