This Olympic Moment Made Me Cry

This Olympic Moment Made Me Cry February 15, 2014

We have seen the Proctor and Gamble “Thanks Mom!” commercials, as well as several mom-tribute copycats, and I do always appreciate that tribute to the hard work that an entire family does to get someone to the Olympics, but as someone whose life often revolves around getting young people to various (non-Olympic caliber) sports activities, I have to say that I was most incredibly moved and inspired by Noelle Pikus-Pace, the US skeleton racer who came out of retirement for one more shot at an Olympic medal.  We have some committed athletes in this group of builders, and just to get in a daily run or to prepare for a longer race takes tons of discipline, household help and support from the husbands.  I cannot imagine what was involved for Noelle and her family to get her to this point, and I was so happy for her, and THRILLED with her immediate run to hug her husband.

I have been reflecting a lot on how it has become the work of a family to create the most intense and often wonderful, childhood experiences.  Young girls dedicate hours to dancing, and their parents to driving and paying for lessons, so that they can be en pointe for a year or two.  Athletes and musicians study throughout middle school for a bit of high school or possibly college glory.  And then?  It seeems like too much of “grown up” life is a grind, the time when we have little leisure left while we are busy making the money and the homes, and spending most of our free time doing the driving for kids of our own.  If this is life in your 30’s, it is not a surprise that many people are choosing to stay in long term adolescence instead.

The truth is, we have some leisure time, and in even the busiest lives we may have to force ourselves to carve something good out of this time.  We may have to shake up the family dynamic a bit to make use of time that wasn’t already “free.”  Dad can make scrambled eggs for dinner while you do something on Saturday afternoon.  Kids can eat granola bars in the car after mass if that makes a noon mass possible.  Sure, we don’t want to cut every corner, but sometimes we can make a little more room for ourselves in this family life.  It takes organization and a lot of honesty, which is much more effective with the co-parent than passive aggressive sighs.   Several of the builders have learned over the years that we really have to fight to prioritize some good stuff, or life will be all dishes and buckling car seats.  It can be done.  Red trained for her first marathon.  J’ got back to her first dance class after having a baby.  I drive three hours each way to teach adaptive skiing.  We may not be winning any medals, but continuing to do the things that make us feel strong, whole and challenged make us better moms.  I truly believe that getting on without us for a few hours make our families better, too.

So, on behalf of moms everywhere, congratulations Noelle!


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  • Queen B

    Great post, MA. It would be encouraging to hear more from all of you about the ways you (or the pitfalls you run into when you try to) carve out time for individual pursuits. I taught a nursing school physiology course this fall, which required T and I to carve out a lot of extra time for me to be gone (since we weren’t relying on sitters any more than usual). It wasn’t easy and I felt both triumphant and relieved when the semester ended. But, sometimes I think I give up on personal pursuits outside our family life because of the logistics and effort it requires to retool our family routine for the time being. The fact is, our routine is so different now than it was when I was working full time, because we don’t have a regular nanny available all the time and our schedule is largely dependent on me being present and available

  • i’ll admit that I have watched very little of the Olympics. But I had a similar experience to what you describe in your post during the past summer Olympics. I turned on a US field hockey match and saw a girl I played with/against in college. The same age as me, married with 3 children, she was still out there competing against the best in the world. I literally started screaming to my kids that I knew her, played with and against her, and that I was so inspired she was still out there. I then thought about the many sacrifices her parents and husband and children must have made to allow her to keep playing. I watched the game and was very emotional every time the camera paused on her. She looked great, so fit and strong. She was definitely part of my motivation behind finally running a marathon.

  • Lisa

    Hi Queen B. One thing that’s worked well for me is that I joined a book club of moms that meets at a member’s home after her kids have gone to bed – generally either 8 or 8:30pm, depending on the hostess. We meet once a month, so it doesn’t provide a ton of socialization, but it is nice to have even just one night a month out. The timing is great because I can still do most/all of the nighttime routine at home, and even if my husband is working late, he’s generally home by 8 (except if he’s on call, but those weeks are generally accepted as “no me-time” weeks). Perhaps you can find (or start!!) a group of moms who would want to do post-bedtime gatherings?

  • Mary Alice

    I’ve also watched very little, because we don’t have cable at home, so we can only see it online or when we are at the mountain. It’s so great that your response to that was to get out and do something yourself!

  • Mary Alice

    I think that communication, childcare and flexibility are the three keys. First of all, I find that it creates huge problems if I commit to something outside of the home without being very clear on the time involved. I tend to forget that it is not just the time of the event itself, but the preparation and the travel time that have to be accounted for. Second, in our case, my husband is just not reliable as childcare in the evenings, and thinking that he will be home for something has caused us stress in the past. His work just has to come first, it is what keeps a roof over our heads! After almost a full year of being frustrated when he didn’t get home in time for me to make my once a month Evening of Recollection, I realized that it was better to hire a sitter, even if sometimes he got home a half hour after I left and released her. On the flexibility front, I try hard to remember that I live on child time.

    On the weekends, there is childcare at the sports center, so that is available to us. All of my older kids are in ski training programs from 9-3 while I work. I have to plan way in advance (I chose my work days for Dec-Mar in October), so I have to be organized. If my children get sick on the weekends, my husband would have to stay home with them. He also usually packs the lunches and corrals the older kids on the weekends. He does a lot to support this, but there are huge benefits to all of us from this work and routine, so I don’t feel that it is selfish or just about me.

    I still find that finding and hiring a reliable daytime babysitter is the hardest thing. If you were going to teach part time, and if you have some space, I think that an au pair would be a great option, because they are inexpenisve on an hourly basis, very reliable and get to know your routine really well.