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Olympian moms

I’m surprised — Generation J.D. made it through the whole week without once mentioning the Olympics.

So much for that trend.

Some pretty cool things have already happened in London and we still have a week to go. The U.S. women’s gymnastics team brought home gold both for the team and all-around individual competitions. Michael Phelps won his 19th Olympic medal (followed by Nos. 20 and 21 later in the week), making him the most decorated Olympian of all time and became the first male swimmer to win the same event at three consecutive Olympics to boot. Samuel L. Jackson has established himself as the most entertaining Olympic Tweeter. There also have been some bloopers, scandals, a few shows of bad sportsmanship, controversial bling and lots of hugs from the first lady.

One interesting thing about this year’s Olympics is that the mothers are really being highlighted, more so than I remember from past Olympics. While we are well accustomed to panning shots of athletes’ mothers on the sidelines during events, this year’s Olympics coverage includes detailed interviews of moms and other family members.  This year’s Olympic Village includes a “Home Away From Home” for Olympians’ moms and family members. And, NBC has put together a video in which some of the top past and present American Olympic athletes thank their moms.

But did you know that quite a few of this year’s U.S. Olympic Team are moms themselves? The list includes Kerri Walsh Jennings (beach volleyball, pictured), Candace Parker (basketball), Laura Kraut (equestrian), Keli Smith-Puzo (field hockey), Khatuna Lorig (archery), Lashinda Demus (track and field), Tayyiba Haneef-Park (indoor volleyball), Danielle Scott-Arruda (indoor volleyball), Chaunte Lowe (track and field), Christie Rampone (soccer), Aretha Thurmond (discus), Kara Goucher (marathon), Amy Acuff (track and field), Kristin Armstrong (bicycling) and alternate Mickey Kelly (modern pentathlon).

The press is emphasizing the fact that these Olympians are moms, saying “more female athletes are finding that motherhood is not a career-ender.” For whatever reason, this seems to have hit a nerve.

Some would rather not have athletes’ motherhood highlighted at all, suggesting that “[t]here’s a subtle undermining at play in these kinds of stories, the message that no matter what else a woman achieves in her public life, she is always going to be first and foremost defined by her children.”

But what is wrong with being defined as a mom?

Nothing, as far as I’m concerned. Certainly, it is a problem if the fact that you are defined as a mom closes doors, subjects you to different standards or puts you at a competitive disadvantage in some way.

But that just isn’t the case for Olympian moms.

Olympian moms’ training routines may be different from those of non-mom athletes, but they still have to attain the same physical prowess as their non-mom competitors. They must compete against their non-mom competitors under identical standards. And these moms are capitalizing on the fact that their motherhood has raised their profile and made them a hot commodity for sponsors.  For example, you can buy limited edition Team USA diapers, sponsored by Kerri Walsh.

Eventually, the novelty of having an Olympics full of elite athletes who gave birth less than two years earlier may wear off. Perhaps the novelty of new mothers in the legal profession will wear off, too.

But until that happens, I will enjoy being known as both a mom and an attorney, and will keep my eyes open for any opportunity to use the two roles to complement one another.

One comment

  1. Good read, but I can’t help feeling you may have misinterpreted what was meant by “more female athletes are finding that motherhood is not a career-ender.” I think what is meant by that is that having children obviously requires a LOT of time.. time which takes away from an athletes already incredibly rigorous training schedule. I think it’s not meant to be a slight on mom’s somehow being unable to compete anymore.. but illustrating the fact that these women are so well able to balance home life with their intensive training, that motherhood doesn’t slow them down. If anything it’s a compliment, not a knock.