Olympic Athlete Picabo Street on the Trials and Triumphs of Motherhood
7 mins read

Olympic Athlete Picabo Street on the Trials and Triumphs of Motherhood

Ten years ago, Olympian Picabo Street’s passion was the ski slopes. Today, its her family. And while she’s still proud of the three Olympic medals she won (tucked away safely at her mom’s house in Park City) it’s her three kids with husband John – -Eli, 6, Trey, 5 and Dax, 5 months — that make her beam with pride.

While she ventured back to the slopes and the spotlight during the 2010 Winter Olympic games — as both mentor to Lindsey Vonn and special correspondent for the Today show –Picabo is now back to being a mom, and focusing on her other passions such as advocating for women’s health and fundraising for charities. We sat down with her to speak candidly about the difference between her boys, raising a blended family, and yes, occasionally bribing her kids at Walmart.

So it’s obviously a big change for you to be on the sidelines this year, not speeding down the slopes. How’s the transition been from professional athlete to “mom”?

It was surprisingly easy for me to make the jump. I think I was just ready and it was the right time. One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed is that when I was competing it was all about me. As an athlete you have to put yourself first and be selfish. But when you are a mother you put yourself on the back burner. Your children become your priority and the first thing that you think about. When I was racing it was about being the best athlete and continuing to improve and as mother it is about being the best mother I can be.

What’s been the biggest surprise for you as a parent?

The biggest surprise for me has been how TOTALLY different my kids are and how visible the differences are. Eli is focused and will bargain with me and Trey is clever and can also be very goofy. Dax is also his own little guy but he’s so young so it’s hard to say exactly what kind of kid he’s going to be! Another surprise was the unconditional love i could feel for and receive from my kids. Everyday this amazes me.

Ok, we want to dispel some rumors about your upbringing and your name. Were you really raised by “hippies” and along with your siblings, allowed to name yourself?

No! I think people assume that because we had a garden, pigs and chickens, and we baked our own bread (and yes, my dad had a ponytail) that we were raised in a very liberal, “hippie” household. That wasn’t the case at all. My dad ran a very tight ship and we had real boundaries. We had no tv and we ran free but we knew my mom had a whistle. If you were too far out of whistle range, you were too far from home. And as far as my name, I didn’t name myself and while there’s a connection to the children’s game (peek-a-boo, I see you), Picabo was the name of a nearby town, and it comes from a Native American word that means “shining waters” or “silver creek.”

Not many realize that you have a blended family – with trey – your son from a previous marriage, John’s son Eli from his first marriage and 5 month old Dax you had together.

It’s really a His, Mine and Ours story in our house and we worked really hard to get to the place we are — it was the focus of our relationship for the first 3 years together. We knew that it had to work for our kids for it to ultimately work for us. And it’s going really well! When Dax came along, he was the glue that really made everything stick — we’re all a very happy bunch right now. And having a happy home is really important to us — we want to make sure that our kids look back and remember that we were the family always dancing in the kitchen, singing in the car, wrestling and playing with our horses.

So…any more kids for you and John?

After Dax, we really started evaluating our time. And we came to the conclusion together that we were “complete’ and really, we were done expanding our family. And then I found Essure – a permanent birth control procedure which I recently underwent and liked so much that I’m there official spokeswoman! I really felt it was important to educate women about their options because I was really disappointed that this option wasn’t originally presented to me and I had to find out about it myself!

Do you feel like there’s a pretty equal distribution of labor in your house and that you and John, as parents are on the same page?

Absolutely! We really are a 50/50 family. If John cooks, I clean; If I cook, John cleans. And we love to work on projects together — we’ll send the kids to John’s mom’s house and just hammer at things together. As far as our parenting style, we’re also really in sync – there’s no ‘good cop, bad cop.” And there’s definitely no spanking in our house. You don’t hit to teach not to hit!

Any other parenting secrets you would like to share?

My main parenting philosophy is this: Stay one step ahead of your kids and set them up for success as often as possible. For example – if I’ve taken the boys to Walmart, I know they are going to want things (what kid wouldn’t?) and that there’s a good chance there’s going to be some whining(ok, begging) making the outing unpleasant for everyone. So I give them both four quarters which they can spend if they can behave themselves in the store. But if they beg, I take away a quarter. Keep begging, and all four quarters are gone. Maybe it’s bribery — but it’s working. And it teaches my kids to understand consequences and a little bit about money too!

So, what else are you passionate about now and what’s on the horizon?

In addition to my work with Essure, I’m also very involved with the National Children’s Alliance, a child advocacy organization focused on awareness and prevention of child abuse and I care deeply about Helmet safety. Over the next few years, through my Street of Dreams Foundation, I have some very big plans. I want to set up a grant program and be able to make a difference in people’s lives. I also want to get my charity program that I run during the Sundance Film festival up and running again after a two year hiatus. And my horses…they are such a mirror of me and how I am and where I am. I’ll always stay connected to my horses.

About the Author

Romi Lassally is the founder of truuconfessions.com and the author of True Mom Confessions: Real Moms Get Real.

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