We recently had the chance to talk with Lashinda Demus, Olympic hurdler and mother of five-year-old twins, Duaine and Dontay, about balancing life as a star-athlete and mom. Here, the 29-year-old track star shares her struggle with pregnancy and her experience adjusting expectations in order to fulfill her dream to become a legendary competitor and parent.
Do you think that in today’s society there is pressure for women to establish their career first and then have family, rather than the other way around?
I think that [we put pressure] on ourselves. The more vocal women are, the more we want to attain and do [we think], “Well I just need to get straight first.” And I think, “What happens to having a union and you guys working together?” Some women think when you become a mom or married, you automatically fit into this box of what a wife and a mother are supposed to be. I fell into that, too. I would find myself not dressing up, not going anywhere, and just making sure [my boys] look good. I didn’t care how I looked. I had to snap out of that.
Your biography refers to your pregnancy as unplanned. What was the original plan?
I always wanted kids, but my plan from the beginning was to compete until 2012, which would have me making three Olympic teams. I made ’04 my junior year in college, and then I hoped to make ’08 and then ’12. Then, I’d be 29 and start having a family. My husband and I were together for four or five years before I got pregnant in 2007. It wasn’t planned at all and I don’t think I was ready to have kids and that’s why I went into my little depression. I find that I’m more attached and more hands-on now because I constantly think about how I didn’t even want to be pregnant and that sets me straight. Now I’ve made my twins a part of my dreams.
Once your life started to take this different course, did you consider becoming a non-working mom?
I did not. I would get discouraged because I knew my body went through a drastic change and I thought “I don’t know how I’m going to get back to being number one in the world athletically, after having two human beings in my body.” I’m actually one of those women that won’t mind being the stay-at-home-mom. That’s one of the things that I think I’ll like to do. But at that point, I knew I was gonna get back at it.
You said your goal was to go through 2012.
I’m going to go to 2016. Once you’ve run as long as I have—I’ve been running since I was five years old—you want to make sure you finish the book. I want four things out of my track career and that’s an American record—which I have—a world championship title—which I have—Olympic gold and a world record. Almost had that gold this year, so I have two more on the bucket list.
Do you see that in your boys, that thirst to be the best?
I see not a will to be the best, but I see them wanting to please me, and that’s scary. That’s why I kind of keep them away from track…for a while. I don’t want them to think they have to stand up to what I’ve done. To me, that’s a lot of pressure. I want them to be passionate about something, but not passionate about pleasing me or outdoing me.
How is it being the mom of twins?
I always wanted twins that had that “I feel what you feel” thing, and they really have that. They’re best friends. My family is a family full of fraternal twins: My great-grandmother had four sets and they’re all fraternal.
That’s quite the legacy. In past interviews you mentioned that your legacy is what you want to leave your boys. Other than the markers, what message do you want your legacy to send them?
The message of greatness—not just in athletics, in whatever you’re passionate about. Since I was a little kid, something was put in me that I’m the best at this. I want them to just exude greatness. I’m going to have grandkids one day so I want them to have an example of “she was a woman, a mother, an athlete and she still, she put her best on the line all the time.”
With the end of the London Olympics rapidly approaching, you may have noticed that there hasn’t been much coverage of baseball or softball at the Games. Actually, neither sport has been at the Games; after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to remove them.
Jennie Finch is a strong supporter of returning softball to the Olympics. Once called “the most famous softball player in history” by Time, Finch led the U.S. women’s softball team to a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics and a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics. Finch retired in 2010 and now spends most of her time taking care of her children with her husband, baseball player Casey Daigle. They have two sons together, Ace, 6, and Diesel, 1, and Finch recently announced that she is pregnant (congrats, Jennie!).
Tell me about your work with Hershey’s.
The program is something I’ve always been about: balance. Finding balance in your life, and happiness through well-being, and enjoying precious moments that we don’t get very often. I’m excited about putting the “active” part back in family activity. My role within the campaign is promoting a way to live in the moment and enjoy it. I’m one of the Good Life Gurus, and we have a Good Life Promise to live in the moment; for me, it’s finding time to be present with my boys.
