I don’t know about you—but my body is definitely not the same since I gave birth. Sparing the gory details, let’s just say that some parts are not where they once were. So, for that reason (among many others), I was blown away by watching the Olympic champions competing in Rio de Janeiro this year…who also happen to be moms.

“How do they do it?” I ask myself. These moms prove that women aren’t past their prime after producing life, instead they highlight how powerful moms are by competing and excelling in the Olympic games. I figure, perhaps it’s because of how powerful we have to be every single day. I mean, let’s be real: women who can withstand childbirth can break records in any endeavour we set our minds to. We can achieve all of our goals and make our dreams come true, because we’ve already faced the greatest challenge: kids.

Despite what we all know to be true, these women are breaking through numerous societal barriers with their successes. They actually prove that women’s bodies can recover from childbirth to the degree that they can perform at the same level they did before they had children. They show us that the obstacles presented by aging can be blurred if we work hard enough. And they drive home the knowledge that there is no expiration date on a woman’s ability to achieve success.

I am approaching that intimidating “Over the Hill” marker next year. I’ll be 40 and if I’m honest, I have been feeling pretty negatively about reaching mid-life. But no more; these champions have inspired me. It’s clear to me now that as long as we have more time on this planet, we can continue to shatter all boundaries and expectations. They show us that stretch marks don’t make us less streamlined and birthdays are just markers of time spent getting better.

3 Mom Athletes to Watch

These great moms caught my undivided attention during the Rio Olympics and should become part of every mom’s inspirational repertoire.

Kerri Walsh Jennings, Beach Volleyball Player

I remember Kerri Walsh Jennings’ amazing volleyball skills from the Olympics four years ago, but it wasn’t until I saw the video that provided a peek into her family life, that I became enthralled.

Kerri is 38 years old and the mother to three young children ages three, six, and seven. Amazingly, she was five weeks pregnant as she won gold in 2012 at the London Summer Olympics!

She captured Olympic gold medals in 2004, 2008, and 2012, and she just went home with the bronze from Rio. She holds a remarkable title as the most decorated beach volleyball player—male or female—in Olympic history.

What I loved most about her is that she is clearly a very active mom. She talks about the challenges of juggling motherhood and volleyball, and how she feels like she doesn’t have enough time. Her husband has said that she never wants to leave the kids, but her strong drive to play volleyball keeps her going. She is very open about how her children have aided in her success both on and off the sand. Kerri’s message is that you don’t have to give up your dreams when you become a mother and your children can still be a large part of your life as you work towards your goals.

Dana Vollmer, Swimmer

Dana Vollmer, whose tagline on her website is “Momma On a Mission”, is 28 years old and has a 17-month-old son. Although there were reports that her competitive swimming career was over after becoming a mom in March 2015, Dana became the first American swimmer to win an Olympic gold after giving birth. She left Rio with one gold, one silver, and one bronze medal.

She told ESPN that she promised herself that she would return to the pool with her son by her side. According to the article, “She wanted to show how powerful mothers could be and prove that becoming a parent didn’t mean giving up your life. It was possible to do both.”

Oksana Chusovitina, Gymnast

This 41-year-old gymnast has a 17-year-old son. She is one of only a few women to return to international gymnastics competition after becoming a mother. In Rio, she set a new record as the oldest gymnast to ever compete at the Olympic Games and the only gymnast ever to compete in seven consecutive Olympic Games. The media liked to point out that her son is older than most of the other gymnasts she was competing against.

Through her career, she has represented the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan, and Germany. She also holds the record for the most individual world championship medals on a single event (nine on the vault).

Role Models For Our Daughters

These women inspire me and I am so grateful for their perseverance and achievements, because sure, we need them as role models—but perhaps, more importantly, they are the role models our daughters need.

Sandi Schwartz

Sandi Schwartz

Sandi Schwartz is a freelance writer, editor, and researcher specializing in parenting, wellness, environmental issues, and human behavior. She enjoys analyzing everyday life using science, humor, and a passion to improve the world. Her blog www.happysciencemom.com provides a parenting toolkit for raising happy, balanced children. To learn more about her work, please visit www.sandischwartz.com.

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