5 things the NFL taught me about motherhood
Updated: Oct 30
It's Football season and even if you aren't a sports fan, there is a lot we as moms can learn from professional football players. After studying and watching football with my husband over the last decade, these are some of the things I have learned from the National Football League that are helping to make me a better mom.
It goes without saying that to get drafted into the NFL, you need to have tremendous self discipline. Discipline to endure grueling workouts day after day, discipline to take care of your mental health as well as your physical health, discipline to keep the priorities of your life at the top of the list.
It's no different in motherhood. In order to be my best mom self and show up for my family, it takes discipline. Discipline to limit screens so I can be present for my little ones. Discipline to take care of my physical and mental health so I can keep up with them without burning out. Discipline to work on self regulation again and again when big emotions trigger a big reaction.
Eating well and exercising for a week or a month is great, but to make any real gains it takes consistency. Pro athletes know how important consistency is, especially in the fundamentals of their sport. Reportedly, former NFL Wide Receiver Jerry Rice had the most grueling personal workouts of any one in the league. He did these workouts six days a week in the off season. And he was also considered to be the greatest wide receiver of all time in the NFL. Coincidence? I think not.
Intentional parenting is no different. It means showing up, being patient, really listening, responding in love and training the same behaviors over and over... and over. The process is repetitive, it is difficult and it never ends. I need to make sure I have the fuel to be consistent in my parenting practices over the long haul. This means resting, practicing self care and giving myself grace to get up and keep trying day after day. Motherhood, after all, is a marathon - not a sprint.
The average NFL career lasts 3-5 years. This may not seem like a long time, especially compared to the long haul of parenting a human, but If you are pushing yourself to the limit day after day, month after month, it takes a lot of endurance.
So how did I develop endurance?
Love. I learned to love the process, not just my kids. I learned to love the hard times, the boring times, and I learned to love the chaos. I am getting comfortable being uncomfortable, because at times, that's what motherhood is - uncomfortable. And it lasts a heck of a lot longer than a a career in the NFL, so buckle up.
4. Thick Skin
My husband played Division 1 football and tells me how coaches would yell at him - during some of the most difficult workouts I could never even imagine. Combine this with unruly opposing fans screaming nasty things and calling him and his teammates names, and you bet he's developed a pretty thick skin.
Motherhood takes a thick skin, too. Thick skin when your toddler is having a screaming meltdown, thick skin when your middle schooler says something hurtful to you, thick skin when you work your butt off and your efforts are met with indifference, or worse, annoyance.
I am developing a thick skin by realizing my children's emotions are not a reflection of me, they are simply a natural part of growing up. I am developing a thick skin by realizing poor behavior is a cause for more training, not frustration. And I am developing a thick skin by continuing to love and show up through it all.
Former NFL Quarterback Tom Brady has been quoted saying he tries to get nine hours of sleep during the NFL season and 8 1/2 hours during the off season. New York Jets Quarterback Aaron Rogers has also touted the benefits of sleep for high performance.
Good sleep hygiene results in thinking more clearly, being less stressed, being less likely to get sick and so many more benefits - all things moms need. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, evidence shows that as you sleep, your brain also clears out toxins that have built up throughout the day.
As moms, we may not always have a choice in how long we get to sleep, or the quality of our sleep. I try, however, take proactive measures to protect the sleep I do get. This means limiting screen time at least an hour before bed, giving myself an adequate window of time in which to fall asleep and making sure I get up at the same time and go to bed at the same time so my body and brain can become regulated.
It can be tempting to phone it in sometimes, but we have to remember motherhood is not a game. There are lives on the line. As important as rest, self care and grace are, we need to make sure we are doing everything in our power to be our best so we can raise the next generation to be their best.