Being a mom is a full-time job, so working moms know that striking the perfect balance between their professional lives and their children is close to impossible. This is especially true for female athletes who are constantly pushing themselves physically and mentally and still must fulfill the demanding role of a mother.
You would think that these remarkable athletes deserve all the support in the world, however, the opposite is often true for mothers and pregnant athletes. This is why Allyson Felix, the most decorated track and field Olympian in history, has announced a partnership with Athleta, her primary sponsor, and Women’s Sports Foundation, to launch a $200,000 grant to cover the childcare costs for professional athletes competing in the 2021 Olympics.
This move is in line with Felix’s advocacy for female athletes that has gained momentum in the past two years. Once Nike was exposed by Olympian runners Alysia Montaño and Kara Goucher for the dreadful way in which the company had treated them while they were pregnant, Felix added her voice to the conversation. In 2019, she told New York Times that she tried to fight Nike’s policy of cutting female athletes’ pay during and after pregnancy. Felix had asked Nike to guarantee that she wouldn’t be penalized if she didn’t perform as well as she normally does in the months surrounding childbirth. As a result, the contract negotiations ground to a halt.
Now, with Athleta, Gap Inc.’s activewear brand, Felix’s needs as an athlete and a mother are being met. Even though Felix is incredibly happy to have this kind of support from a sponsor, she knows all too well that most mom athletes do not. In fact, the sports industry itself has not historically lent much support to mom athletes. Many, like 34-year-old Paralympic volleyball player and mom of three Lora Webster, feel as though they must separate their parent-selves and their athlete-selves. “As moms, there’s so much guilt leaving our babies at home to pursue our sport,” she says. “It’s something we can’t really talk about because it makes us look like we’re not focused on the game.”
Athletes from all sports can apply for a $10,000 grant until the end of August, and all recipients will be announced in October. This is a big deal for many athletes who plan to compete in this year’s Olympic games since many don’t have big sponsorship deals. Along with Webster, eight other athletes have already been selected to receive a grant, including Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry, and Olympic saber fencer Mariel Zagunis.
Source image: Athleta