First in a three blog series: “Redeeming Soccer Mom”
Who is Soccer Mom?
It’s hard to believe, but the term “Soccer Mom” has only been in regular use since 1996, when she was a highly sought after “swing voter” in the election of that year. According to Wikipedia,
“One candidate Susan B. Casey ran with the slogan ‘A Soccer Mom for City Council.’ Casey, who had a PhD and managed presidential election campaigns, used the slogan as a way of assuring voters they could trust her to be “just like them,” denoting herself as ‘every-neighbor.'”
Soccer moms received so much attention during the election that the American Dialect Society voted “soccer mom” Word of the Year for 1996. The columnist Ellen Goodman of The Boston Globe called 1996 “the Year of the Soccer Mom.”
In 1996 it described a new phenomena in family lifestyle. Soccer Mom was portrayed as the overburdened, suburban, middle income professional or stay-at-home mother who ferries her kids from soccer practice to scouts to school. With the growth in after school sports for children, todays Soccer Moms are everywhere. They are carting the neighborhood children to and from their activities in their SUVs – what else will hold six chattering kids and all their gear?- generally in the midst of “rush hour” conducting personal and family business by cell phone along the way. For mothers with younger children, this means carting them along. For mothers with daytime jobs, this means hurrying to switch gears. In either case, it presents a challenge. Not to be denied, Soccer Mom has risen to the challenge, sacrificially donating the time on the road to the cause of her kids’ activities.
But Soccer Mom didn’t stop there. As teams formed and clubs scheduled weekend games, then playoffs and tournaments, Soccer Mom expanded her role. Now, in addition to showing up on game day to cheer, she must bring snack, plan the team party, schedule team pictures, order team trophies, stock the first aid kit, keep the roster…well, you get the picture. She is juggling it all behind the scenes so the kids can have fun and get some exercise.
Soccer Mom has taken on a life of her own.
Where did soccer Mom come from?
I believe Soccer Mom is the new Super Mom. You remember Super Mom. She had a full time job, kept house, volunteered in her children’s schools, participated in community activities, and was fully present for husband and children whenever they were in need. Perhaps she leapt tall buildings in a single bound in her spare time. After a while, with no cape or super powers, this heroic lifestyle takes its toll. Super Mom had a decision to make: keep everything afloat and watch herself self-destruct or sacrifice something to continue her quality performance with the rest. Out of self-preservation, Super Mom gave up the paying job (or moved to part time) and re-invented herself as Soccer Mom.
She may have traded heels for sneakers, but she’s still Super Mom. She has thrown herself full force into her children’s activities with the gusto she used to reserve for the office. She has taken her job performance to the sidelines, along with her social life, professional parenting and sometimes, office politics. Usually, soccer Mom doesn’t get much glory. Perhaps a bouquet and a thanks at the team banquet.
That’s a big paycut.
I wasn’t ready for the sidelines when I first made that transition. Happily, a veteran coach asked me to be his assistant. I took to the field instead of the sidelines. But I understood the parents’ wanting to be part of the team, so I made sure all them were given the chance to participate. The Moms and Dads on my teams were incredibly gracious. The kids vs parents soccer game was always the highlight of the season.
Unfortunately, other coaches did not have the same experience with their parents. Especially as the kids got older, the competition stiffer and the parents more bold, a new breed of “soccer Mom” emerged. And this, let me say, came in both male and female varieties. It wasn’t so gracious. It could be loud and confrontational. Or deceptively quiet but deadly. Cheering and snack time were giving way to hollering and criticism. I saw it all.
I was a Mom, drove an SUV, and my kids played soccer. So, was I a soccer Mom? I didn’t like how Soccer Mom lore was evolving, so, from the beginning I steered clear of the label. Today, I’m glad I did, because people don’t like her very much. What went wrong?
Part 2: Where Did Soccer Mom Go Wrong?
Part 3: Redeeming Soccer Mom