What Does it Take to be the Mother of an Olympian?

What Does it Take to be the Mother of an Olympian?

by Danielle Smith of ExtraordinaryMommy.com

I cry easily. Let’s get that out in the open right away. I choke back tears during commercials, weddings, news stories – you name it. And now that I am a Mom? Double the water works.

Add the Olympic Games to the mix and I am a blubbering mess. Why? Because the emotion is so raw…the triumphs so vivid, the failures so piercing. And while I am taken by the athletes, I am enraptured by the women who created them, who held their hands, dusted them off when they fell and pushed them back out onto the ice.

My thoughts on this spring not from experience, but observation. Not only did I spend 6 days in Vancouver, as a correspondent for Procter & Gamble – one of the main sponsors of the Olympic Games, but I was embedded with the families, with the athletes. I had a front row seat for the hand-wringing, the mother-to-child look that wraps every possible emotion – love, pride, and hope into a blink and sends it via a pat on the back, a quick touch to the shoulder, a hug.

I talked to the athletes. I sat down with Moguls Skier and US Bronze Medalist, Shannon Bahrke, with US Speed Skaters Allison Baver and Chad Hedrick (Bronze Medal), with US Women’s Hockey Silver Medalist, Julie Chu among others….and they all had something in common: their respect, adoration and gratitude for their moms.

Danielle with Shannon and Scotty Bahrke (Scotty competed in Aerial Skiing!)

Danielle with Shannon and Scotty Bahrke (Scotty competed in Aerial Skiing!)

And it has me thinking.

Just what does it take to be the Mother of an Olympian?

Here’s what strikes me:


Now, for many moms, ‘Sacrifice’ is the middle name you get when you give birth. You sacrifice sleep, your side of the bed, the ability to shower in peace, the best piece of chicken and the last brownie. But for these moms….their sacrifice is bigger than that. They give away a portion of themselves – not only to their child, but to the chosen sport. They stand in the cold (sometimes for 12 hours at a time, 3 days in a row). They get up at 4am to accommodate practice before school. They forgo family vacations for competitions and squeeze the last pennies from the family paycheck to pay for uniforms, training and travel.

Thick skin.

I’m worried about seeing my little one shunned on the playground. Pshhhaw. Child’s play (pun intended) compared to seeing your child picked apart on the world’s stage. Or having their technique, speed, style or costume choices questioned.


This isn’t just about cheering from the sidelines and wearing the team colors. This is subscribing to superstition – you wore your red and white shirt when they won the last event? That means you simply must wear it again (too bad that it doesn’t fit anymore) This is about being the strong one after your child fails and wants to give up. This is digging deep and reminding your child what they love about competing (even if it pains you).

And, finally….

The ability to Smile.

Always. You can’t let the sport, the hours and hours of practice or the attempts and failures get you down. You smile from the sidelines. You REJOICE when they win, but still smile with love and empathy when they do not.

My time at the Olympic Games opened my eyes to the bond these families share. Being a member of Team USA is clearly an honor, but it is the original team, their family team that buoys them throughout their journey.

Shannon Bahrke's Bronze Medal for Moguls Skiing

Shannon Bahrke's Bronze Medal for Moguls Skiing

Danielle Smith is the founder of ExtraordinaryMommy.com, the mother of two sweet and sassy small people, the host of BlissTV, a vlogger, a student of social media and still a California girl in her heart, if not her location. To follow Danielle’s Olympic Adventure, please visit her website: ExtraordinaryMommy.com!