Soccer Mom

Yesterday I signed my 5-year-old Hannah up for soccer. Which I suppose means that I am now officially a soccer mom. Wikipedia has this to say about me:

The phrase soccer mom generally refers to a married middle-class woman who lives in the suburbs and has school age children. She is sometimes portrayed in the media as busy or overburdened and driving a minivan. She is also portrayed as putting the interests of her family, and most importantly her children, ahead of her own.

Married? Check. Middle class? Check. Woman? Check. Lives in the suburbs? Check. School age children? As of September I’ll have one school age child, so I guess that’s a check. Busy? Check.

However, I would balk at being described as overburdened. I drive a Honda Civic, not a minivan. And I would also hesitate to say that I put the interests of my family ahead of my own. Although at certain moments I subsume my needs for those of my children, on the whole I place a priority on my own well-being. Or at least, I try to.

From the outside I am probably the very embodiment of the soccer mom. I am an extremely vanilla, white bread sort of person. My big rebellion was waiting until after the registration deadline to sign up for soccer. But that wasn’t so much rebellion as ignorance on my part as to what the registration deadline was. You can bet that if we sign up again next year I’ll be more on the ball. Aside from not wanting to pay late fees, I do love following rules. It’s the soccer mom in me.

Really, though, I sort of wonder about the image of the long-suffering mother. It’s very popular in our culture. Maybe in all cultures. The ideal mother is selfless, giving, patient and self-sacrificing. The ideal mother always makes nutritious meals and never yells, “NO! I will not get you another glass of milk because I am eating here and I want to sit down and enjoy my meal in peace!” The ideal mother doesn’t tell her children that she’ll take them to the park after she finishes answering her email. I’m pretty sure the ideal mother doesn’t even get email.

I take parenting seriously. I aspire to be a good mother. Or a good enough mother. Or, at minimum, the sort of mother who manages not to mess up this parenting gig too badly. I read parenting books and try to be present and kind and respectful towards my children. I try to balance needs and provide fun activities and create memories.

But do I want to be a soccer mom? Actually, no, I don’t. I’m totally cool with being the mother of aspiring young soccer players. Or non-aspiring young soccer players who just like running around and kicking balls. But I don’t really want to participate in a system that says a mother is supposed to put the interests of others before her own. Because you know what? That doesn’t serve anyone.

I want my children to see that I value myself. I want them to understand that while I love them dearly, I also have a life and interests of my own. I want them to see that I work to balance it all as best I can. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I succeed. That makes me human. But it also demonstrates that you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be the mom who spends her days in her minivan, making sure that no one is ever late and that the orange slices are fresh and organic. You can just be … you. Showing up every day. Sometimes a little late, but there all the same.

So, tell me. Have you been a soccer mom, literally or figuratively? And what do you think of when you think of the term? Do you wear the title proudly, or do you bristle at it a little? Please share!

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  1. no soccer momming for me. Yet. Who knows what time will bring. I don’t want to be a typical soccer mom. I am struggling with the need to carve out some me time since I really don’t get any very much.
    Carrie’s last post … Post it Note Tuesday- The World is a messed up placeMy Profile

  2. I think ‘soccer mom’ is a disparaging, thoughtless, insulting label (I didn’t really think it made me bristle, but that sounded a little bristly, didn’t it?). I suspect it’s mostly used by people who don’t have children, or maybe by working mothers who are a little bitter about it. I never liked soccer — Angus played for two years and then we discovered baseball. I drive a minivan and live in the suburbs and I’m shocked — SHOCKED — that you signed up for soccer after the deadline. So am I a baseball mom? Since Eve’s gone back to school I have a fair bit of time to myself. I’m taking courses so I can start working again and I do things for my kids because I quite like them, and I let them do some things for themselves because I don’t want them to grow up to be selfish a-holes. I don’t have a good summing-up sentence, and this comment is getting really long.
    allison’s last post … Having Fun Even if it Kills UsMy Profile

  3. Oh I most defnitely HAVE said, “No, I will not get up again because I want to enjoy my meal in peace!”, and then proceeded to have my children (after a good long pause & googly-eyed sideways stare at me), ask me for something else from the kitchen. Sigh.

