How does she do it? Hayley Wickenheiser

Olympic athlete Hayley Wickenheiser speaks to us about her lengthy hockey career and the joys of parenting.

Photo by Todd Korol

As a four-time Olympic medallist, women’s hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser, 33, manages to balance her everyday life with her 12-year-old son, Noah, and both her studies at the University of Calgary and her ongoing dedication to our national pastime. Now she’s involved with Walmart Canada’s Mom Of The Year campaign, which runs until July 8th, 2012.

On parenting:
What’s your parenting philosophy?

I try to parent with fairness while also giving him the ability to have his own mind and not be afraid to make mistakes. I’m certainly not a micro-managing type of parent. I’m probably more laid-back in my approach.

What’s the most unexpected thing you discovered only after you became a mom?
The lack of sleep that you get in the early days when they are so young. Certainly that was a big adjustment, especially being an athlete [because] all of a sudden it’s not so much about you anymore, it’s about your child.

What’s the best parenting advice you ever got?
Just to be yourself and that there’s no perfect parent or way to do things. Everybody has their own style [and] we should respect that.

On relationships:
What is your secret to a happy relationship?

(laughs) I don’t know that I have a secret but I think that in a relationship with anybody it’s important to have good communication and open discussions that go back and forth.

On career:
What is the most rewarding thing about being a hockey player?

I would say the ability to inspire people, particularly young people. I get to hear a lot of stories from young girls who will write in and say that they were inspired by watching us or that it made it OK for them to go try out for hockey or do something strong as a female. At the end of the day, it’s not about how many medals you win, it’s about the people that you meet and the relationships that you develop.

What is your favourite career highlight?
There are two. The Salt Lake City gold medal win in 2002 was an amazing hockey victory because we did it against all odds and we beat the United States on their home soil. It was after September 11th so there was so much emotion around it. So that was incredibly rewarding. [The other is] winning the gold medal in Vancouver in 2010. You really can’t beat winning an Olympic gold medal on your home soil so that was pretty special and something I don’t think I’ll ever have a chance to do again in my career.

You’re studying for a degree in kinesiology. Where do you see your career in 10 years?
I’m currently preparing to write the MCAT for medical school admission. I applied to medical school at the University of Calgary so, if I’m not in hockey, I’ll probably be either practising as a doctor or pursuing it.

On food:
What is your no-fail, go-to meal everyone in your family will eat?

Bugs & Cheese. It’s a certain brand of organic macaroni and cheese.

How would you describe a typical dinner in your home?
Usually on-the-run. It comes in between swimming and hockey practice. Controlled chaos, probably, is a good way to put it.

On downtime:
What are your favourite me-time activities to do?

I love anything that has to do with the outdoors. I spend a lot of time on our family farm in Saskatchewan but, really, my favourite thing to do overall is hang out with Noah because I’m often gone a lot. So, when I get the chance to hang out watching his swim meets or doing things that he likes to do, that’s fun for me.

What do you do that makes your son say, ‘You are so much fun!’?
I don’t think he would! (laughs) I think kids don’t really care what you do as a parent, they care about who you are when you’re with them. So when I’m present and we have water balloon fights or bake cookies and burn them, I think he would say that it’s a lot of fun because mom was present and not worried about her hockey career.

When was the last time you looked around and thought, ‘This is a good moment’?
[Recently] Noah wasn’t feeling very good. He’s 12, so he doesn’t really like to cuddle, but I got to cuddle with him and we watched Mission: Impossible. I remember saying to myself, ‘This is great’ because there will come a day when he won’t want to do that anymore and I was really loving that moment.