Mom and Dad's investment in soccer is not just money. It's shopping for stuff, replacing stuff, cleaning stuff, picking up stuff, vacuuming the lawn of dead grass and astro turf bits that multiply in corners, cleaning scuff marks from car footwells, cleaning scuff marks from walls, scooping up a never ending tide of water bottles, and patching up boo boo's. It's choosing not to do something we want to do in favor of driving, fighting traffic, sitting (or sleeping) in parking lots, talking with people we don't necessarily like and wouldn't choose to hang out with, getting rained on, shivering under blankets, and rooting till our voices crack for movements we don't understand. Some do, of course, but many moms and dads don't really understand the game.
Providing a better understanding of the game and the soccer ecosystem is, of course, one of the reasons The Soccer Sidelines was created.
And, in the interest of fairness, it's not just the soccer moms doing all of this work. I see a lot of both moms and dads on the sidelines over the weekends, but I suspect it's the soccer moms as a general rule, who tend to find themselves doing a lot of this. I might make reference to "soccer mom," but I'm really referring to anyone who takes on this role.
Motherhood is a great honor and privilege yet it is also synonymous with servanthood. Every day women are called upon to selflessly meet the needs of their families. Whether they are awake at night nursing a baby spending their time and money on less-than-grateful teenagers or preparing meals moms continuously put others before themselves.
If the first step to fixing a problem is admitting that we have one, then I think we have an opportunity to admit a few things here. Mom's and dads might not consider what they do a burden. Our kids are, after all, the whole reason we get to wear the parent title, and being a parent is not something any of us would give up. The activities we do for our kids, however, are not always as enjoyable as they could be.
I'm not going to make a claim that when you're done listening to this episode, that you will suddenly enjoy sleeping in a parking lot, but I will do my best to at least frame some of our burdens in a way that is easier to accept.
The first of the burdens I'd like to draw attention to is simultaneously one of the easiest ones and one of the hardest ones we can address. The soccer mom uber is under appreciated. It's not hard to say "thank you for driving me," or "thanks for taking me shopping," or "thanks for cleaning up the mess I left today." However, it is hard to remember to say those things - especially when no one is going to remind us to do so. A "thank you..." goes a really long way. Sometimes, it's all that is needed to show appreciation and give mom or dad the energy to get up the next day and do it all over again. Never underestimate the power of gratitude!
If you are one of my listening audience who doesn't stand a snowball's chance in a broiler of ever getting a thank you, I have a gift for you.
Thank you for doing what you do. Thank you for paying the bills. Thank you for registering on time. Thank you for driving; for doing the shopping; for sacrificing your car; for cleaning up pounds of dirt, grass, and astroturf; and for cheering for our kids to succeed. Thank you for doing the research to find this or that, for putting up with people you don't like, and for cleaning up wounds. Thank you for doing the laundry, making sure kids drink plenty of fluids, and that bellies are filled with food. Thank you for smiling when you know you don't want to. Thank you for freezing in the cold and sweating in the heat. Thank you for choosing our kids over reading a good book, riding your bike, or swimming laps. Thank you for being the person on the sidelines who makes it all happen!
There are two main ways to run a program. The first is using paid labor (and paying a lot). The second is through the efforts of volunteers (and paying much less). there is, of course, the hybrid program that uses a mix of paid and volunteer help. These hybrids can run the spectrum of fees anywhere from the middle of the pack to the most expensive - it really depends on leadership and their penchant for profits and growth.
My club is a mostly volunteer Club and has operated this way for 30 years. Volunteering requires a little more from moms and dads, and has some distinct advantages. Above and beyond all the stuff I just thanked you for, volunteer based organizations bring parents off the bench and into the middle of the action.
Volunteers set the standard for kids to aspire to. They show kids what it means to give beyond the immediate family - to support other families - and to support their friends. They see in the examples that mom and dad set that helping out the community is important enough for mom and dad to be doing it - so it must be pretty important. It sets the bar for parenting and ingrains learned behaviors that will most likely be carried forward to the next generation of kids from this generation.
When mom and dad don't help, then kids learn that behavior too. Maybe it's okey, some will think, for us to not bring anything to the party. Maybe we should be served by others and get mad when other volunteers don't meet our every want and need.
Some parents find a need and fill it themselves. Other parents find a need and complain that someone isn't filling it. The difference makes a difference.
Oh, the driving. Up and down, back and forth... the driving can be a part time job for some. There's practices and games, parties, and shopping. There's juggling activities and planning your drives so they accomplish the greatest good in the fewest miles with the fewest latenesses or missed events. Everything doubles when a second child gets added to the mix. When we add travel requirements on top of that, fa-get-about-it.
The thing with driving isn't just the use of fuel. There's the sitting in traffic, the sitting in parking lots, the waiting for releases, the sleeping in the driver's seat - and let's not forget about the hundreds and thousands of stuff that we're NOT doing while we're sitting in a car. We're leaving work early. We're putting other projects on hold. We're not going to the gym. We're doing stuff we would have gotten done during the driving time - AFTER the driving time and when we're tired from all the driving. The sacrifice and the investment is tremendous.
Lightening the Load
It may seem counterintuitive what Im about to say, but think about this for a second: every other soccer mom and soccer dad is doing exactly what you're doing. They are suffering exactly the way you're suffering. They want relief as much as you do.
Humans are community creatures. We work really well in communities. Without them, we frankly wouldn't have much chance for survival. Even those 12 remaining families who live in the Alaskan back county need community to survive. It's what we do.
With that in mind, sharing the load with others in a similar situation should be considered a win/win for everyone. What if you could spilt the driving with another family? How about two families or three? Most of us can fit 3 or 4 kids in a car - even if we drive a small car. Now, you're not driving every practice, but every 3-4 practices.
How, you might ask, might I do that when I don't know anyone else. Guess who knows everyone? The team manager and the coach! These two people have deliberately put themselves into a position where they have to know everyone - better still, everyone has to know them.
How about the BBQ coordinator, the fundraising team, the parade coordinator? If these people are doing those jobs effectively, they are getting to know a lot of people! They may only have to do one event per year, but they get the benefits of knowing who they can trust who lives nearby. They get that benefit all year.
Doing a little more to help out actually helps you to offload some of those tasks because you get to know others who would be willing to help you get them done. As a driver and soccer dad myself, I was grateful for ride-sharing arrangements we made with neighbors. The kids loved the extra company as well!
It may seem like I just spent 20 minutes talking about all the things soccer moms and dads do, then suggested that we add more to our plates, but consider the bigger picture. A small investment of helping out with one or two events per year pays off huge dividends for the rest of the year. Instead of doing more, you end up doing more at one time - in one or two well defined projects , then relieving burden for the rest of the time. Think of it this way: if you could work one 4 hour shift flipping burgers to recruit three more drivers that you could share the load with all year, would that be worth it to you?
I know it has been for me.