These Olympics are going to be the death of me, y'all.
First, because I am literally losing sleep over them. NBC decided they need to show the events that get the highest ratings as late as possible, and since I feel like I'll miss something if I don't watch them as they air, I hold my eyelids open to stay awake and then stagger around like a zombie the next day.
At this rate, it will be December before I recover.
Second, the back stories. Goodness gracious. We've seen kids rise from poverty and foster care to be the greatest of all time, and we've watched people push through career-threatening injuries to make it back to the Olympics. Their bodies bear the bruises, and we've collectively learned about kinesiology tape and strange orbs from cupping. I'm amazed by what the human body can bear and what the human spirit can endure.
And, of course, you have the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Runners false starting and immediately being disqualified? Cyclists crashing and bleeding from their wounds? Gymnasts vaulting and shattering legs on the landing? Agonizing.
But then there are the mothers.
The commentators on TV are fascinated by the athletes who are mothers, and even though there's been some criticism on social media for their incessant need to point it out, I just want to state for the record that I am fascinated, too.
These women are the absolute best at their sports, and in the midst of their training and preparation and traveling to competitions, they do what many of us do every day. They parent. Their bodies have been through the most grueling event ever - pregnancy and childbirth - and they are still able to operate in beast mode. I gave birth nine years ago and am still trying to get my body back and not have embarrassing accidents when I sneeze.
They deserve some mad respect.
Listen, you can call it sexist that many of the male athletes are dads and no one ever mentions it. But let's be real. The men did not grow another human being inside their bodies, have their bodies nearly (or in some cases actually) split open to deliver that human being into the world, feed the human being with food produced by their very own bodies, and then six weeks later get back at it like nothing ever happened.
So yes, I love when the commentators let me know the elite athletes I'm watching are moms. It makes their victories even sweeter to me. But it also inspires, and dare I say, challenges me.
Here's the deal. These women know you can simultaneously mother a child and pursue a passion. You can mother and work. You can mother and train. You can mother and win. You can mother and - fill in the blank.
Ladies, you can. We can. We don't have to, but we can.
There's a 41 year old gymnast who competed against athletes the same age as her son. She has said she just loves gymnastics (and that she hasn't ruled out competing in Tokyo). Can you imagine anything more inspiring to her son than seeing his mom work at what she loves? What a legacy.
Becoming a mom changed and challenged me more than I knew it could. But it also brought confusion and doubt as I struggled to find my identity in my motherhood. I had always wanted children, and when I had them, I questioned whether it was also ok to want other things as well. Was I only a mom? What about who I was before? What about what I did before? Was it ok to still spend time on myself? Was it acceptable to follow pursuits that had nothing to do with my children?
We moms are super hard on ourselves, but we can also be super hard on each other. Some say becoming a mom means forgetting about yourself and the things you want, focusing solely on your children. Others say that to be the best mother possible, it's important that you nurture yourself and continue in the things you love.
I can't tell you what's right for you, but I'm telling you what's possible. It's possible to be a mom AND.
The Olympians told me so.