Every week I go swimming in our local University pool, often with a friend, to keep up some semblance of fitness. A few months ago, we made the very happy and hilarious discovery that Adam Brown, one of Team GB’s swimmers, is training there. Hilarious not at his expense but mine of course.
Now, one thing you have to be aware of when reading this is that I can’t see all that well when I’m swimming as my eyes have that annoying tendency of going blurry when I take my glasses off. I really should look into those prescription goggles.
So, I’d got into the pool and started my warm up lengths. By this I mean going at a rather leisurely breast stroke pace not dissimilar to most ladies over a certain age who wear hats that looks like hydrangeas). Immediately I noticed that there was a strange black contraption standing at the end of the pool with weights on it, to which two seriously fit young men were attached by a long bungee rope thing tied around their waists. They were pushing off the end of the pool toward me and swimming at a verocious pace. Standing over them hollering encouragement was a man looking uncannily like Danny de Vito who I could only assume was their trainer.
As I reached half way along, one of the Fit Young Men started ‘swimming’ leisurely backwards as the contraption pulled him back at exactly the same speed as my Hydrangea Hat pace.
I can tell you, this was at once both a deeply disconcerting and hilarious experience.
As I touched the end at exactly the same time as Adam Brown‘s feet, I quipped with a broad smile at Danny de Vito look-a-like that I’d never had the humbling experience of swimming at the same pace as someone who is swimming backwards. To which he replied “We aim to please!” I later discovered who this hunk of a backwards swimmer was….
What struck me about this was how similar this can be to parenting, where we sometimes feel like our efforts are ridiculously weak and feeble compared to the Herculean efforts of others around us. Be it the mum who’s managed to maintain her profession in a fulltime capacity and have 3 children and keep slim and not lose all her hair in the process. Or that dad who has a top career in the City, is studying for an MBa and somehow finds the time to knock up a tree house at the weekends. Grrr.
What’s our response? Well, if you’re anything like me, you could well be tempted to feel a tad under-useful and insignificant. Or maybe even jealous? But I’ve learnt over the years to remember who I am, that I’m an individual who simply isn’t made of the same stuff as everyone else – my stamina isn’t as I’d like it to be.
We also need to remember that there are undoubted huge sacrifices that will have been made by that person you’re comparing yourself with, that we have different energy levels, different values and different home situations. Some have partners with huge energy levels or jobs that don’t keep them out of the house 12 hours a day, some don’t. Also, we’re in different seasons, so whilst some are in the ‘warming up’ phase of life where they don’t have the capacity or time to charge down Life’s Lane, others whose kids have started school or whatever are in a position to do so and can excel at that given moment.
I wouldn’t want to spend every hour of every day training in a swimming pool even if I did have the shoulders and body of an Olympian (from what my friend was telling me I really must get those prescription goggles…) Equally, I don’t have the stamina or career choice to maintain a full time career at the same time as bringing up my kids in the way I’d like. So, I reckon its best to stop comparing myself with those in a different lane from mine and chuckle at myself when I do.
In the meantime, I’m wondering if I’ll ever get the chance to reach the end of a lap at the same time as an Olympian does, backwards!