A Day in the Life of Hockey Playing Moms

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Photo from the Press Herald.

Hockey moms represent an integral pillar of hockey culture. So much so that in Canada there is a website called “Canadian Hockey Moms” dedicated to connecting and supporting all the rink moms. Gongshow apparel has even written an open letter to hockey moms expressing, “Thank you for giving us that extra 10 minutes on the backyard rink and waiting that extra 10 minutes after the game, all because we wanted to horse around in the dressing room with the squad for a little bit longer.” But these are acknowledgements of a supporting role — moms who enable others to play hockey. What do we know of moms who are the hockey players?

Moms are awesome, generally speaking. They not only keep families running but they also keep our economies operating with all the unpaid and unrecognized labour that goes on in the domestic sphere. According to a longitudinal study published by the Journal of Marriage and Family, (in heterosexual run households) women do approximately 13 more hours of labour each week at home (while working the same number of full-time hours). Furthermore, the labour that men tend to take on with respect to childcare is:

more of the fun child care – like playing peek a boo and reading, while the women were doing more of the diaper changing, the schlepping to child care and the often time-sensitive work that can make new parents feel so breathless, rushed and feeling pressed for time.

We know that hockey moms are dedicated to their kids and their pursuits but rarely do we acknowledge how much some moms love to play hockey. The media likes to make us think that women’s lives cease to exist after their children are born but women with children represent a growing demographic for hockey. And, as was pointed out in a 2017 Mother’s Day piece written about moms who play hockey, their time at the rink is “truly the best two hours of the week. [Moms] arrange everything around these two hours.”

So I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some awesome moms that I get the privilege to play with and share how they negotiate their careers, families, and love of hockey. I created a WhatsApp group for the hockey playing moms and asked them to “check-in” on game days with what they were doing, how they were feeling, and basically just provide some insight into all the things that need to get done before they were able to have some “me time” at the rink. My hope is to provide a connection point for other hockey playing mom’s out there and to shed some light on how difficult it can be for moms to get to the rink as part of their self-care routine.

Here is our mom roster:

  • Emily, 42, mother of 2, science-lady (aka “Chemist”), Centre
  • Lydia, 38, mother of 1, pharmacist, Centre
  • Tanya, 46, mother of 2, music teacher by day…oil witch by night, RW (literally, only RW)
  • Sonia, 38, mother of 2, Operations Executive, usually LW…sometimes Centre
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Em doing science things with a mass spectrophotometer on a game day.

For the most part, I’m going to let the moms speak for themselves through excerpts from the WhatsApp chat but I’ll add some commentary here and there. (The timeline jumps around for the sake of flow.)

Emily [May 23, 7:42am] Today is just piano, otherwise not so bad. Next Wednesday however is going to involve some kind of time turning device. Have yet to figure that one out.

Fast forward to the following week and Em had to miss our game:

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Sonia [May 23, 7:47am] My boys are night owls so this morning has been typical so far. Single mom mode as Scott leaves home at 5-5:30am. Drag them out of bed before 7:30am to eat a bowl of Cheerios while they watch Netflix on iPads. My 4 year old is groggy and claims to be “too tired” so insists on sitting on my lap while I feed him. I got 2 hugs but have to endure watching Paw Patrol! Aiming to leave just after 8am to drop off Kyle at before school care and then Ryan at daycare.

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Sonia’s boys.

I probed further about “single mom mode” and asked the group if anyone else ever felt that way. Was there something that they wanted the husbands of the world to know?

Emily [June 13, 2:11pm] Just allow us to play hockey with no judgement or bitterness.

Lydia [June 13, 3:12pm] Yes. Often single mom mode as mine often gets home late from work. We regularly start dinner before he gets home. And sometimes we are done eating before he arrives. [Note: the job situation has changed since this conversation took place]. Talking to other moms, guys seem to need downtime from work. Turning on the tv less, engage in play, read more.

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Em’s eldest offspring.

Sonia then shared an article about the “mental load” that mothers experience. The article explains:

Of course we could ask our partners to help, but as she says, this isn’t a perfect solution because really what we need is for them to view household and child-related tasks as equal responsibility. This managerial role further adds to the mental burden we are already dealing with.

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The discussion that ensued from the article:

Emily [June 14, 12:39pm] It is so hard to put into words, but that comic just described everything. It is this fight that you always have to go through. And relating back to hockey, I have to ask permission to go, and it is never well received. Because if it occurs during a time when dinner needs to be made, or kids have to be taken to activities or whatever, I’m burdening my spouse.

So I often choose to not go to hockey, because it is easier than having the battle.

Sonia [June 14, 12:41pm] Right???!! YES! I would often tell Scott, you don’t get all the little things that I think about throughout the day…then I would go rattle them off and he would look at me blankly 😶 The struggle is real.

I felt the need to ask that I could start playing hockey again and join a team…he’s been supportive when I play but I often come home to dirty dishes and still have to clean up!

Emily and Lydia then provided these examples of their mental loads:

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Lydia’s son.

Emily [June 14, 12:52pm] I have to leave in 11 minutes, and this is my stream of consciousness: “need to write a cheque for the cleaners, change the kids sheets to the dryer, get Nathan’s passport because I have to register him for hockey, I have a phone meeting on the drive, did I remember to take the buns out of the freezer for dinner, I think I left the compost in the kitchen full and I have to take that out, Cece didn’t practice her piano this morning and she has her recital, have to remember that she has to do that tonight, Nathan has to ref tonight so I have to make sure he gets there and I go to the in-person hockey registration, and I have a meeting with a notary at 3pm to write our will and I need my documents.” And now I have 8 minutes left and I really have to pee before I go.

