The art of juggling (a.k.a. being a mom)

By Allison Land

The start of the school year usually means some added down time for busy moms with school-aged children. It allows moms a bit of time to sneak in that extra workout or focus a little more on their own health and training. However, when you’re a teacher with school-aged children of your own, like Erin Rylaarsdam, the advent of the school year means finding the time to balance your own training with school and life.

Erin has been teaching for 18 years. She threw running into the mix a decade into her career after having her second baby. “I didn’t like how I felt or looked,” Erin said. “Someone invited me to be on their 5k team and I thought, ‘Okay. Here goes.’” Despite all of the challenges that come with balancing a family, as well as a teaching job, Erin has continued to run and train since that first 5k. She has completed a few marathons, plus numerous half marathons and 5ks.

A member of Gazelle Sports Holland Run Camp, Erin finds time to fit it all in. “I try not to waste any time because I don’t want to have to come back to a task. I try to make a plan. Running group is great for me because those days are always on the calendar,” Erin said. Often times making that plan requires some forethought… bringing athletic clothing to school so she can run after school or getting up at 4 a.m. – a time many cringe at the thought of awakening – to get a run in before her kids wake up. In spite of the early hour, Erin has come to enjoy the time. “Those quiet hours, once you get out of bed, those are the most beautiful times of the day,” Erin said.

The hardest part of making it all work is the mom-guilt sometimes associated with being so busy. When you juggle so much, at times something’s got to fall. Sometimes, despite a carefully balanced plan, things do fall by the wayside. “Usually, it’s the cleanliness of my house or the fullness of my pantry,” Erin said. But she has come to recognize running as a necessary part of her life. “It makes me a better person when I can have my time, too.”

Overall, Erin finds that her children have embraced her running. “My kids know it’s important. They don’t throw a fuss when I go. When I have a race, they always ask to see the medal and want to know how it went. Sometimes I tell them even if they don’t want to hear!” she said, laughing. Her youngest has even gotten into the sport with her – running Girls on the Run and a couple of 5k races with her mother.

Erin’s best advice for busy moms, runners and teachers alike? Be where you are. “Whatever I’m doing at that moment – whatever the task in front to me – I’ll do my best right there.” That means staying focused and being present – be it with her children, while running or teaching. “I just try to do everything 100 percent when it’s in front of me.”

Erin has set her sights on the Detroit Free Press Marathon on October 15. She will continue to run and train, balancing her life, job and family one race – and day – at a time.

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