Our charming little town in Central MA holds a fundraising event every summer, which raises money for local families in need. As a way to contribute this year, I decided to participate in the 5K road race they held in the morning before the event.

Now, I haven’t run competitively since high school and haven’t run a 5K in over 30 years. Yes, 30 long years. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve exercised in other ways, but it surprised me when I thought about how much time had passed since doing something I had once truly enjoyed. I attribute this decision to the fact that I have recently been reading many personal development books, which share a common theme of going outside your comfort zone in order to grow. So I took a hard gulp and signed up for it. I also asked my mother who is an avid runner to join me and help keep me going, which she happily agreed to.

And let me tell you – what a feeling it was!
As my tired mama legs hit that pavement on those hilly roads on a beautiful summer morning, I was brought back to my childhood and a general sense of freedom. And as I glanced to my right at my 62 year old mama gracefully running by my side, I felt good. Really good.

Running makes me feel alive. It makes me feel strong. It reminds me that I can do anything I set my mind to. Boy, have I missed these feelings. And, let me tell you just how amazing it felt as we jogged by all the kiddos cheering us on near the finish line. The way my children looked at their Nana and me running by, with their huge smiles as they jumped up and down screaming our names was a moment I captured in my mind and will forever cherish. I felt like a celebrity in that moment with the biggest fans ever.

After our fun filled, busy day, I was tucking in my 6-year-old for bed. We did our normal ritual of eskimo and butterfly kisses, but when I slowly pulled my face away from hers, it seemed she was looking at me differently. “What’s wrong, baby?” I asked in curiosity. And the next thing out of her mouth took me aback. “I didn’t know you weren’t just my mom,” she replied.

I had to repeat it back in my head: I didn’t know you weren’t just my mom.

When I asked her what she meant by that, she explained that she didn’t know I could be a runner, someone doing something other than just being her mom.

In that moment, staring down at my sweet girl’s eyes, seemingly looking at me in a whole new light, it hit me how so many of us mothers get caught in that single role as “mom” and that’s just how our kids see us. Not as anything else in the world, but their mom.

Now don’t get me wrong, my role as a mother is the single greatest role I have ever played and I am honored to be mom to my four amazing children. But, just as we teach our children that they can be ANYTHING they want to be, in this moment it seemed I had lost that somewhere along my journey.

Why hadn’t I participated in something I once enjoyed so deeply? Was I too busy now? Too scared of not doing well? Scared of failing? Did I think I wasn’t worthy of taking the time for myself? To be honest, probably a little bit of all mentioned.

So thank you, my sweet Olivia. Thank you for reminding me that I can play out my greatest role as your mother but still chase my dreams and my passions. Thank you for reminding me that I, too, can be anything that I want to be. And I promise to stop just telling you that you can as well; and instead start showing you more, baby.

Vanessa France

Vanessa France is a mom of 4 children - ages 12, 11, 9 and 6. After losing herself in alcohol addiction and now almost a year sober, she recovers out loud in hopes to help others that may find themselves in the grips of the lonely world of addiction in motherhood. She is fueled by her faith, family and fitness; all which help carry her through her sobriety. Facebook: www.Facebook.com/VanessaFrance Instagram: www.instagram.com/_vanessafrance_