As the Women’s World Cup approaches in Australia and New Zealand, an encouraging development can be seen for soccer-playing mothers. Progress has been made since the 2019 tournament to better accommodate working mothers, allowing them to participate fully in the sport. This blog post explores the strides taken by FIFA to support maternity leave for professional women footballers, the challenges faced by athlete-mothers, and the inspiring stories of working mothers participating in the upcoming World Cup.
Breaking Down Barriers:
In December 2020, FIFA approved groundbreaking rules guaranteeing maternity leave for professional women footballers, signifying a significant step forward for the women’s game. The regulations grant players 14 weeks of maternity leave and require clubs to retain and provide medical support for the athletes. This move was crucial for FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who recognized the importance of boosting women’s soccer globally.
While these rules contribute to career stability for players, they only scratch the surface of transforming the overall culture of the sport. Ali Bowes, a senior lecturer in the Sociology of Sport at Nottingham Trent University, highlights the challenges faced by athlete-mothers. The guilt associated with pursuing athletic goals while being a mother, along with the complexities of childcare and societal expectations, can create additional hurdles. Elite men’s sports rarely engage in discussions surrounding motherhood and childcare, making it more challenging to address these issues.
Balancing Parenthood and Professionalism:
A 2021 study co-authored by Bowes reveals that professional women footballers in England often feel compelled to choose between being a parent and a professional athlete. Questions arise about how they will be perceived as part of the team and whether their commitment to football will be questioned. These concerns underscore the need for ongoing conversations and support systems that foster an inclusive environment for working mothers.
Despite the obstacles, the upcoming Women’s World Cup boasts an array of working parents determined to defy age-old stereotypes. Players like Jamaica’s Konya Plummer and France’s Amel Majri are demonstrating that being a mother does not hinder their pursuit of glory on the pitch. In the United States, a nation renowned for its success in women’s soccer, 17 current and former players have experienced motherhood while playing the sport. The U.S. Soccer program has been providing assistance to mothers for over 25 years, enabling players like Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn, and Julie Ertz to continue their careers.
A Supportive Environment:
The stories of these remarkable women highlight the significance of creating an inclusive and supportive environment for working mothers. The availability of resources, support networks, and understanding from both clubs and national teams plays a pivotal role in the success and well-being of athlete-mothers. By offering the necessary assistance, women athletes can bounce back and feel welcomed after starting a family, ensuring they continue to contribute to the sport they love.
The FIFA World Cup signifies a turning point for working mothers in the world of soccer. With the introduction of maternity leave regulations and growing recognition of the challenges faced by athlete-mothers, progress is being made. The upcoming tournament provides a platform for soccer-playing moms to shine and inspire others. As we celebrate their achievements, it is crucial to continue advocating for equal opportunities and support systems that enable women to pursue their athletic aspirations while embracing motherhood.