Lydia [June 14, 1:06pm] Fortunately I don’t get hockey guilt from mine. Sometimes he says you should go practice more. And I’m thinking how can I practice more I got so much to do. I don’t have time.

But totally can relate to coming home to a mess after the game. And during the game thinking ok I have to cook lunch for tomorrow. Defrost that for dinner tomorrow. Clean the dishes. Get blah ready for Sam’s activity tomorrow…

For all the sport managers and programers out there, these narratives highlight the complexities involved in making recreation activities accessible to working mothers. So much of the accessibility has to do with cultural hurdles, rather than policy or programming decisions. We teach undergrads in sport management programs that providing child care can increase participation. We teach them that holding activities late at night can pose safety problems for women. These are important factors but what are we teaching boys and men about their role in making physical activity accessible to the women in their lives?

The next few excerpts demonstrate that the mental load isn’t just mental because it does translate into an actual work load:

Sonia [May 31, 12:28pm] Morning routine went pretty smoothly and it was day 3 of my new job. Work is not holding back on stuff for me to do so I have hit the ground running and was in meeting until 4:45 even though I was trying to end my work day by 4:30. Had to get from downtown back to Burnaby in time to make it to an in person registration for a summer day camp I needed to get Kyle into. Made it there just before 6pm when registration started and thankfully had all my paperwork filled out properly so was in and out in under a half hour. Yay! Had to stop for gas on way home and then scarfed down dinner so I could play in the backyard with Ryan for a bit (just 10 mins) before I had to leave for hockey…Post our game I arrived to the kitchen still looking like a disaster. Dirty dishes everywhere, dishwasher open barely filled yet…sigh. Scott on couch answering some work emails. Ryan had an epic tantrum with Scott before bedtime so he wasn’t able to get much done and is overseeing a night shift crew so had to do some work first even though he had already put in a full day. Both of us tackled clean up, loaded dishwasher, made lunches etc. Needed to unwind and relax for a bit before going to bed so watched TV for a half hour, had some Bailey’s on ice (mmmmm) and popcorn (boom chicka pop yellow bag from Costco), then showered, did a few more random things and finally went to bed after midnight. Wrote this up while on the bus to downtown this morning as I actually got a seat :)

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Tanya’s kids.

Tanya [May 30, 5:05pm] 5am wake up, still jet lagged thanks to a monumental 30 hours of travel with no sleep! Class planning until 6am, make Finn and Montana’s lunches. 6:30am kids wake up. As always they are too tired to move. No amount of sleep during the week seems to relieve their morning fatigue. But on the weekends, minimal sleep needed and they wake up early, bright eyes and bushy tailed! While eating breakfast Montana manages to dislodge a wire on her braces. Likely thanks to an earlier trampoline, double bouncing, face plant incident with her brother. 911 call to the orthodontist…derails my carefully laid out time line. Costco shop after teaching is now scrapped! I kick the kids out the door to the bus at 7:50am. But not before shoving balance oil up their nose to calm them down, making them take their vitamins and probiotics and spraying the crap out of their hair with my anti lice oil concoction. NO LICE ARE ALLOWED TO ENTER THIS HOUSE. I’m too busy!! I am feeling relieved to have managed the kids out the door on time. No one missed the bus. I pack up and leave at 8:15am for teaching downtown. Kids are at a district track meet today. Leave teaching at 1pm, Rambo lunch at Nuba on Davie St. while having a little visit with my friend. Rush to the school to pick Montana up for 2:30pm and get Finn off to run club. Fly to the orthodontist and get wire fixed in Mo’s mouth. Rush her back to endure the final 15 minutes of run club. I power thru emails while I wait. Take them both home. Kick their butts to do their chores before any computer time is allowed. Finn has to weed whack the lawn. Momo is clearing the dishwasher and stacking it. My jet lag is still plaguing me. Heading for a 20 minute nap before making dinner for everyone and heading off to hockey. Over and out for now!

Here’s one more that came through on our team WhatsApp chat. It seemed a fitting way to end the discussion:

Tanya [June 20, 6:07pm] Finn has arrived home with his skin cheese grated on the pavement. He’s scraped from head to toe after a scooter crash on one of the hills here in Lions Bay. Friggin’ stupid kid!!! I’m definitely out for tonight need to stay now and clean the gravel out of Finn’s knees, elbows, shoulders and stomach!!! Court…add this moment to your hockey mommy blog!!

All of this is to say, the next time Mother’s Day rolls around, or a birthday, or just a Tuesday, help out a hockey playing mom by taking her skates to get sharpened, loading the dish washer, or folding the laundry. Anything really, to take some of that mental load so that she can enjoy her time at the rink to the fullest. Also, why do parents still have to do in person registration for their kids? We do everything online these days! This option would likely have made Emily and Sonia’s lives just a little bit easier. And, let’s compare these accounts to how we treat our professional male athletes who have their meals prepared for them and naps scheduled into their days.

With professional athletes like Serena Williams and Caroline Ouellette having children and then returning to competitive play it is really opening up new discussions for leagues and associations. For example, did you know that the men’s professional tennis tour has had child care set up for decades now because it is so common for male athletes to be fathers. Conversely, the women’s tennis tour has generally operated by having fellow players look after children while their mom is on court. Mothers, as participants, have been an after thought for far too long in the world of sports. Remember, the women who play in the CWHL and NWHL all require jobs to support their hockey careers and some of them are moms too. So if growing the game is important to you then you had better figure out a way to better support hockey playing moms.

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Caroline Ouelette with baby Liv. Photo from the Montreal Gazette.

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One thought on “A Day in the Life of Hockey Playing Moms

  1. Pingback: The Time for Women’s Hockey is Now | Hockey in Society

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