    I am busy, overburdened (well, okay, I take issue with this one. Parenting is a choice I made, along with all the other choices, working, owning a house, having passtimes, signing my kids up for classes and school. It isn’t a burden, its just what it is.), and I do drive a mini van. Um… soccer mom? I don’t even like soccer.

    Do I put my children’s needs before my own? Yes, mostly. Certainly. Particularly when they’re younger, and can’t get their needs met without me. But when I find myself starting to resent doing certain tasks which I know they are capable of doing themselves, or, find myself repeating ad nauseum, “please put your shoes away”, “please put your shoes on the shelf”, “would you pick up your shoes, please”, and then putting them on the shelf myself? That’s when I know its time to take a step back, teach the shoe-putting-away lesson (i.e. hi kids – watch this – shoes? Meet shelf. Shelf? Meet shoes), and then let the natural consequences play out (those being, tripping over said shoes that aren’t picked up, or not being able to find said shoes that, no, really, I didn’t hide by accident on purpose).
    kelly @kellynaturally’s last post … Missing ThingsMy Profile

  4. I think Allison is onto something – why stereotype just the moms of kids who play soccer? My girls don’t play any sports yet but my oldest has been taking swimming lessons for about three years now so I guess I’m a swimming mom? nah doesn’t sound as cool. Tonight I’m going to be a playground/splashpad mom…still doesn’t roll off the tongue. Ah well. I also agree with Allison that it was probably made up by working mothers who are a little bitter about all the time they are taking the kids to soccer practice and tournaments. Still, it’s not the worse thing someone could call you…lol. I think it denotes a certain age group as well, kinda like the term Cougar. Soccer mom = hottie? They left that out in the description. 🙂
    Tanya’s last post … ChoicesMy Profile

  5. I am not a soccer mom but I have to say, I hate the stereotype of it all and I just don’t care about having to categorize life like that. I like to be happy and well rounded and that makes me a better mother, getting email also makes me happy. 😉
    Mama in the City’s last post … Champagne Bubbles-The Short Of ItMy Profile

  6. @Tanya @allison … let’s not step on the working mom’s toes, okay?
    I’m a working mom and don’t like the soccer mom term either.

    But isn’t associating bitterness with working moms as bad as associating bonbons with at home moms?

    I don’t think any of us mothers like to be filed into any stereotypical categories.
    We all love our children, and do our best by them.
    kelly @kellynaturally’s last post … Missing ThingsMy Profile

    • Tanya is a working mom. I am speaking for other people here, but I don’t think they’re saying that working moms are bitter in general.

      When I worked, I was sometimes a little bit jealous of those who didn’t work who had more freedom in terms of how they spent their days. Was I bitter? No. No more so than I would say that I am overburdened. Because I have a choice, and that changes things in my mind. However, I will say that I was sometimes particularly sensitive to stereotypes surrounding working moms. Just as I can now be sensitive to stereotypes surrounding moms without a traditional job.

      Being a mom is hard. It’s something we struggle with. Balancing everyone’s needs is hard no matter our working arrangement. I think we can all understand that, and I don’t think it has to be about working moms vs. at-home moms. 🙂

      • Agreed, on many fronts.

        And I think its really interesting that you said, “Because I have a choice, and that changes things in my mind”.

        This is something which I’ve thought about at length… was considering writing about it. The choice issue. Because it seems often there’s this divide – not just working mom vs. non working mom (and I am talking about working for money here, folks, I understand all moms work hard), but there’s a further divide – the working moms who work because they CHOOSE to, the “at home” moms who don’t work because they CHOOSE to, the working moms who work because they HAVE to…
        And somehow, the circumstances surrounding choice really seem to set the stage for how people feel about said choice. Meaning, if you work, and have kids, because you like your work & choose to continue it, you’re not quite up to the same standard as a mom who works because she has to. Or, who doesn’t work because she’s “made changes to allow staying at home to be a possibility” (not really a quote, just a stereotype – the one that assumes all mothers who say they HAVE to work, really are working because they WANT to work, because if they really WANTED to stay home, they could just stop BUYING STUFF and stay home).

