When my husband, Chris, and I decided to have Rylie, our first daughter, we thought, Let’s play it by ear, and we’ll see if I can get back to soccer after. It was 2005 and I’d already had a great career, with both an Olympic gold medal and a World Cup championship.
Now -- after two more Olympics and one more daughter, Reece, born in 2010 -- when I bump into people from the past they always say, “You’re still playing?”
And I agree. I never expected to still be doing what I’m doing, traveling the world as a soccer player with two kids!
But somehow, we manage to make it work. When I’m home, I imagine our life is a lot like that of most parents with a job outside of the home. The tougher part is the incredible amount of travel that my job entails.
Right now, as part of the National Women’s Soccer League team Sky Blue FC, I’m gone almost every weekend, and sometimes weekdays if it’s a midweek game. When it’s a big tournament, like the Algarve Cup, Women’s World Cup or Olympics, the travel stretches for longer periods, and includes training camps as well.
So inevitably I miss things, which is very hard, as all parents know. Rylie is now playing soccer and I can’t make it to as many games as I’d like. She’s beginning to understand why, but it still gnaws at me. And I wish I was able to be the “mystery reader” in her second-grade classroom as much as the other moms and dads.
But it’s not all missing out. I got the chance to talk to her class about the Olympics. (The big questions they asked: Are the medals real? How much do they cost?)
Plus, I love the bond I’ve built with my girls through soccer. I travel with one of them at a time usually, and the other stays home with Chris, so they each have some individual, special time with a parent. Lately, Reece has been traveling with me more since she’s not in school yet. She is a more-reluctant traveler than Rylie, though, and a homebody – sometimes it’s tough to get her to leave the hotel room!
Big tournaments are hard, because when I’m on the road for two weeks or more, Reece is totally over the travel after about a week, and Rylie starts to get a little jealous from New Jersey. I’ve had times in a hotel room where I’m trying to help Rylie with homework through FaceTime while Reece plays in the bath. I’m guessing that at that same moment, my U.S. teammates were not exactly reviewing vocabulary words while trying to keep soap out of a squirmy kid’s eyes.
Now that Rylie’s playing soccer herself, it gives me an opening to have some important conversations about understanding life through sport. We talk about winning and losing, practicing to prepare for a game and life lessons like the fact that you’re not always going to have a good day. She gets to see it all firsthand, too. I’m not starting as much nowadays and when Rylie asks me why, I explain to her that it’s up to the coach and you can only do what you can and give your best effort.
The best piece of parenting advice I ever got was to make sure you don’t live through your child -- to let them be independent. And in a lot of ways I think playing soccer helps me to do that. I have a feeling I might be a so-called helicopter mom if given the opportunity, but soccer keeps me way too busy.
I also love the independence and culture the girls have gained from being able to see the world outside of New Jersey and our home. It’s been awesome to watch them play with kids that don’t speak the same language at a park in another country. Traveling forces them to be confident, too. I grew up so shy and quiet, and I love to see how they’ve grown up and aren’t afraid to ask questions or be assertive.
It’s a unique lifestyle, to say the least, and sometimes it’s crazy busy. But I think every mom, everywhere, would say that their lives are crazy busy!