For so long my career was my baby.
I remember chatting with U.S. 800m champion Alysia Montaño many years ago. We were at the World Athletics Championships, and she was poised to win a medal in her event. “After this, I want to have a baby,” she excitedly shared. I thought, “What! Why!? You are 26 years old and at the peak of your career! Why would you end it now?” Because that’s how it seemed to me—an end. Based on what I’d witnessed, Motherhood and peak athletics were mutually exclusive.
It looked so tricky from the outside, and I wasn’t sure I even wanted to do it. I’d say “I’m not that brave”. It seemed hard enough to coax my body and its sometimes fickle, fragile pieces into the daily paces I needed to hit to run with the best in the world. To do it after a physical setback, with no or much less financial support, seemed impossible. I didn’t even see many women around me trying to do both for the early part of my career.
Watching Alysia navigate her motherhood journey (and pave a path for the rest of us with her foundation and advocacy), SHE showed me what could be done. She is brave, and I observed and learned from her.
Now Jo is my baby. What you realize as you grow in the sport and as a parent is, eventually, you are the one who’s setting an example. Therefore, you must find the courage to do the hard things. That also means ushering in the next wave of people and making the world a little better for them.
I’m trying to be bolder. I wanted to be honest about my journey into motherhood—I was grateful to be doing it with the support of childcare, my partner, and a supportive sponsor. I tried to share how my workload adapted and progressed during pregnancy and postpartum. I talked about the logistics of breastfeeding while racing and training. I’m trying to help other women athletes share their stories more widely. I’m showing my daughter Jo how to break down a big goal into little pieces you tackle every day and how you can cultivate confidence from doing this over time. But mostly, she’s a baby and wants food and cuddles, so that’s what I’m prioritizing too.
It was scary to attend races early postpartum, knowing I wouldn’t be near my best. I would struggle and race as hard as I did when I set records to finish in the middle of the pack. But I know it will help me improve, and I still love that kind of challenge, even if it’s a work in progress.
It takes courage to start over. It takes courage to take on something new and overwhelming, like motherhood. It takes courage to be responsible for another person’s life and well-being. But I have to do these things for the life I want to have. So many women are on this journey of merging motherhood and career. Both things make me feel alive, rewarded, and present in the moment (often, it feels like they fight for the same moment!)
I’m not inherently brave, but if I have some courage, then so does everyone else. Maybe it takes the right circumstances to unlock it.
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