        Wow, I’m totally derailing this convo, I apologize. Its just that you’re right. Where you stand really affects how you see things.

        I myself didn’t mean to step on any toes with my second reply. Having a day. Just stick with my first reply. Sigh.
        kelly @kellynaturally’s last post … Missing ThingsMy Profile

    • Great response Kelly. I agree with you.
      Mama in the City’s last post … Champagne Bubbles-The Short Of ItMy Profile

    • Thanks for clairifying Amber, I don’t want any other working mom’s to make the association between working mom=bitter mom. I would never want to indicate that about another working mom. I just picture any woman who would admit to being a soccer mom would do it will an eye roll to indicate her fedupedness that there is soccer and being a mom in her life and that’s about it.
      Tanya’s last post … ChoicesMy Profile

  7. I dislike the term, so much so that I hope Josh and other future children play football or field hockey instead 🙂 But really, I just prefer watching those sports over soccer 🙂
    abbie’s last post … Breastfeeding as an Environmental MovementMy Profile

  8. My kids are both in soccer AND I am in charge of creating the soccer schedules for my community. I also drive a minivan and come to every game and practice. So, I guess I’m a soccer mom. However – HOWEVER – I totally do not wear a windbreaker tracksuit and runners. I draw my line somewhere.

    I have many funny stories about soccer parents who take things a bit too far. I guess they’re not so much FUNNY as sad though. Like the mom who coached her child’s team – her child’s U6 team – and screamed at them if they were not playing up to par.
    Nicole’s last post … Almost Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

  9. (wonders) are there more stereotypes about mothers than there are about fathers?

    i have most definitely said, no not at this time cos i’m doing something for myself, to the wee guy. he needs to learn now that the world does not revolve around him and his needs. he’s perfectly capable of filling some of these needs even now and if not, then he can learn patience. i don’t think that makes me a bad mother – i think it makes me (and him) a realistic human being
    pomomama aka ebbandflo’s last post … fireworks and blog tinkeringMy Profile

  10. I’m sure many folks would take one look at my life and say I’m a soccer mom. Middle class, married, suburbs, lots of time spent driving my SUV (or the honda civic) to hockey, karate, violin, etc. Am I overburdened? No more than any other privileged mom in this culture. Do I put my child’s needs ahead of my own? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

    To me, the term ‘soccer mom’ is problematic not because it is false, so much as because it is incomplete. If you see me as a soccer mom, you might not know that I have a Ph.D. in Philosophy or run my own business. You also might not notice that I spend one night a week away from my family singing a capella music. Or that I make Saturday morning yoga class a priority. You might not know that while I’m waiting for my son at Karate class, I’m working on my next blog post at the Starbucks across the parking lot.

    Like so many other stereotypes, it contains a grain of truth, but conceals larger truths about who we are as mothers, and as women.

    *taking off the philosopher hat now…*
    Liz’s last post … Back to School- Without Losing Your Cool!My Profile

  11. I will be a soccer mom…or a tae-kwan-do mom. I haven’t decided what to put K into.

    Similar to the breastfeeding nazi conversation a few weeks back, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the nuances of meaning when it comes to certain terms. I think these terms morph into being over time. In the beginning they have more meaning than they do over time. After they reach the status of common use they lose much meaning. Nowadays, I think the regular joe would use the term ‘soccer mom’ to refer to a mom that takes their kid to soccer. I’m pretty sure most people don’t stop to consider if the mom is putting the kids needs before herself. Maybe I’m naive. But I don’t think so. In general, I think most people speak in literal terms without hidden meaning and therefore there’s nothing for me to take offense to.

