Here’s a problem faced by nearly every woman (and more than a few men) training as a masters rower: How do you balance home life and training when you have small children? By small children, I’m referring to those 10 and under, but it could also be older children who cannot be left unattended for whatever reason.
My name is Rebecca Caroe, and today, I want to talk about our children, our rowing ambitions, and how we can best balance the two.
Unless you belong to some amazing club that offers on-site childcare (and I’ve never personally heard of this myself), then you need to make some arrangements or rearrange your rowing schedule.
Or a combination of the two?
This is quite a dilemma that doesn’t seem to have a single “one size fits all” answer. So, today, we’ll talk about how to succeed in this balancing act without sacrificing our training or our family.
Top 5 Items to Consider If You Are Training as a Masters Rower
There are actually more than 5, but over the years, I’ve found that the following are the top 5 things every masters rower with children will need to consider and find an answer for.
1. What Time(s) of Day Can I Train?
We all have the same 24 hours in a day, but we don’t all have the same obligations on our time. You may be a homemaker, a student, or you may have a full-time job. To top it all, you can have small kids, too. A child who is 3 will need to spend considerably more time with you than a 10-year-old.
If you are lucky, your child attends school, and you have at least a couple of hours free during the day for rowing.
Consider your child’s schedule, your schedule, and then see if there are some time gaps that you can use for training.
2. Got a Supportive Partner?
For those of you who have life partners or spouses who support your rowing efforts, juggling your busy schedule with children to take care of becomes a much easier task.
If your partner is also into rowing, you may not be able to row together, but you can take turns. One of you can row while the other watches your toddler, then you can switch places.
Don’t forget that your partner wants/needs some of your time as well. Make sure that you two plan to have “date night” at least twice a month or an afternoon where you hire a babysitter so you can enjoy some alone-time.
If you don’t have a supportive partner, you may need to hire a babysitter or find a friend who is willing to take on your child for a few hours each week.
3. An Understanding Crew
This is quite common: You are just getting ready to head out the door when your child develops a high fever or starts to vomit. You text your crewmates to say that you can’t make it.
This is where having an understanding crew can be a real blessing. I’ve seen some crew members take turns watching each other’s children or splitting the cost of a babysitter.
If you are lucky, you may have other crew members who can switch off when it comes to watching all the kids in the group. Or you might all decide to pitch in and pay for a couple of babysitters who can watch your children right there at the club.
An understanding, accommodating, and flexible crew is right up there next to a supportive partner. If you have one, I hope you appreciate them since they can be hard to come by.
4. An Erg at Home
OK, an erg is not rowing on the water, but it’s better than nothing.
If you don’t have an erg at home, you absolutely need one. When all else fails, and you can’t leave the house, jump on that erg and sneak in 40-60 minutes during the baby’s nap time.
Short, intense sessions are certainly better than nothing, and if you can’t make it to the club, chances are that you can’t make it to the gym, either.
Get a rowing machine that will work in your home gym (or the bedroom, the living room, or the guest room) and use it when you can’t get to the water.
I know that many a mom has a two-piece, lightweight erg that they store in the trunk or in the back of their SUV. They set it up at a park or even in the parking lot and row while the kids are taking gymnastics or soccer practice.
Ask any mom, and she will tell you, necessity IS the mother of invention (or innovation)!
5. Regattas and Racing are Special Days
For any parent who is trying to compete, it’s nearly impossible to play mommy/daddy for 20 minutes, then expect yourself to jump into the shell and be the athlete of the day for another 20 or 30 minutes.
If at all possible, try to find a partner or friend who can watch your child as you race. Another alternative is to hire a babysitter or let your child go with a trusted family member or neighbor who is already doing things with their children.
I’ve seen parents who try to hand their child off to someone while they race, only to find out that their race was delayed and the person they had watching their child had to leave or attend to something else.
Leave your child with a full-time caregiver at the race or leave them with a trusted babysitter so you don’t have those worries on your mind on race day.
Tips for Parents from Parents
Some of the best tips you will ever find come from other rowing parents—
I’m sure that parent was joking about the wine. Or, maybe not?
At the End of the Day
When push comes to shove (and if it hasn’t yet, trust me, it will one day), your children come first.
Yes, you may be terribly disappointed (and your crewmates as well) if your child should need you on race day after you’ve trained all year, but that’s just the way things go sometimes.
One day, your child will be all grownup, and you will have lots of free time. Only then will you long for the days when you could hold your baby close and rock them to sleep.
I read a saying once that said something like, “Quiet down cobwebs! Dust go to sleep! I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.”
Whenever you are forced to choose, make your children your priority. They don’t stay little forever.
However, if your child is fine and safe with someone, then enjoy your time rowing, because you deserve the best in life, too!
Enjoy your rowing life and kids, moms and dads, and remember—you have the best of both worlds!
Written by Rebecca Caroe – RowingCrazy.com
Experienced Rower, Rowing Podcaster, Olympic Rowing Commentator & Expert Masters Rowing Coach
Rebecca Caroe is a masters rowing expert and a rowing coach. She is a rowing entrepreneur, has commentated for the BBC at London 2012 Olympic Games and is also a very well known Podcaster in the rowing world.