If juggling was an Olympic sport, parents would likely sweep the podium. And parents who are already Olympians would take the gold.
Take five-time Olympic beach volleyball player — and four-time medalist — Kerri Walsh Jennings and seven-time Olympic gymnastics medalist Shannon Miller. These Olympic moms have proven they can balance sport and work life, but what happens when you throw kids into the mix?
With school starting back up for their little ones, the two admit it’s not an easy task, but one they love more than anything. We asked them their tips for getting out the door in the mornings and their number one rule when it comes to school.
1) What are your kids’ names, ages and grades?
Walsh Jennings: Joey Michael, age 9 (Grade 3); Sundance Thomas, age 8 (Grade 2); and Scout Margery, age 5 (kindergarten)
Miller: Rocco, age 8 (Grade 3) and Sterling, age 5 (kindergarten)
2) What are your first day of school traditions?
Walsh Jennings: The whole family goes together for drop-off. I cry every time.
Miller: Our biggest first day of school tradition, like many families, is getting a photo of the kids with their backpacks. It’s always fun to look back and see how much they’ve grown and changed each year.
I hold it together pretty well until the kids are in school, then I have a bit of a cry wondering how it’s possible the summer went so quickly. Then I realize how much time I have to get things done before I pick them up!
3) What are your biggest time-saving tips for parents trying to get out the door quickly (and with sanity) throughout the school year?
Walsh Jennings: Pack everything (backpacks, lunches, snacks, clothing changes, etc.) the night before! Lay out uniforms/clothes the night before!
Miller: I’m a planner and I like a schedule. Years of training will do that. My biggest tip is anything you can prepare the night before, do it. I want our kids to learn that it’s helpful to be organized and prepared. We do “teamwork,” which means we work together to get things ready.
I make sure they know the 3-5 things that need to be accomplished and those items they need to personally own. They love picking out their clothes and making snacks the night before, which makes mornings infinitely more efficient!
That being said, I also plan for things to take longer than it should. We may see a cool caterpillar on the way to the car and we’re going to have to check it out. I can stay sane and enjoy the moment knowing that we don’t have to rush.
4) Will your children be playing any sports during the school year?
Walsh Jennings: Our kids will play whatever sport is in season — soccer, Little League baseball, they’ll also do jujitsu.
Miller: Yes, and lots of them. Sleep is so essential and the best way to get good sleep...tire them out. Our kids are 5 and 8 and they seem to love every sport — they just like being active and with their friends. So throughout the year they’ll do everything from swimming, tennis and golf to gymnastics, soccer, ninja and sailing; just not all at the same time.
5) If you pack school lunches, what kind of a lunchbox packer are you?
Walsh Jennings: We primarily use Choice Lunch [a school lunch service that is offered in California]. Packing lunches is not my best skill. If and when we do pack the kids’ lunches, we brown-bag it with a cute note on the bag aimed to express love and make the kids blush.
Miller: We do a mix of school lunches and lunchbox. We’re fortunate that their school does a really good job of healthy school lunches. But sometimes they prefer a lunchbox by Mom.
My daughter isn’t big on having sandwiches for lunch. So, I’ll make her a “munchie lunch.” Basically, I’ll pull together a bunch of smaller items and put them in a cute box for her to pick from. Pepperoni, boiled egg slices, olives, turkey roll-ups, cucumbers, cheese squares, pecans, crackers, fruit, etc. I always send a note or a picture with lunch. “Have an awesome day!” “I love you,” or a rainbow or heart picture.
6) What’s the one thing you rock at as a parent when it comes to school?
Walsh Jennings: Buying school supplies! And helping the babes with their homework.
Miller: I can totally rock pj’s in the drop-off lane. (Is that a thing?) In addition, LOL, I think I do fairly well at keeping track of overall scheduling. Any parent knows it’s a part-time job just keeping everyone’s schedules straight. Add in your actual job, travel schedules, etc. and it’s a work of art to just getting everyone where they need to be with the proper attire and equipment.
7) What’s the one thing you are working on nailing?
Walsh Jennings: Patience.
Miller: Wow, there’s never just one thing, right? I keep reminding myself that a “perfect” parent doesn’t exist. We do the very best we can, we learn from each other and when something doesn’t work, we try something else. That’s where being an athlete helps. You’re used to failing a thousand times, but you know if you keep working at it, you’ll get it right eventually.
8) What is your number one rule when it comes to school?
Walsh Jennings: We aspire to get homework done right after school gets out and after a snack. There is no TV or technology during the week. Our new rule for the weekends is that TV and technology time is equivalent to the time our kids spend reading, writing, doing chores and playing their instruments.
Miller: Most of our rules are the same whether it’s summer or school. Bedtime is bedtime. Tech is kept to a minimum and there is no tech at the table — ever. But our “family rule,” and something we focus on each day, is three-fold: 1) Laugh every day, 2) Learn something new, 3) Say something kind to someone else. If they do that each day, then it’s a good day.