In life, many things are a sprint.
In school it was always a race: who could get the highest grades? Who could be the fastest athlete? Who could be the student of the year? The most popular? The most likely to succeed?
In school, one could run their course, like a sprint. If they worked hard enough, studied harder, pushed a little bit more…if they had the strength and the speed, the drive, they could be the winner. And there was always only one winner. No one remembers the girl with the second highest grades.
Getting a job can have the same drive. Who can be at the top of the pyramid? Who can be the supervisor? The manager? The Boss. The one who leads them all? Only one person can be CEO…do you have what it takes?
And then comes Motherhood. We read all the books – certainly we will be the best parent EVER. Certainly we will stick out from the rest. And we quite literally waddle up to the starting line, expecting that this race will be like all the others.
And for some of us it starts of very much the same. We have all our ducks our in a row. The house is prepared. The nursery is finished. The work schedule is cleared for a year. The baby falls into our social schedule nicely. Check.
When our baby sleeps through the night first. Our house stays cleaner than those around us, we lift our heads a little higher. Other Mom’s fall behind and we scoff, because they obviously don’t know the secret to this race. Then comes along the second baby, wait, and what?!? A third! And slowly we begin to say, “Hey this race is no longer fair!! Of course THAT lady is winning, she only has one tiny newborn, who contendedly lays strapped to her mothers chest. Of course she looks more put together. Of course her house is cleaner!”
But still, it bothers you and you try to pick up speed. To keep up to who you once were. Except the problem is that there are three little ones crying around your knees. They’re too tired. The baby is hungry and needs a diaper change. The toddler is getting blisters on their tiny feet. The four year old just want you to read them a story.
And you scream: “NOT NOW!! Can’t you see? I have a race to win!!”
Their sorrowful cries are met with impatience: “Hurry up! Get your shoes back on! We had to keep up!”
Running at this speed, that once felt normal for life, is now downright impossible. And you wonder: Where did I go wrong?
What is wrong with me?
Why can’t I keep up?
You think to yourself: “Obviously, I just need a better stroller. I’ll get the two seater. Maybe a better set of runners for the kid. Maybe an iPad for the bored one.” So you get some new gear. And start running again. And it works!! NOW we’re talking!
Looking ahead, your jaw drops. An obstacle course?!? Who put that there? Obviously your new stroller can’t go around THAT! You contemplate leaving the kids behind, after all, if someone else could run with them and take care of them for you, the kiddos could catch up to you later!
You’ll never win at this pace!
But then you see their tiny, tear streaked faces and you stop. Because something in your heart cries out: They just need YOU!
So you pick them up, now carrying two in your arms. Wow, this is hard. The four year old trips and begins to cry. And you slam to the ground, discouraged and downcast.
It’s no use. You can not win this race.
Weeping in despair you sit in the dust, but then, what happens next amazes you. The four year old crawls on to your lap and gently pats your face. Then he hands you the book he’s been begging you to read. You look at him for the first time, and his eyes shine back. And you truly look at the others. They stretch out their hands to you.
On the ground suddenly things look different and you see much further ahead. You see that the woman who was in first place has fainted and lies motionless from exhaustion. And that Mother you passed at the beginning of the race, she slowly walks up to you, now caught up, and gives you a knowing smile.
It was never a sprint, you whisper to yourself watching with pity the others who don’t yet realize this. For their children all have the same sad eyes. They have the same yearning look: Please Mom, just stop!
This wasn’t sprint. It was a marathon. And it wasn’t about being first, at all. It was about sticking together, through it all. It was about taking breaks and getting back up to go a few steps more. It was about stopping to admire the beauty around you. It was about reading that book, over and over again.
You begin to enjoy this race, this Motherhood thing, but then you look up and you see the finish line approaching. The kids are now older, and they begin to race towards it at an alarming speed. You cry out: “Wait!!! Slow down! It’s not a rush!” But all too soon they cross that finish line. Tears stream, because it took much longer than you had first pictured, but, oh, it all went by too soon.
The sweat, the pain, the frustration and exhaustion is forgotten. You smile and let them go to begin their own races. If only, you think with a sad smile, you had know this from the very beginning: Motherhood isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.