BAM! Your baby is born and, prepared as you thought you were, life as a parent is nothing like you had expected. You had a notion that your adventure would be something of a Park Run, but instead it’s the Comrades at best and a trail run most of the time. All the pastel blue and pink hues of the ‘we’re expecting’ photo shoot are but a haze to mask that you are actually expecting the unexpected, and it’s an endurance sport. The unique hallmark of the parenting journey is that conquering one route means very little in the face of two and three or more that follow. There is no manual and each race is not for the fainthearted. Parenting is grueling, exacting and forever. Rewards seem hard won and short lived most of the time, even though there is joy and pride or nachas to sustain you at the rest points.
The grit and endurance required for parenting are not to be underestimated. The sleeplessness, stress, carrying and scurrying either keep parents fit, or age them exponentially. Many bale out or collapse under the pressure. The emotional challenges and associated burdens of responsibility weigh heavily. As a parent, you have dreams, goals and anxieties for your evolving, growing child, over whom you exert influence certainly, but whose whole life you can’t control. You want so much. You want each child to be successful, fulfilled and happy. You spend a huge amount of energy evaluating their needs and seeking the very best for them. You are likely relentless in this pursuit and, to be honest, its exhausting. What’s more, there is no check out point. Entry to this race is an irreversible commitment.
So, how do parents survive the long haul? What can you do to up your endurance game? Here are twelve tips from fellow ‘athletes’:
- Expect the unexpected; parenting is a novel experience.
- Warm up; stay flexible as each unique child stretches you.
- Pace your race with a marathon in mind; tomorrow with your child is as important as today.
- Hit the hills and don’t take short cuts; disciplining, watching and spending time with your child is not achieved without effort and deliberate choice.
- Watch your step; obstacles to parenting are a given and you need to look out for these with eyes wide open. Listen to others who talk about the pitfalls. Be alert.
- Cross training is beneficial; time at work, in your faith based pursuits, with friends or on hobbies and interests develop your strength and afford you recovery.
- Forget the finish line; be present and in the moment, mark the intervals and special events with fitting occasion. Stay a while at the watering holes. Parenting is not about the times, but the adventure and beauty along the way.
- Find your seconder; someone who cares can help you along and cheer you on when you need it.
- Nourish yourself; fill your tank so you have energy for your task.
- Take in the scenery; it’ll have flashed past you before you blink.
- Remember, sometimes it’s the bad race days that make the medals feel truly earned.
- Running slow isn’t a flaw. Quitting is. Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.
Remember, the marathon is going to hurt. Period. There is no magic pace, snazzy sneakers or peak performance programme that will make it easy., but its rewards are like no other endeavour. Just do it. Run your heart out.