I believe any woman can be The Confident Mother when she discovers how to celebrate and love life as a woman and as a mother. To me this is about balancing five elements:
- work: whether your career, your business or being valued and paid for the work you do in the home
- wellness: in both body and mind, coping with overwhelm, managing your stress levels, being mindful of your health, self-love
- family: the relationship you have with your partner and your children
- contribution: the value you add to the world – work that is unpaid, whether that is volunteering or being active in your community
- feminine: accepting, embracing and indeed enjoying the fact that you are a woman
Starting today, I share my list of 50 women who to me epitomise The Confident Mother.
For the first selection, I am focussing on sportswomen who happen to be mothers. In my interview with Dame Sarah Storey in January, she explained how the advent of lottery funding in British sports means that more women can afford to continue as full-time athletes for longer.
National Lottery funding appeared in the UK which allowed athletes to be full time from 1996. Less than 20 years later we have women in their 30s, who are thinking about starting a family. They’ve been able to have a longer career because they’ve been able to train full-time. They’ve had that back-up and medical support for illness or injuries; a more structured approach. Read more from this interview in The Confident Mother, available to pre-order online.
1. Dame Sarah Storey – I interviewed her in January and was incredibly impressed with her confidence and self-belief. I love the way she is pioneering the way forward for full-time athletes who happen to be mothers. I was delighted when Sarah agreed to write the foreword for The Confident Mother book. Sarah is Great Britain’s most decorated female Paralympian in history having won 11 Gold, 8 Silver and 3 Bronze medals across an impressive 6 Paralympic Games, and two sports: swimming and now cycling.
2. Claire Lomas – an amazing and truly inspiring mother. She was left with horrific injuries and paraplegia after an accident at Osberton Horse Trials in May 2007. She campaigns for the charity Spinal Research to find a repair for spinal cord injury. She has completed some incredible feats to raise funds and awareness – many will remember her using the ReWalk robotic suit to complete the 2012 London Marathon in 17 days.
3. Jessica Ennis-Hill – I missed Jess in the 2014 season but isn’t it fabulous to see her back on the track after giving birth in July and she is determined to be at Rio in 2016. But did you know she is also patron of The Children’s Hospital Charity. Jess really endeared herself to the British public after winning Heptathlon Olympic Gold at London 2012 Olympics. So exciting to know that she plans to compete in the World Championships in Beijing which start on 22 August. Fabulous article here about her comeback after injury and childbirth.
4. Sally Gunnell – a top athlete during the 1990s, starting off with long jump and heptathlon, she soon specialised in hurdles as it became clear that she had a special talent and skill in this event. At one time she held all the major 400m hurdles titles at the same time: European, World, Commonwealth and Olympic. She has three sons, and I remember reading her articles in magazines about how to get back to fitness after childbirth. Sally very much supports the Wellness element of the Confidence Circle. She now runs a business that specialises in Corporate Health & Wellbeing. I love her fitness and wellness tips on Twitter.
6. Jo Pavey – Track athlete Jo has competed in an amazing four Olympic Games and is on target for 2016 too. In August, Jo became the oldest woman to win gold at a European Championships with her 10,000m victory, just a few days after winning bronze in the Commonwealth Games 5,000m. She has two young children and attributes her new-found success to being a mum. She has less time to be quite so obsessive and therefore has to be more focussed in her approach to training. Recently Jo expressed her sadness at being retrospectively awarded a bronze medal for the 10,000m at the 2007 World Championships. Mixed emotions indeed.
7. Paula Radcliffe – surely one of Britain’s most-loved female athletes. I watched a documentary on TV just recently and was reminded of the incredible discipline it takes to be World Champion six times over. What I also loved is how she is as a mothers, how she is with her children. I cried again watching how it went wrong for her in Athens in 2004. You must read her blog post about That Day. Get a tissue first. In a recent interview, she talks about her decision to put her sports career on hold in order to have children.
8. Shelley Rudman – one of the things I love about Shelley’s website is how she lists all the individuals in the team behind her. Elite athletes perform at the level they do BECAUSE of the incredible team that supports them. Yes you need natural talent, discipline and focus. You also need talented individuals supporting you on your journey. Shelley shot to fame when she brought home the ONLY medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin when she won silver in the Skeleton Bobsleigh event. Shelley was crowned European Champion in 2009 and 2011 before winning the World Cup in 2012 and was crowned World Champion in 2013.
9. Katie Chapman – England World Cup footballer. Katie only recently rejoined the England squad having after a four-year exile from the England team when her contract was cancelled following the birth of her children. Katie is not the only mum on the England team (there’s also Casey Stoner) but it seems incredibly sad that in order to play in the World Cup in Canada, she had to leave her children behind (unlike the Norwegian team). Very different to Sarah Storey’s experience on the GB cycling team.
10. Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson – Surely one of Britain’s most famous Paralympic athletes, her Paralympic career started in 1994 when she competed for Wales in the Junior National Games. She has won an amazing 16 Paralympic medals, 11 of which are gold. Plus she has won the London Marathon no less than six times, and held over 30 world records in her sporting career. Her daughter was born in 2002, and like others on this list, she made an impressive comeback after birth. What I love and admire about Tanni Grey-Thompson is how much she gives and does for both women in sport and disabled sport. She is a director on the board of the London Marathon, LLDC (London Legacy Development Corporation) and TfL (Transport for London), she has previously been a board member of UK Sport and British Athletics, is a working peer, and was recently elected chair of ukactive, working to tackle Britain’s physical inactivity crisis. Yet at heart, she’s a mum. She understands that as a mum, you tend to feel guilty and that it can be hard to balance everything. Read a great interview here.
What about you? Which sportswomen mums do you admire? Leave a comment below.