  12. Oh yes, I’m a soccer mom! I’ve got the van and everything. I don’t see it as a bad label. My kids are a huge part of my life. Do they come first? A lot of the time sure, but not always. Sometimes they come way after me 😉 (I kid, I kid.) I take your point about them needing to see that I value myself and my time. I have strived to live this way for a long time. Not only is it good for my little girls (the boy too) self images, but it keeps me from going right off the deep end. It indeed is why I’m going to a garden art show next week with my husband. I will be putting none of my children to bed that night. In fact I may very well giggle as I run out the door!

    Laura’s last post … Whats shaking in the Veggie gardenMy Profile

  13. The Wikipedia definition of soccer mom is pretty much what I pictured in my head. I am also pretty close to that description… Married, middle-class, suburbs, school-aged kids AND the minivan! Except it’s not soccer, it’s baseball. My hubby plays, our 12yo son plays (a lot) and now our 5yo daugher plays, too!

    My son loved soccer when he was little. He started playing indoor soccer where they did a lot of one-on-one and taught a lot of skills. Then he went to outdoor soccer. Totally different. It was just a bunch of kids racing and fighting after the ball with no structure at all. Very frustrating to watch. The next season, soccer and baseball ran on the same night so we had to choose. Luckily J chose baseball. I wish you more luck than we had!

    PS: There are definitely Hockey Moms, too! I’ve heard that term a lot, have you? (because I’m pretty sure it’s a Canadian thing).

    Interesting post! People seem to be pretty passionate (one way or the other) about the whole Soccer Mom term!

  14. I got a little worried for a second that you had a tape recorder in my house. That milk line sounds awfully familiar to me! 😉 I think I’m neutral on the soccer mom thing except for that overburdened description. Not a fan of that either!

  15. I like what Liz said about the term being so incomplete — and I want to clarify that I was NOT equating working moms with bitterness. I said ‘maybe working moms who are bitter about it’, i.e. moms who have to work rather than choosing to, in which case I think the bitterness at women who are free to be ‘soccer moms’ would be totally justified. I have friends who are working moms who say it’s easier than staying home, but I have trouble believing that — I think working full-time for the last few years would have just about finished me off. (And I have eaten my share of bonbons).
    allison’s last post … Having Fun Even if it Kills UsMy Profile

  16. It’s not soccer in our family… it’s netball at 9am on a freezing Saturday morning! But am I a ‘soccer mom’ (if such a thing exists in Australia which I am sure it does just perhaps with a different name!)… well I can check almost all of the boxes….and I even sometimes (more often when they are little) put my kid’s needs first, but most often it is about OUR needs as a family. It is about realising that everyone in our family deserves the same respect and understanding, be that the 5 week old or the 37 year old…. it is not one above another, it is about us all working together.

    I think from the outside that can seem like putting the adults needs at the bottom of the pile because so often society doesn’t allow children the same status and respect as it does adults. Society would always put adults first, would always see an adult’s needs as more important….. so to even occasionally, openly put a child’s needs before an adult leaves us all open to the crazy stereotype? Or maybe I am totally off the mark… but our kids all have to wait for a second helping at dinner until one or other adult has eaten their first and can go help them! LOL
    katepickle’s last post … A Fairy StoryMy Profile

  17. We are a tennis family: our boys tennis practice and frequent tournaments have become what our whole schedule revolves around, weekends included (“especially” would be perhaps more appropriate). As they’re too young to drive, and there are no public transports where we live, I can’t see any alternative beside having them drop tennis. So, yes, it’s their interests vs mine, in a way, and theirs win. But I’m glad that they have a passion for a sport, and don’t spend their afternoons hanging around in the streets and playing with their cell phone and texting friends who are two meters away, like most teens seem to do around here.
    PS the fact that I wake up early on weekends to take them to practice doesn’t follow that I get their milk:)
    Francesca’s last post … What I made four years agoMy Profile

  18. My son is a few years away from playing soccer but I will likely be a soccer mom one day. I think that moms need to take care of themselves. If mom spends all her time driving around and making sure her kids have everything they need and want she is going to be drained. Kids need a happy mother more than they need that extra curricular activity.

