When You Feel Stuck in First Gear


Do you remember your first real bike?  Not the kid kind that once had training wheels…but your first adult bike with hand-brakes and gears?  I was 12 years old and it was a bright shiny purple with teal accents.  My grandfather wheeled it out of the garage as a surprise birthday gift.  I loved it.  I loved the feeling of flying through my neighborhood, my hair blowing in the wind as I careened downhills and sprinted past neighbors’ houses.  (Full disclaimer: I didn’t wear a helmet.  I was lucky.  Wear a helmet.  Thank you for coming to my TED talk.)  As much as I rode it though, I never shifted the gears.  If there was a hill to climb, I just stood up on the pedals and forced myself to pedal harder.  I never shifted gears, I just pedaled harder.

When you feel stuck in first gearPedal Harder

That remained true through college, grad school, my career, and marriage.  I never shifted gears, I just pedaled harder.  And then came motherhood.  I worked part-time and though exhausted, I just kept pedaling.  I felt like I wasn’t going quite as fast, but if I just pedaled harder, I was sure I’d catch up.  And then came baby #2.  And a move.  And my new career as a full-time SAHM.  And I began to drown in diapers, laundry, swaddle blanket,s and sensory bins.  Emails and texts went unanswered.  Even Daniel Tiger couldn’t save me now.  I was pedaling and pedaling but going nowhere.

Ride With Me

On a warm evening, my three year old pulled her tricycle out of the garage.  “Can we go for a bike ride, Daddy?” she asked sweetly.  He helped her settle onto her trike and guided her down our sloped driveway.  “Daddy, ride with me!”  He laughed to himself for a moment, then dutifully pulled his bike out of the garage to follow her.  I caught a glimpse out the window.  How was this going to work?  Would he just walk his bike behind her? 

My husband climbed onto his bike and seemed to be staring intently at his handlebars.  He began to pedal.  I began to laugh.  He had shifted his bike to first gear.  Here was this six-foot-five man pedaling like a fiend, working up a sweat, and hardly making any progress.  But then I realized…he was now keeping pace with our daughter.  They were riding side-by-side.  

These Days Are For First Gear

I remembered a conversation I had with him the day before.  “I just feel like I’m in first gear,” I complained, as I folded laundry.  “I can’t get ANYTHING done.”  He looked at me for a moment.  “Well, first gear is the gear you use when climbing hills and mountains.  Maybe you should look at it that way.”  There it was.  There would be days in the future for racing and sprinting.  But these days are for first gear.  Keeping pace with our little ones, and slowly climbing the mountain of parenthood.  Ride on, friends.


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