The Biggest Parenting Muscle?

Like most relatively new parents, I tend to think of my life in terms or pre-kids and post-kids. My husband and I joke about how pre-kids we were in control of our time – we determined when we could relax, when and how long to sleep, or when we could just chill and watch a movie. We also thought we were busy pre-kids!

And while it is always a challenge to get back in physical shape and workout consistently with all the extra (but rewarding!) demands of children, another big muscle gets extremely challenged to grow much bigger when kids come along. It can grow via many different stimulations: a child waking the middle of the night while you’re in a deep sleep, children waking up for the day much earlier than you would like, trying to get kids out the door and in the car in order to be somewhere on time (and then whining in the car while driving!), constant cleaning and picking up food off the floor for the third time in 5 minutes, waiting out a toddler’s tantrum, dealing with sibling squabbles over toys, reading a favorite story for the 5th time in one day, endless questions that begin with “Why”….the list goes on! :)

As defined by the dictionary, you know this muscle has grown, stretched, and been strengthened if you’ve increased you’re ability to:

1. Bear or endure pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance with calmness

2. Exhibit calm endurance through pain, difficulty, provocation, or annoyance.

3. Be tolerant and understanding.

4. Persevere

5. Calmly await an outcome or result without haste or impulsiveness

Yes, this muscle is called Patience! And I know I’ve had to work on it! Pre-kids, I could easily say I’ll never be THAT parent – the one raising their voice a few octaves too loudly at their kids, pulling them by the arm a little too gruffly in frustration, offering them candy or other junk food, allowing extra TV time – we all lose our cool or drop our intended standards at times – but like anything, we can learn from our mistakes and get better with practice.

Recently I’ve realized this “training” in building patience has transferred over to my athletic life as well. I don’t get as frustrated as I used to if a workout doesn’t go as I’d expected. I’m less of a potty mouth when I screw up technically on the mountain bike. I’m better at dealing with deviations from my pre-race routine. Heck, I’m happy to make it to the start line healthy, prepared and on time! I’m grateful for every OPPORTUNITY I have to workout, train and race. It’s not that I’ve dropped my standards as to what I expect from training and racing hard, but these tests of my patience have just put a new perspective on it all! And yes, mental toughness in sport can be improved and strengthened in quite creative ways if we are open to it!

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