Tennis Tales: How I Broke Free from Mother’s Guilt To Pursue My Passion

Tennis Tales: How I Broke Free from Mother’s Guilt To Pursue My Passion


I don’t know about you, but I’m the chief coordinator of activities in our house.

This summer, I coordinated the kid’s activities – cricket club, tennis club, horse riding…. and the list goes on.

But I did something unusual this year.  I coordinated activities for myself too! 

For a long while now, I’ve longed to play tennis.

I never properly learnt as a child how to play, and I thought the ship had sailed on learning.

But instead of listening to my mind that I now don’t have time or that I’m too old, I surrendered my mind in service of my deeper longing.

So I booked a lesson with my children’s tennis coach.

And I loved it!

It reminded me of the George Bernard Shaw quote:

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

But it’s more than just playing.

It made me realise that I’d left parts of myself behind in order to succeed earlier in my career.  

The playing part of me got left behind.

And I want to reclaim and integrate that part of myself.

Somewhere along the way, in my attempts to strive hard to do well in life, I became exhausted, and my body and my joy came last.

But I know that wellbeing comes with a full tank of positive energy.  So, to do that, I need to prioritise my body and feel good.

Booking this tennis lesson might sound simple, but it wasn’t.

It required me to pause in the busyness of the school holidays to even think about what I needed and wanted – rather than fall into my default of emotional caretaking for everyone else.

It required me to quieten the chatter in my mind that told me I was silly even to consider taking up tennis as a middle-aged woman.  

It required me to lean into the vulnerability of learning a new skill in full view of my local village – our tennis courts are in the centre of our village green, which meant I was effectively on display for all to see! 

It required me to tolerate my inner judge, wondering what other people would think as my children sat watching me play tennis – rather than the other way around.

But often, it’s the things we find difficult that help us grow – it’s about falling in love with the vulnerable stretch.  

As Leanne Mallorie says in her book Guts & Grace, “ Courageously diving into a new physical practice will boost your capacity to make new moves in other domains, from the boardroom all the way to the bedroom.”

So this was much more than just a tennis lesson.

It was about listening to what my desires are.

It was about leaning into the difficulty of meeting my own needs.

And if you need a nudge to meet your own needs, you might find it helpful to know that mothers have a more significant influence on their children’s activity levels than fathers.

Research by Sport England found that seven in ten (69%) mums think it is vital for their children to see them exercising, BUT six in ten (61%) mums would feel guilty taking time to exercise rather than spending time with their family.

And I get that.  We’re stuck in that double bind.  Feeling responsible for being a good role model but then guilty if we do the things that might make us a good role model.

That’s how messed up motherhood can be – right? 

As Lisa O’Keefe, Director at Sport England, says;

“All of us have a role to play in making mums feel okay about prioritising getting active as they would other things in their lives.”

Please don’t let this be another stick to beat yourself up with if you’re not being active enough.  

But please let it be a nudge to listen to your inner needs.

What’s something that you’ve been longing to do?

Here’s to prioritising our play as much as our children’s!

P.S.  If you’re interested in how you integrate your life, work and motherhood in a more successful and sustainable way, you might want to join me for this free webinar that I’m hosting in celebration of Work Life Week.

Supporting Working Parents: Insights for the post-pandemic era

Date and time:

Tuesday 26th September at 12.30pm BST



During this online event, you will:

  • Learn evidence-based insights on the impact of post-pandemic working patterns on working parents
  • Gain clarity on the questions you need to consider to ensure long-term success for post-pandemic working patterns
  • Explore strategies for supporting working parents to make a win-win for all employees and your organisation

Join us for this thought-provoking discussion where you’ll learn, interact and share with other organisations.


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