We woke up, ate breakfast together before I left, and, of course, the two-year-old had wet her bed, the girls wanted me to do their hair, and we had some crying over a variety of things. After reading scriptures, I finally got out the door and was gone for a only a few minutes before I realized that I had forgotten something. As I walked back through the door my husband laughed, “I knew you couldn’t make it more than 6 minutes without us!”
My first stop was the pool. I had determined to spend an entire hour, uninterrupted, swimming laps. I haven’t had that much personal swimming time since my days on the high school swim team. Surprisingly, there are a lot of life lessons that come from the lap pool. Swimming laps as a mother, here is what I found:
1. Get a great start. In swimming, your start is critical. If you start with a great dive or push-off you are able to glide yourself through the water and use your strength later on in the race. In life, how we start the day is crucial. I found I need to begin the day by myself, before my kids get up. If I can pray, read my scriptures, plan my to-do list, and get ready, then I am a much better mom. My boys are always up early, but they know they can start reading their scriptures, making their beds, or playing quietly on their own. If you prefer to exercise first thing in the morning, great; just find what you need to accomplish most, and do it first thing. A strong morning start will help you glide through the day and provide strength later.
2. Faster isn’t better. Moving your arms and legs as rapidly as you can while you swim will actually slow you down and tire you out too quickly. It is best to focus on your form and glide smoothly through the water. I know I am guilty of trying to swim too fast in life. Now I focus on how to swim through motherhood at the right speed, using my glide and enjoying the water. For me that means cutting the to-do list down, taking time each day to look my husband and kids in the eyes and letting them have a portion of my time. I also think it means having less on my schedule so that I can do more with my family.
3. Work all muscles at the right time. The great part about lap swimming is that if you swim all four strokes–free, breast, back, and butterfly–you are able to work out most of the muscles in your body. If you try to swim all four strokes at the same time, I am pretty sure you might drown. Over my hour workout, I was able to swim each stroke and at times focus on just arms or legs.
As a mother I am trying to do it all, all the time, every day. No wonder I start drowning! I wish that everyday I could have an hour to swim for exercise, but as a mother of six, the schedule just doesn’t allow for it. I have to be content that sometime in the future I will be able to, and for now I need to be at peace with the stroke that I am working on. Exercise at this point in my life is a walk around the block pushing the double stroller, running on the treadmill, or doing push-ups with a two year-old on my back. If I can take life one stroke at a time now, then I can work on the other strokes later.
4. Keep Swimming. When you are swimming, quitting in the middle just isn’t an option, especially in deep water. As a mother, we must keep swimming. But how? We need to pace ourselves. There is also help for when you’re feeling out of breath–grab a kickboard. With swimming you would focus a few laps on legs, giving your arms a break.
In mothering, I realize I won’t be able to “swim” at my usual pace when our new baby arrives; I will need a “kickboard” for a while in order to keep swimming. My husband and kids will provide a lot of added support, and I will need to lessen my own personal expectations. When you find yourself in survival mode–those times when you can’t do the full stroke–figure out what you want to focus on and determine what kickboard you will need.
Throughout the rest of my “day off” I reflected on the lessons that I had learned at the lap pool that day. Motherhood is an amazing exercise in competing against ourselves: each day we can do a little better at getting a great start, slowing down, focusing on what matters most, and continuing to swim when we are tired and worn out. I love occasionally looking back over the years of mothering and realizing how much my “stroke,” or abilities as a mother, have improved. Being a mother truly is the most amazing opportunity!
QUESTION: Do you ever feel like you’re drowning in motherhood? Could you be trying to swim too fast or trying to perform all the strokes at the same time? What are some “kickboards” that would buoy you up and help you to keep swimming?
CHALLENGE: Consider setting a plan to get a strong start to your day. Look closely at the times you feel like you’re sinking; does your pace or focus need a change? Look ahead to any stresses that may be on the horizon and determine what support or “kickboards” you may need.
Edited by Dawn Wessman and Sarah Monson.
Image from Shutterstock/Graphics by Julie Finlayson.