Friday, 17 February 2012

Four - Justification - Why am I doing this?


Being a mum is like bike-racing.

Mums spend nine months increasing their leg strength, their stamina, their ability to use oxygen efficiently and coping with fatigue. At the end of the nine months, their stamina and endurance is tested in an event that can last days for the hardcore ones. But, it is endured because the prize is precious. So precious.

Then, they are blasted into the world of sleeplessness and they are pushed physically and mentally, selflessly keeping up with the demands of this precious prize, which I liken to how I imagine back-to-back 24 hour racing is. That goes on for months.

About six months later, another challenge is thrown at these exhausted women: the prize moves and is attracted to anything that could harm it. Mums have to develop their fast-twitch muscle fibres, their awareness and their reaction skills. Very much like bike racing - mountain, road or track.

This becomes more intense – the prize moves faster. So does mum. The prize becomes older and stronger but still incredibly draining and dependent. But mum keeps up.

So does a mum really need to be active in addition to this?

I need to be.

When I have finally settled Willow, it is usually gone 7pm and I am shattered – and nervous about how much energy I may need for the night shifts. She is energetic. I love that she is enthusiastic about everything and charges everywhere. But, when she is on charge, I should be too. Instead, while she dozes I want to clean my house, my lessons to be planned, my meals prepared, my hair washed, the cats fed, without fearing their lives, and the list is continuous. Therefore, the last thing I can really justify doing is riding my bike.

However, I need to change this attitude. It isn’t healthy. And, if it isn't healthy for me, how can it be healthy for Willow? 

My days are consumed by Willow - and, I love that. Though I know I should factor something in for me. Something I enjoy. Something that allows me to be Gemma for a while. I recently re-read Carol Ann Duffy's poem ‘Before you were mine’ and approached it, for the first time, as a mother. Duffy wishes she knew her mother as she was; before she was hers. She hit a nerve. Before I was Willow’s, I raced bikes, I rode scary singletrack, I ran, and I loved this. I want her to know that Gemma. Being a mother of a daughter is also a huge responsibility – I want to be a good mother; I want to be good at my job; I want to be good at my sport; I want her to see the huge amount of possibilities that there are for hard-working women and all because I want her to believe she can achieve anything. 

I could factor in a bath (what's that?) or a manicure or a meal out with friends but I choose sport: why? It is going to exhaust me even more, surely? Or can it? I am my most productive after I have increased my heart rate for a while. I plan my best lessons when I am out on the road. I sort out my week while tackling trails. I am happy when the endorphins are flowing. Of course, I like knowing that I can eat cake because I’ve earned it!

What I'm struggling with isn't new. There are so many of us facing these same challenges. I have a new, huge amount of respect for the mothers I have raced over the years. They must have been where I am but they came back, fighting. I wonder if it is true that childbirth may make me push myself when my riding hurts? 

So, I am writing this blog because I want to see my own argument for having my 'me' time. I hope other mothers fully agree with me! 

However, above all, I am a mum, first and foremost, but I need Willow to know who I am too.

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