I had 7 years as a coach’s significant other before we started having kids. I was able to learn from few different women at different stages and different ages of kids. Knowing how hard it was for me personally, I was taking notes for how I would help my future kids through the tough parts of this life. Even with all the time and preparation, I didn’t always get it right. Here are the things I’ve learned so far, the hard way and the easy way.
What I Did Right
I included our kids from the very beginning.
At one of our first schools, the whole team and coaching families were gathered together waiting to hear if we made it into the NCAA tournament. I was sitting next to the head coach’s kid who was about 6 years old. As they announced we were going to make it into the tournament, everyone else around me was cheering and filled with so much excitement.
Everyone except the coach’s kid. She whispered to herself, “I wish we didn’t make it.”
Don’t get me wrong, she was one of her daddy’s biggest fans. But she knew that this meant more time apart.
Her reaction stayed with me. So when we started having our kids, I tried to always highlight the bonuses that come from the coaching life that most other kids don’t get to experience: tailgates, scrimmages, team dinners, and functions. I made an adventure of just stopping by the office or the field when nothing special was going on.
My kids have still (more than once each season) said something along those same lines, but they are quick to remember all the good that comes with that hard.
I made decisions for our family based on what was best for us, and not what I had seen other families do or what others thought was best.
I learned early on that most people won’t understand our lifestyle.
“Why isn’t your husband around more?"
"Why can’t he just take a day off?”
The group of people who can truly understand the sacrifices, the extra burdens, the pressures, and the uncertainties that we face at all times is very small.
So I decided early on, it didn’t matter how big or small the choice was, I wasn’t going to let the weight of other people’s opinions push us into doing anything that didn’t work for us.
What I Would Have Done Differently
At first, I tried to make up for coach’s absence.
I signed up for all the things: class mom, PTA chair, church volunteer, youth sports, and so many playdates. I also filled almost every spare second with activities to distract the kids when coach was away and to make up for lost time when he was home. It took me until kid #3 to realized I'd worn myself out.
It was exhausting and obviously impossible. Now, I make sure to put boundaries and limits to what we all do. I don’t let the fear of missing out or the desire to overcompensate for coach's lack of presence dictate our schedules.
The hardest thing I’ve had to do is move my kids.
Moving was a topic I rarely, if ever, brought up with them. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to admit it was a possibility or maybe because I didn’t want them to live with that cloud over their heads, too.
But because I ignored the topic, it came as a complete, world-upending shock to them. And during the process, I was focused on my two youngest (one was in the terrible twos and one had always struggled with anything new).
So when my typically over-confident, makes-friends-easily, oldest kid stood in the background and was a shell of himself the first week at the new bus stop, I questioned everything I believed about our calling as a coaching family.
Now, I do what I should have done from the beginning. I mention it as a possibility from time to time.
Even though I still have no interest in ever moving again, there’s a lot of this life that’s out of our control.
Even after 10 years, I know there are still many lessons I’ll learn (or need to relearn). We haven’t come to the point where the kids' activities compete with coach’s schedule yet. I don’t expect to get everything right.
I just remind myself that the most important part is that the kids are learning them right along with me.