You’re promoting how to make physical activity fun for the entire family. What are some ways you keep active with your family?
With our boys, we have so much fun with just a cardboard box or a ball. My husband gets involved with playing games of Wiffle ball or setting up a goal and playing soccer.
What about your little one?
He just takes off in his walker and chases, follows, and bounces a ball — his favorite toy. On rainy days or days when it’s too hot outside, we build forts inside. We make little treats like banana chocolate chip cookies using Hershey’s recipes. These are the little ways we engage the whole family. We also have a trampoline and play games like tag or hide-and-seek.
Will you encourage your sons to play sports?
Definitely. Having played my whole life, I’ve been able to see firsthand the benefits of sports. There are so many life lessons that transcend the playing field, such as teamwork, leadership, discipline, and sacrifice. My older son is playing T-ball now and we’ll see if he likes it. There is so much pressure at a young age to be part of individual and team sports, but whatever his passions are, we’ll let him decide what he wants to do.
You showed the world that it’s possible to be feminine and an athlete. What’s your message for little girls who want to play with dolls but who also want to get dirty?
I loved having a bow in my hair and I did wear makeup on the mound, but to each her own. You can still compete and be whoever you want to be, in whatever makes you feel comfortable. One of the greatest things about sports is the diversity within it. There’s room for everything. It doesn’t discriminate against anybody. It’s about ability and having fun, being outside, being active. Off the softball field, I always tell young kids, young girls especially, to find their gift and run with it. We’re all made differently. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Instead of constantly comparing ourselves with others, find your gifts and let them shine.
What did you learn from being an athlete that applies to motherhood?
Sacrifice and discipline. Also, not to take things seriously. With my 6-year-old, I may say, “Crying will only get you a snotty nose and all worked up over nothing.” As an athlete and a mother, you just have to let loose and have fun with your kids while being a kid with them.
There are just over 50 days left until the start of the London Olympics and we couldn’t be more excited! While all of the athletes are undeniably talented, we’ll be cheering a little louder for all of the parents who will be competing. Raising kids and preparing to win gold? That deserves a medal in and of itself.
But there’s one other person (well, more like a monster) we’ll be pulling for: Elmo!
To show the International Olympic Committee (IOC) how serious he is about his quest, Elmo has made a video where he tries a few sports. Yes, he struggles with the hurdles and has some difficulty with weight-lifting, but we admire Elmo’s determination. Those of you with toddlers know how difficult it can be to teach them to persevere.
Mother’s Day came a little early for the moms of 800 Olympic and Paralympic athletes of 2012. At an emotional press conference in New York City, where a handful of Team USA’s shining stars sat hand and hand with their moms, officials from Procter & Gamble played the role of fairy godmother yesterday.
The company was announcing its new “Thank You, Mom” campaign, which awarded each mom a $1,000 Visa Gift Card to offset the travel costs to London this summer, allowing them to attend the Olympic Games to see their children compete.
The announcement brought tears to the eyes of Sarah Robles (weight lifting) and her mother Joy Robles because Joy has been forced to miss many of her daughter’s competitions due to the high cost of travel the family simply cannot afford. “We haven’t had a lot of money,” Robles told Parents.com. “My mom had to pay for my dad’s dialysis treatments, medical bills for my grandparents before they passed away plus all of the expenses for me and my siblings. Knowing she finally has the opportunity to be with me at the most important moment of my life means the world to me.”
In addition to the $1000 gift card, P&G is taking other steps to ensure that attending the Olympics will not impose a financial burden on athletes’ moms, allowing them to focus on watching their sons and daughters compete. To do this the company is building the P&G Family Home, which will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology, travel products and supplies–P&G products such as Pantene, Crest, Duracell and Gillette–and will provide food, lodging, and transportation to and from the events at no cost to the moms.
“I can’t describe how much it means to me to have my mom there with me,” said Ashton Easton, a Decathlon competitor attending the event with his mom, Roslyn, who worked three jobs to support him as a single parent.
“My drive, determination and mentality all stem from the things my mom taught me. Even if I trip and fall this summer during my race my mom taught me, ‘Always finish with grace no matter what.’”