In which I learn about the hill

Not long ago I came across the 25 Golden Rules of Running. They’re fabulous, and were immediately pinned. The guys and gals at Runner’s World have hit the nail on the head with many of these, and as I’ve looked to improve my running over the past year (has it really been that long?) I’ve returned to them often.

And on one of those returns, I started thinking about #14, The Up-Beats-Down-Rule. Please go and read the details and the entire piece here, but the rule is this: “Running uphill slows you down more than running downhill speeds you up.”

It’s totally true in running, though I’m prone to forget it. I go up a hill and slow down to 11 min/mile. I reach the crest of the hill and expect that I’ll speed up to 9 min/mile and average 10 min/mile. But that never happens. I only run down that hill at 10:30. Faster than I ran up the hill, but not as fast as I’d have run the entire course flat. It’s a huge realization for me as a parent.

Yeah, I’m onto parenting now. Follow me here.

Three days a week, my youngest daughter is in nursery while my older girls are in school. So that means that three times a week, I get approximately 5-6 hours to myself.

I have this amazingly supportive and helpful husband, but on a few occasions when I need his help with things that he doesn’t want to pitch in with, he’s been known to say, “But you had all day to yourself! How can you be tired?”

Ta-Da!

It’s the “Running uphill slows you down more than running downhill speeds you up” rule all over again.

My time three children, all in school, is totally running downhill. I get it. I appreciate it. I run child-free errands. I do child-free chores. I have a coffee date with friends or sit down and eat my lunch in peace while watching a television show. I work sometimes, but it’s work on my own terms as a freelance writer and designer, so it’s work that I love. My life when the girls are in school is downhill.

But the mornings and the afternoons and the evenings are uphill. Not always uphill. They aren’t always these steep inclines on cobblestones. But sometimes they are. And when they aren’t, they are these slow ascents, often reaching a crest where I can sometimes hardly catch my breath. I can see that downhill in the distance (in this instance, bedtime). But will it ever be enough to truly recover from the uphill?

I love parenting. I love my girls. But it is, in so many ways, an uphill battle. And those downhills that husbands or friends and family members see aren’t enough to make the entire course flat. That’s why we’re tired. It’s why we need help. It’s why working women don’t have it easier than stay-at-home mothers (that’s a whole different uphill battle that I can’t even tackle in this blog post). It’s why I had a long lunch with friends and still didn’t manage to get dinner on the table on that night after a diving lesson, a piano lesson, and a meeting with someone’s teacher (plus an impromptu play date and spelling lesson). It’s not just true of parenting–it’s why you can have this crazy, mental week at work and don’t feel refreshed after the weekend. Why the night isn’t enough to prepare you for tomorrow. Why a cat nap doesn’t make up for the sleepless night.

I am such a lucky mom to have those downhills. They’re that moment when we can catch our breath and realize how hard the incline was and how proud we are that we made it.

But the parenting route isn’t, never will be, as fast as a flat one.

And that’s probably what makes it great.

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