I remember so clearly the exhaustion of the baby and toddler days—operating on little to no sleep for days on end, breastfeeding at 3 a.m., cleaning up pee when little feet didn’t get to the potty in time, rushing through the grocery store to avoid a public meltdown and getting home early enough so they don’t fall asleep in the car and screw up the day’s precious, much needed nap.
I remember saying to a friend with older kids that I was “so tired” and “so busy” with my toddlers and babies. And being a good friend, she commiserated, but also she shared with me the cold, hard truth: once we were done with Pull-Ups and could hop in the car with five minutes notice and they could get their own snacks and tie their own shoes… that life wouldn’t actually be less busy.
“It doesn’t get better!” she laughed maniacally, the way girlfriends do. “Trust me, it only gets worse.”
WTF…? HOW TF…?
But now that my three kids are in school full time, and we are completely done with Pull-Ups, and we can hop in the car on a whim, and I don’t have to worry about naps… now that I am where she was all those years ago, I get what she meant.
Because we are busier than ever. And much of our weekly calendar is consumed by something I didn’t see coming, back in my Thomas the Train/breastfeeding/sippy cup days.
You see, even though I am not changing diapers or pulling out a boob in the middle of the night anymore, I am quite often still sacrificing my own sleep. Only now I’m washing uniforms or water bottles, or ordering new cleats and helmets on Amazon.
I’m not a toddler mom or baby mom anymore. Now that my kids are growing up, I’m a sports mom. And if you live in my camp, running this kid to one practice while you scramble to catch the tail-end of another kid’s game, you get it. This life is busy. You aren’t dragged out of bed by a 3-year-old wanting pancakes and Dora on Saturday mornings anymore. Instead, you’re packing up the car at 7 a.m. because that 3-year-old is now 11 and has a soccer tournament an hour away.
Sports moms don’t stop. They often don’t sleep. They live in their cars. And they are their kids’ #1 fan.
Here are 12 truths you know if you, like me, consider yourself a “sports mom.”
1. Several nights a week, your kids eat dinner at either 4 p.m. or 9 p.m. (And they eat whatever makeshift dinner you’ve throw together in the car.)
2. You realize at 10 p.m. that you never washed the rank-ass uniform they sweated through the day before, so you frantically start a load of emergency laundry.
3. When you and your significant other wonder where your money goes, you check your bank account and realize that after soccer registration, baseball registration, gymnastics registration, and dance competitions, and after buying soccer cleats, shin-guards, baseball equipment, new leotards, dance costumes, and dance shoes, the money tree is bare. So it looks like your 5-year-old sneakers are going to have to make it another year, because your kid needs a new hockey helmet. Oh, and your daughter needs new ballet shoes? Dear Santa…
4. Because of the ridiculous cost of youth sports, hand-me-downs are your friend. My youngest has never worn new cleats. As soon as his older brother grows out of them, into little brother’s closet they go. Freebies from other people? We’ll take those too. That same kid also wears second-hand ice skates with frayed laces to hockey every week. Why? Because they were free and he’s freaking six years old and just wants to play hockey.
5. You pray for rain so you can get a Saturday off. (And not like a light drizzle, because they’ll make the kids play through that shit, which means you’ll be on the sidelines with your teeth chattering and feet frozen in wet socks for five hours. You pray for a monsoon.)
6. Your car smells. Your laundry room smells. Everything smells. From stinky basketball shorts to rank soccer cleats to sweaty baseball hats, you can never really get the smell out of all of it. And, you eventually stop trying because they’re only going to funk it up again tomorrow, so whatever. This is just who you are now.
7. You have a stockpile of “activities” and snacks for your littles to keep them entertained as they are dragged from practices to games and from games to competitions. Bags of trains and matchbox cars, coloring books and crayons, Goldfish crackers, and a constantly charged tablet are essentials for the sports mom’s survival.
8. Your kids’ sports schedule is your social life now. This is where you chat with other grownups, make friends, and, if you’re lucky, grab a drink now and then at the concession stand. You may not have had a date night with your S.O. in months, but you did just chow a hotdog and a beer while your kid rounded the bases, so it’s not so bad.
9. You have folding chairs, extra sweatshirts, a cooler full of Gatorade, and a pile of $1 bills for the concession stand in your trunk year-round. One sport bleeds into the next, so the trunk arsenal just carries right on over.
10. You hate snack bags. Every time you get the sign-up sheet, you pick your day, put it in your phone, write it on your calendar, vow to not forget, but without fail when your day arrives, you’re unprepared. Then you scramble and ransack your pantry and fridge, wondering if you have enough Oreos or orange slices and juice boxes to put together an acceptable post-game team snack that Gretchen, organic health-conscious mom, will approve of.
11. You may not yell at the teenager umpiring your kid’s Little League game (because only assholes do that), but you might throw some evil glares at another parent who swoops in and steals your parking spot, forcing you to park around the corner and walk 1/2 mile, dragging chairs, a cooler, and an uncooperative toddler with you. Don’t fuck with me, Susan.
12. Finally, you are fiercely proud of your little athletes, donning your red “Hawks” t-shirt and hat and cheering so loudly you lose your voice as they score their first goal. You spend oodles of money on team pics and send wallets to everyone you know. And you have hours upon hours of video recording little Bridget’s cartwheel or little David catching a ball in the outfield. And you show them to anyone and everyone in the world.
Because even though youth sports suck the life out of our Saturdays and leave us no time left to watch grownup TV or eat a hot meal at a normal dinnertime hour, when your kids love to play, it’s what you do.
I didn’t know what to expect prior to my “sports mom” days. I had no idea how much crap they all needed for all their activities. I had no idea how many hours we’d spend per week in the car and how many drive-through stops we’d make. I had no idea I’d cry when they made their first basket or twirled on stage for the first time. But here I am, rushing to hockey tonight and tennis tomorrow and gymnastics the day after that.
This is my life now—a life of exhaustion with never enough hours in the day. But the one thing I would say to myself, years ago when my Saturday mornings were spent lounging in PJs, watching Bubble Guppies in my warm living room, rather than freezing my ass off in a folding chair at a muddy field, is this: Being a sports mom—for all its late hours washing uniforms and cash spent on gas and concession stand snacks and new baseball pants and hockey helmets—really is the best.
(Except for the damn snack schedule. That part still sucks.)