Ok, I admit it, I am more than excited about Jess’ olympic heptathlon this week. Believe me, it’s not her six pack that stirs me to celebrate this mother of a 2 year old, admirable and curious though it is. And while i’m gunning for her to win gold, there is something far more precious she is celebrating by being in Rio and being herself: motherhood. In fact, while we cheer for her, she is celebrating us all as mothers…
5 Reasons to Celebrate:
1. She’s willing to admit publicly how hard it can be. She’s been ready to throw in the towel – confronting those oh-so-familiar feelings of guilt, being torn, not doing anything quite well enough. As she herself says, “you think to yourself ‘Can I do this?’ or ‘Do I want to do this?’”
2. She’s surrounded herself with people who really know her, and encourage her without too much pressure or comparison. Like her coach Toni Minichiello, whose stance all the way was that Jess wouldn’t know how she would feel after Reggie’s birth, and that her body would be changing every single month, so not to be so hard on herself.
“We had a lot of times where I said ah I’m rubbish – I can’t do it. I cant run like I used to, I cant hurdle like I used to and he’d just say to me, you know its going to take time, it’s not gonna happen straight away, just stop comparing yourself to who you were in 2012”
3. She now knows (even more clearly) it’s about quality not quantity
Sound familiar? Efficient use of sometimes very limited resources is our tagline as mothers. It’s not that catchy, but it’s what we do. Jess now does mornings on the track, spends the afternoon with Reggie and then trains in the evening at home on the bike or using weights
“I do less exercise now that I have Reggie, but it’s better quality. With less time to dedicate to sport, I needed to look at ways of making the absolute most of my time.”
4. Her perspective on the world has ‘softened’ even as those abs firmed up.
“I don’t get as stressed and caught up in training if things don’t go too well anymore,” Jess adds. “I don’t get too down about it because I’ve got so much else going on in my life.
5. She acknowledges the life-changing impact of her own mum’s support .
At the risk of sounding like a P&G advert, Jess has had a taste of the sacrifice (and delight) her mum has experienced over the years, trackside, bedside, soulside.
“I really don’t believe I would have been able to achieve any of my…medals without the support and strength of my mum throughout my life. My mum always just says ‘You can do it, it is going to be hard but if you have a hard journey to something, that’s not plain sailing, then the end point is always that much sweeter when you are successful.”
I’m hearing voices proclaiming that we must stop defining her as ‘new-ish’ mum Jess, and count her athletic merits solely for what they are, as if her body is somehow disconnected from her soul, mind and spirit. Tell you what, I’ll be celebrating anyone encountering and emerging from times of challenge and turbulence, unique or universal. That’s what’s missing from the discourse. The acknowledgement. The reality. “Like any mum who goes back to work, it’s two full-time jobs”. Yes indeed-dy.
Some of you are there right now. Caught in the tight space between two full time jobs. Juggling. Making it work – mostly. Some of you chose a different dance a while ago, mostly mothering, and as your children head to school next month, you’re wondering what’s next for you? That can be a tight space too. Knowing you have so much to contribute, but not sure exactly what or how. Find out at my Find the Work You Love linked workshops starting September in Kingston-upon-Thames. Oh, and ring your mum or a (m)other in you life to say thank you. As I cheer for Jess, I might just do that too.
I’d love to hear your views below on motherhood, and excellence and the ever present juggle…