Dealing with Mom-Guilt and Thriving in Triathlon

by Katie Aguilar

I am going to say this straight out. I am not a parent.

Heck, I don’t even have a pet goldfish to be responsible for. But, I have had the fortune to ride with many amazing women who are mothers. And I may focus on the rides, but I am not oblivious. We would talk, and I heard. Mom guilt is real and inevitable.

I reached out to two of my teammates and training buddies Carmen and Lindsey. They confirmed that Mom-guilt is a thing. And it is two-fold.

  1. You are not with your kids/family
  2. You are enjoying yourself away from your family.

This often gets even worse on long-training days, training camps, and other training/racing adventures.

With this knowledge, my second question to them was, did they feel like their family benefits from their involvement in triathlon

And the answer was a resounding “Yes!”

They fired off several perks which go beyond their racing. Perks that add to their family experience.

Like begets like. And often training buddies include women who are also mothers. Often mothers of children of similar ages. You bond with them during times when training. You talk. You realize you are normal in your guilt and feeling torn. Per Carmen, there is nothing better than having good friends who empathize with you, and you know you are not completely crazy.

Not only do you have a group where you know your concerns and guilt are normal, but this time is also time you get for yourself. A break from being a Mom, and be something else. This down time is a healthy break, letting you come back ready and wanting to be Mom again.

In terms of training, it can be hard to get it in. However, not all of it has to be done away from the family. Lindsey recounted to me that her son learned to ride his bike alongside her on her runs. She would go to Masters swim and be in the lane next to her children. They were sharing a sports experience. It’s time together when there are no other distractions, especially phones with games, texts from friends, and email (to name a few). One wasn’t competeing while another watching. Rather they are both experiencing, and can share that experience later as well. This is time for the two (or three) of you. Embrace it.

Since you are working to have it all (train to reach personal goals and still be a mom and positive role model) you learn how to prioritize your life, and be effective when you are on the moment. Carmen reflected that this prioritization keeping in the moment is why you see a lot of moms succeed in triathlon. They take one thing at a time, and focus. You make the best of the time you have in that moment – be it training or with your family.

It’s not all about training. There are races in there too! Local races are usually easier to take the family. Sprint and Olympic distances are also easier as they are not a full-day commitment. They were a source of excitement and adventure for their kids – exploring new parks or revisiting places they have been before. And so their children enjoyed going to local, shorter races and seeing Mommy race. And likely be home by noon. Unless a side-trip was planned! They were proud of their parents – and have taken race medals to school for show-and-tell.

Whether a local race or one that is farther away, the trips to the races are with friends who have kids as well, and they get to form friendships with the children of your training buddies. Bonds are formed. Sometimes trips are taken together to farther races, and memories are made along the way.

Seeing the end results at the races help the children understand what sacrifices you have to give up to accomplish a goal. Things don’t always workout, but you keep trying and working for that goal. These are important lessons to children. They will experience it themselves, but they have also seen you live through it.

And finally, when it’s a lifestyle, the kids are a part of it. They see you living it, and benefit from seeing Mom as a living example of exercising and eating healthy. Not perfectly, which is also important. And chances are, your kids will want to ‘be like Mommy” (or Daddy) and try out triathlon, or another sport. It’s a part of a process.

So yes, there are issues. And sacrifices on both sides – to triathlon and the family. But there are also benefits that help make it all worth it. Not just for Mom, but the entire family.