    Ideally a mom can take care of herself and her kids or get some help from the dad.
    Carolyn anderson’s last post … Mother Knows Best- Mind your MannersMy Profile

  19. Mrs.Mayhem says:

    I dislike the term “soccer mom,” even though I sort of fit the Wikipedia definition. It seems dismissive and petty to me. I am so much more as both a mom and a person than the term “soccer mom” suggests.

    I totally tell my kids they have to wait for more milk until I’m done eating… or they can pour it themselves.
    Mrs.Mayhem’s last post … The Big KahunaMy Profile

  20. Oh soccer mom sounds so bad. We aren’t doing soccer (yet) nor do I have a minivan (yet) but I could see those happening too, yikes. I think the term bothers be because it cuts so close to where my life is right now (married, middle, kids, burbs) and I never anticipated my life looking like this. But I like to think that I’m still pretty badass too and I certainly have my own life and interests outside of being “overburdened” by the kids. Course yesterday when I was trying to pee and the little one tried to climb headfirst into the bathtub while the other one at that exact moment threw a stuffed kangaroo at my head I realized how little privacy or dignity this mother job lets you have. Overburdened in that respect, yes.
    AmberDusick’s last post … and then a magical moment snuck in unexpectedlyMy Profile

  21. I tend to think of a soccer mom being one whose kids are in a ton of extracurriculars, so they tend to be almost more chauffeur than a mom, driving all over the place every afternoon after school. I guess I used to be a “soccer nanny” — I once spent SEVEN HOURS in the car on one work day, taking kids to birthday parties and swim team and dive team and picking them up again. Which is why the term “stay-at-home” mom stops making sense after a certain age!

    I don’t intend to be a “soccer mom” though, by my definition, because I want my kid(s) to have plenty of unstructured time. I fear overscheduling more than almost anything.

    However, I don’t mind putting my kid’s needs before my own. Part of that, I guess, is that he’s a baby and he really NEEDS me all the time, but part of it is just the way I am. It really makes me happy to be needed and wanted, and I don’t mind spending all of my time at home with my family. However, I have to temper that by pointing out that one of a child’s needs is to know he’s not the only person in the universe … so I’m not going to wait on my kids hand and food when they’re big enough to do things for themselves or wait a few minutes.

    I don’t see any reason to demonize the notion of a mother putting others before herself … it doesn’t make me lose my identity, because I actually enjoy it. When I’m always trying to carve out five minutes to read blogs, I do get annoyed, but if I just sit on the floor and play with my baby, I don’t feel that way. And I do find that time for myself crops up all the same … which is why I’m here reading your blog!
    Sheila’s last post … A year ago todayMy Profile

    • I absolutely don’t demonize the notion of a mother putting others before herself. If she’s doing it of her own choosing. But the word ‘overburdened’ carries connotations of someone who is unhappy with her situation, and that’s what I chafe against. I quite happily breastfeed my toddlers and wear my babies and co-sleep and all that jazz. It’s how I’ve chosen to mother, and I’m happy with it. But when things stop working, or when I realize that I just really need a haircut to feel human, my needs play into re-jigging things. Which is fine, and necessary. I matter, too.

      The reality is that as your kids get older their needs are less intense and immediate. While I would never expect a newborn to wait to for his or her (breast)milk, I think it’s reasonable for a 5-year-old to wait for a drink, as I was saying here. Also, as you have more children, the need to assert your own time for yourself increases. With a 5-year-old and 2-year-old if I waited until no one was asking for me to do something, I wouldn’t ever have a shower. And so the balance shifts, as it always does in parenting.

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  1. […] have been a soccer mom, but so far I have not been a hockey mom. My daughter Hannah prefers figure skates to hockey […]

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