This one’s for all the football coach’s wives out there raising young children on your own for roughly one-half of every calendar year. We go through some crazy mental and physical demands in our football life. We know and understand the legendary football grind, just like our husbands and their players do. It’s a different sort of grind, but then again, it’s the exact same too.

The grind is both metaphor and metamorphosis. It involves the forging and grinding of iron to steel.  And that process demands four key qualities: hardness, strength, flexibility and balance.

And so it goes with football. Luckily though, what it demands from us all (players, coaches, families), it also gives back to us, tenfold. So keep the faith, coaching wives,  particularly those of you with young children. Having little ones at home makes the grind that much harder — I’m not gonna lie. I’ve lived through that intense heat – with twins (have mercy!). And I’m still in that brimstone today — because they’re only three years old this season.

But I’m also living proof that you can make it through. Deep inside you, you have what it takes to survive the grind of the season. And the next. And the next. And so on. Because yes, football demands hardness and strength and flexibility and balance, but it also gives you hardness and strength and flexibility and balance. So you can do this hard thing.

With regard to the hardness of it all… That first season with our twin boys (they were only four months when August rolled around) felt impossibly hard – like running-a-ten-week-marathon-with-whining-crying-cranky-infants-dangling-off-my-breasts hard. But I got through it. Notice I didn’t say I triumphed. Because I didn’t. It was far from a winning season for me. I felt like I was losing at motherhood and at life every single day. I cried. Every. Single. Day. I remember setting up camp on our king-sized mattress on Sunday afternoons when Mike headed out for meetings – wagon-loads of diapers and wipes for the babies and Kleenex and chocolate for me — and I wouldn’t budge from that spot till he got back home six to eight hours later. I was in total defense mode.

Now, four seasons later, the hardness is still there— again, not gonna lie. But it’s only like running-a-ten-week-plus-playoffs-we-hope-marathon-of-whining-crying-cranky-toddlers-hanging-off-my-hips hard. And I can honestly say I haven’t had a single, solitary mattress camp, so I really have come a long way. Moral of this story: if I can do this hard thing — with twin boys and lots of chocolate—  you can too.

With regard to the strength of it all… For players, strength is built in the weight room and on the field; for coaches, in the war room and on the sidelines; and for wives of young children, it’s built at the dinner table, the bathtub, and the bedside. Alone. Just you and your young charges. And the strength is not merely physical – although toting slippery twin toddlers in and out of a soapy tub most definitely builds muscle tone. It is also strength of character. As your youngsters throw attitude and tantrums and Spaghettios, the strength it takes to shoulder the load all by your lonesome feels ungainly. But it can be done. Yes, you may lose your temper — and occasionally your mind — but it can be done.

There will be fumbles and flags along the way, but you’ll get stronger and more resilient. You’ll get better at defending your end zone, running pass interference, recovering fumbles and most importantly, executing your game plan. Because the best defense is a good offense. And after that first season of pure defense, you can finally start generating an offense. And while sometimes your schemes will fail, many days you’ll find yourself ahead. Each season, you’ll get stronger. Remember that old adage that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? It’s true. You are strong. You are Wonder Woman in training.

And Wonder Woman is nothing if not flexible — that third quality of the grind. She defies the laws of physics in gravity-cheating twists and turns (and bustier), along with acrobatic sword play. I wish I could say I’m as flexible as she is. But I can say I’m getting better.

Now that first season with twins, flexibility was my biggest weakness. If Mike said he’d be home at 7:30, by golly, he’d better be home by 7:30. My blood pressure exploded otherwise. And seeing how often his deadlines came and went without him walking through the door, it’s a wonder this woman didn’t stroke out (see what I did there?😀) I was bitter and exhausted and alone. The boys’ bellies hardened with colic every night at 7, and my heart hardened with rancor at the exact same instant. Once Mike finally came in, I fell apart.

Flexibility is hard to find when you’re in such a fragile, brittle state. And some of you are there right now… and I feel your pain. But it does get better. Your kids won’t stay that age forever. They grow and so do you. Your exhaustion subsides and your hard nose softens. You allow yourself to relax, and eventually you find you can stretch into a season routine that fits you best.  It’ll never be effortless; it’ll never be comfortable – the grind is never comfortable — but you’ll be flexible enough for it to fit without too much pain.

Which brings me to balance – the final quality, and a tough one at that. Wives carry a lot of weight during season. And sometimes we need to redistribute the burden so we can keep moving forward – or at least stay upright. And that’s not always possible to do on our own.  But the thing about football is, it’s a team sport. Nobody goes through the grind alone. Nobody. Otherwise, no one would make it through. You need teammates. You need people blocking for you, running interference for you, and occasionally carrying the ball for you. Because even the strongest and hardest and most flexible among us can’t carry the weight all by ourselves. Part of being balanced is knowing how much weight you can take on without toppling. So when that load gets too heavy, find a teammate to help. Find a friend, a family member, another football wife.

Now it’s kind of hypocritical for me to tell you all to ask for help when I’m the absolute world’s worst at doing it myself. I don’t ask. I’m too proud — which just plain makes me stupid. Don’t be me.

Luckily, I have family and friends and the most amazing group of coaching wives on my team. They yank me out of rotation when I’m just about ready to fall over, and they save the game every time. My mother and my best friend are my biggest backups. I remember that first season and months and months of no sleep – as in twin-boys-up-fourteen-times-a-night-for-over-a-year no sleep. But they tag teamed, took a night shift, and put me on the bench. It was a game changer — a grind changer, if you will.

These days, my mom comes once a week to play with the boys and give me some air. And the coach’s wives and I meet up at the practice field on Wednesday afternoons to share stories and laughter and the occasional lament. It helps us remember we’re all in this together – this team sport of football with its legendary grind.

So when searching for a way to balance the overwhelming weight of the season, find someone who’ll help you redistribute the load — if only for a little while. It’s not quitting. It’s resting. It’s all part of the game.

Yes, this one goes out to all the coaches’ wives as we forge our way through the second half of our season. Uncover the hardness, the strength, the flexibility, and the balance within your soul. You’ve got it in there. I know you do. The grind is both a metaphor and a metamorphosis. Turn your iron resolve into steel. You’ve got this.