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​Strong, Athletic, Single Mothers in Sport

​Strong, Athletic, Single Mothers in Sport

Posted by Wendy Marois on May 4th 2020

From Strong Athletic: 

Wendy, her daughter and smarty pants at portland roller derby practice

This is the second guest blog post that Wendy Marois has written for Strong Athletic. Wendy is a mom, a business owner, a skater for Maine Roller Derby and one of the founding members of Cocheco Valley Rollers. In 2018 Wendy requested that Strong Athletic make a shirt that would amplify the voices of an overlooked group of athletes in sport: the Strong Athletic & Fat design. It was through this partnership that Strong Athletic got to know Wendy better. 

Wendy would often mention her child and being a mom, and for Mother's Day 2020 we asked her to write about the obligations that come with being a mom in sports and athletics. Wendy was kind enough to share her experience, and wrote from the perspective of being a single parent. Nadia feels particular pride for single moms, as her mother is also one. We hope you enjoy reading Wendy's thoughts and also some light exposure to the world of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association. 

Being A Mother who Plays Sports: Wendy’s Story

Have you ever done something that was so grueling and intense in nature, it took all of your mental, physical, and emotional strength and determination? A feat similar in intensity to skating 27 laps in 5 minutes, while wearing loaner R3s? Perhaps you can relate to what this comparison is about, especially if you're a mom. 

Wendy and Jumpy Playing roller derby maine Jammer coming around the apex with blocker in pursuit

Although I play roller derby, and I could talk about my favorite sport for ages, this post is not about the sport I adore, it's about parenting. To be more specific, this post is about single parenting and my personal quest for athleticism. Single parenting while juggling life obligations and passion as an athlete, is by far the biggest challenge I've ever knowingly subjected myself to. For me personally, it's analogous to training for the 27 in 5 - the WFTDA's infamous minimum skill set.Parenting solo is an endeavor that comes with a huge amount of self-doubt and fear that you won't be "enough" of whatever you think you should be. "What if I don't do this thing?” and “Will I regret that?" You have a ton of guilt that you're being too selfish when you pursue your own dreams.

Being a single parent that wants to play a sport also has its challenges. If you're an adult that works a full-time job and you're on a team, think about how much coordinating it takes to make your schedule work so that you can go to practices and compete. Now, add your key priority to the mix: raising a happy and healthy child. It takes concerted effort and a lot of determination.

Once I allowed myself to get over a few things - the struggle of balancing personal commitments at home and work, the physical and mental dedication and time spent training for my sport, the nagging feeling that I should not be spending so much time on myself - I gained the greatest sense of achievement and pride. The feeling is so immense that I may never be able to adequately describe the sensation.

This balancing act that I speak of is familiar to my single mother sisters out there, fighting the good fight for their own sanity. I've long thought that single parenthood has helped prepare me for my grand entrance into the realm of unconventional athletics in my 30s. I have mothered far longer than I have been a part of derby, and both require many of the same qualities. 

Portland Roller Derby League in their Strong Athletic Shirts

A common denominator between parenting and playing derby is that you must have a strong sense of motivation and determination. Both require that you have a superhuman ability to uphold obligations. Both require time (practice hours), money (dues, travel, equipment), and the ability to be present without distractions.

As a parent, this motivation and determination acts as your own proverbial “ball and chain.” We do things not always because we want to, but because we know we just have to. We are multitaskers to the extreme. Autopilot may be our setting of choice.

Over the years, my clients have asked me "How do you do it all?!" meaning, own a business, raise a daughter, AND find the time to dedicate to two roller derby leagues. Usually I laugh, say something witty, then spend the next 20 minutes blow drying their hair, quiet, deep in my own mental crisis of self-doubt. We all know that rabbit hole.

The defeating thoughts I have are something like this….

Maybe I'm doing too much. Maybe they are implying I should be with my family instead of my teams two hours a night, three or four times a week. I'm not even that great of a skater. Maybe I should be slowing down my work schedule. Should I insist on a consistent evening every week to have family dinners, especially since my daughter is so busy in her own 19-year-old life now? Maybe I'm being selfish; I did after all spend as much as a (reeeallly nice) car payment on skates not that long ago. I probably shouldn't do the Champs Trip, that’s gonna be pricey...

The struggle is real, so they say. There's that elephant in the room and it’s name is guilt.

Wendy and her daughter roller derby photoI've made this statement before and I’ll say it again now: my story is not mine alone. Some may have had it quite a bit easier, others far worse, but there is a thread that ties us together. I think lots of single mothers have in common that we are good at making quick decisions and we are top-notch givers. We have to: decide what’s for dinner, figure out which shift is going to work with after-school pickups, stay home when all our friends are out, not move to a different city so we can stay close to our family to save on childcare. The choices we make include saying yes to that client you really shouldn't squeeze in but you do because you need the income. We give our kids permission to go to a friend's, stay up late, get the video games, do allllll the activities, even though we have no clue how to fit one more thing in. We are determined not to let our children go without. We give to our children despite our own needs.

What I have done and the personal sacrifices that I have made over the years as a mom were no easy task, and it was all worth it. Yet, as single mothers, I wish we could all do a hell of a lot more for ourselves. We need to be okay with giving to ourselves, with finding what moves us, physically, mentally, and emotionally. We need to decide to use our determination and motivation unapologetically to chase our dreams.

I'd love to see us all harness these strengths to benefit not just those around us, but ourselves, because we need to. 

Wendy in her Strong Athletic and Fat Tank

Our children are watching us. If anyone tries to tell you that as a single mother you can’t have a happy little unconventional family, a successful career, and a passion that drives you to engage in your community, while fulfilling your obligations and taking some time for yourself to do whatever the heck you need, feel, or want, because you are a grown-ass woman, they are a fool.

If you'd like to read the first blog post that Wendy wrote for Strong Athletic about being a Strong Athletic and Fat athlete, you can find it here: Can We Talk About The Word Fat, Please?

If you're a proud Strong Athletic Mom, check out our apparel for Moms here