I've come to expect at least two full-on emotional meltdowns from myself per fall.
My husband is a high school football coach in Texas and has (more often than not) been on high-achieving staffs and coached well into playoffs...which means that the 70+ hour work weeks that begin in August last through November, and often right up to Christmas.
Before we had kids, I'd spent after-work hours by myself until he got home, and every Friday night, I'd travel to his ballgames. On Saturdays, he'd work much of the day and usually report for a few hours on Sundays as well. We got a dog, and that helped the loneliness.
Once we had kids, his schedule stayed the same, but mine shifted. I stopped working for a while, so work-related fatigue was gone, but the hours at home without another adult in sight stretched from 5 am to 7 pm on non-game days. On game days, I'd load up my baby (and later, babies) and head out for a late night, unsure if I'd be able to watch much of the competition but committed to being present.
That commitment increased as the kids got older--I felt like I HAD to be there so the kids could see their dad for a bit. You know, that golden-hour quality time a kindergartener loves to participate in at 10 pm on a Friday night after they've been told, "No more concession stand snacks!" and, "sit down, you're going to fall through the bleachers!" seventy-eight times an hour for the last three hours. Post-game is a top-tier family photo opportunity, amiright?
It was exhausting, but I didn't see any other way. It is the way it is. If we want to keep up with him, this is what we do, whatever it costs.
His work is noble. He is where he's supposed to be, so I need to just find my bootstraps, give them a pull, and make it work. And every fall, I'd hit the wall at least twice.
Worn out, exhausted, depleted, done.
In 2022, I didn't go to as many games. The weather wasn't always great, so we skipped a few rainy nights and stayed home instead. We had a couple of forfeits (weird, but I'll take it).
The kids were still little, but they were getting bigger, and I'd started working again. Work invited me to travel some. My husband encouraged me to go full tilt and made sacrifices to keep the house running well for our kids.
I'd always assumed that wasn't an option. Turns out, he'd been rooting for me the whole time (and encouraging me to skip some games).
Speaking of which, missing games wasn't as big of a deal as I thought. I discovered that I'd been telling myself a story—that I was going to games to be a supportive wife, an advocating mother, and a fan of the program.
That was all partially true. But I was also going to make sure I looked good—looked like a supportive wife, looked like an advocating mother, looked like a fan of the program.
And that's where the freedom has come in the last two seasons: letting go of looking good.
If I am committed to being a supportive wife, who do I need to be?
Someone who attends every game, no matter what, and no matter the consequences? Or someone who makes decisions that allow her to stay energized and supportive?
If I am committed to being an advocating mom, who do I need to be?
Someone who makes sure her kids don't miss an under-the-lights ten-minute opportunity to hug dad? Or someone who slows down and calculates what makes sense for her children right now. What's wanted and needed this week? If love is fierce advocacy; what kinds of decisions might a loving mother-of-coaches-kids make?
And if I'm committed to being a fan of the program—why am I burning myself out and showing us as embers? Why am I making sure I show up physically but resentful?
I realized no one had made me do any of the things that were wearing me out. I'd chosen it all.
So what's the new system?
For me, it's been rest.
Doing my work and using my smart brain a little more.
Missing enough games that I miss being at the games.
Allowing myself the emotional bandwidth to be invested in the outcome of the season.
That's the system, and it's working for now. We'll adjust it as circumstances change.
Remember: the system is ours to maintain, tweak, or overhaul. Speak up for yourself—to yourself.