Maybe you’ve seen us walking down to Tom McCall Waterfront Park or spied us on the Willamette in our dragon-shaped boats. Perhaps you have thought to yourself “who are those people?” or “what are they doing?” Well, we are dragon boaters, and we are paddling, but also doing so much more.
I joined a dragon boats team four years ago, before I became a mother. However, this year is the first year I’ve called myself both a mother and a paddler, and I have had a new learning curve in both. I realized recently that my experience in the boat has positively crafted my approach to being a mom in five amazing ways.
Drop your expectations and pick up your curiosity
I was a different person before I had my son, both physically and mentally. When I got back into dragon boats this season I expected to just pick up where I left off. Women are too often sold this “bounce back” business and I am among many who believed it was possible. Even in the rare circumstances where a new mom may get her physical body back, she will never emotionally be who she was before. During one especially hard practice, my lower core cramped up and it dawned on me that my abs had been wrecked by the C-section I had ten months earlier. It wasn’t until I ran head first into this physical ability wall that I realized how severe the impact of child bearing is. At that instant I stopped hanging onto the largely impossible desire to be who I was before, and was instead flooded with a new curiosity of what my post-baby body could do.
Self-care does not equal self-sacrifice
Prior seasons I was happy to be out on the river into the late evening multiple times a week. But once my son was born I had this primal need to be with him, and missing just one nighttime routine a week was a huge emotional sacrifice for me. It was so easy to justify missing happy hours or practices just to get one more hour with him. But after forgoing my need for physical activity, I realized I was not fully present with him even if I was there in person. Moms need that small window to reset; it makes us better mothers. So even though I may be sad in my heart at the moment, I recognize that my commitment to myself does more good for both of us in the long run.
All you gotta do is show up
It doesn’t have to be pretty. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t even have to feel good. All you have to do to be a good mom or a good paddler is just show up. If you keep showing up, you will get really good!
It takes a village to raise a mother
Dragon boats have opened a whole community to me. I paddle on an all-women’s team. Some of us have kids, others don’t, but what’s important is that I have twenty women I can call on when times get tough. Mom groups are great, but usually the main connection you have together is motherhood. With my team, I have a host of women friends where our connections are diverse and varied. It helps me remember that I am not just “Lincoln’s mom,” I am actually my own person too.
Just let go and trust
This is a hard one, I know. On top of my stellar control issues, I also have a big streak of trust issues. In dragon boating you are only one of 22 people on that boat, and you are forced (in a good way) to recognize that the success and safety of the boat is not solely your responsibility. As is the case in raising a new human being. I have to trust that even though my partner doesn’t do it “my way,” his way is still valid. On dragon boats, I have learned the importance of trusting myself. If I can make it through a 2 minute sprint, I can make it through a toddler meltdown.