Athletic from the beginning, Olympic swimmer Summer Sanders first jumped into the pool at age four in an effort to keep up with her older brother. Her competitive spirit paid off. Not only has Summer won four Olympic medals in swimming (1992 Barcelona), she launched an on-screen career that today, continues to offer her exciting opportunities. She’s hosted numerous TV shows including FOX’s Skating With Celebrities and FSN’s The Sports List, and has been a commentator and special correspondent for the likes of NBC, The Today Show, Rachel Ray and Good Morning America. Most recently, she starred in the third season of the hit reality show Celebrity Apprentice to raise money for Right to Play – a non-profit organization that provides sports and play programs in countries where children have been most affected by war, poverty and disease.
Amidst all the fantastic career ventures, Summer gets most enthused about her children’s accomplishments. Whether it’s her son braving the first day of preschool pumped about wearing his little backpack or taking her first “girls” trip with her daughter, she can’t imagine anything comparing to the moments when her chest swells with mom pride.
1. What do you love about being a mom?
I love those special moments where they hug you, smile at you, and you get to cuddle with them. You can just feel how important you are to them and how much they need you. There is no other love like it. In between all the chaos, crying and tantrums, if my kids say they love me, hug me, there is just no better feeling.
2. What do you enjoy most about working?
I need a challenge outside of motherhood to feel fresh and energized. It’s what I loved most about doing Celebrity Apprentice. I’m not knocking my mom duties of wiping runny noses, soothing boo-boos, arranging play dates or the other zillion things that go with being a mom, but those three weeks of pulling off projects for Celebrity Apprentice challenged me in a different way. That’s the same reason I did a triathlon this summer, because I had some time on my hands. I have to balance feeling satisfied as a mom and doing what I need to do there, and feeling satisfied as a person – of who I was before I had kids.
3. What’s your biggest challenge in juggling both?
It’s my guilt. Overcoming the feeling of not being able to be enough on either side. Mostly the mommy side. With my work I have to travel and I feel bad when I’m not at home. I have to convince myself that it’s ok to do it. I never want my desires or myself to come before my role as a mom. I always want my job as a mom to be the number one priority.
4. How do you deal with it?
When I’m away and my kids don’t even want to talk on the phone with me because they are having too much fun, it helps remind me that there are other important people in their lives besides me. And I definitely don’t feel guilty when they get to stay with their grandparents because it’s good bonding time.
I also feel very fortunate that I get to do what I do. Travel is a huge part of my life and my husband’s. Our jobs allow us to bring the kids to different parts of the country. It’s nice to be able to share that with my kids and have exploration be a natural part of their lives because of my job. That makes me feel less guilty.
If I’m still questioning myself, I talk to my girlfriends. Every word of encouragement from my girlfriends is a boost up and a little push to continue doing those things that are good for me and my family.
5. How do you re-charge?
Number one for me is exercise – running, swimming, biking, and yoga. And girlfriend nights are a must. I have a really good group of core girlfriends. We are in the same stage of mommyhood and have the same passions and complaints. We have these yoga nights where we do hot, sweaty yoga and then go to movie and have a glass of wine. Date nights with my husband definitely re-charge me too. When we get to “date,” it’s one of the highlights of my week.
6. What advice would you give other women considering being a working mom?
Set your expectations in an achievable way. What I mean by that is, when you start working after you have kids you have to be forgiving of yourself and have a lot of patience with your kids. There is going to be a few more tantrums, a few more meltdowns, and the stress level is going to be higher. You need to be able to shift things to find a balance. Understand that you’re going to be imperfect. Some things are going to give. You have to really focus on what you are doing, whether its work or kids. Definitely figure out how to talk to your spouse in a non-confrontational way so you can figure out, as a team, how to find better balance.
7. Who inspires you?
I’m inspired when I think about how my mom did such a wonderful job as a single parent. I remember one Christmas we didn’t have enough money to buy a tree full price, so we had to wait until Christmas eve to buy it on sale. We went out and bought the tree and then went to McDonald’s for dinner. We, as kids, had such fun that night and it’s one of my best memories. My mom has a hard time believing that, even now. She still feels guilty for not being able to provide more during that time. But making the small things a big deal is what matters to kids.
8. What one thing can you not live without?
Running shoes. A run brings everything back together for me. It clears my mind and I’m doing something good for my body. It makes me feel complete.
9. If you had an hour of time to yourself, how would you spend it?
First, I’d go on a 40-minute run in the evening. Then, I’d take a quick shower and shave my legs, and finish with a glass of wine. That would be my one hour of “ahhhh.”