Like so many Canadians, Meaghan Mikkelson’s priorities are firmly rooted in a love for her family and teammates and respect for the game. A graduate of The University of Wisconsin’s hockey program, Meaghan led the team to back-to-back NCAA Championships, won the Olympic gold medal for Canada in Vancouver 2010 and followed that up with a win at the 2012 IIHF World Hockey Championships. In Sochi in 2014, Meaghan added an element of hockey toughness to her growing resume. Playing with a broken hand in the Olympic Final versus the USA, she assisted on the opening goal for Canada that sparked the comeback that will be talked about for decades. Meaghan joined teammate Natalie Spooner on Season 2 of The Amazing Race Canada winning an impressive 7 stages en route to finishing second in the finale. They were voted “Canada’s Favourite Team” by fans of the number-one ranked show in the country. After Sochi, Meaghan took some time off from hockey to have a baby before returning to the team with the goal of representing Canada in Pyeongchang 2018. She was successful in doing so, and helped Canada bring home a silver medal. Following the 2018 Olympics, Meaghan and her husband Scott decided it was time to add another “player to their team” and Meaghan took another year off to have her second baby. Though it would be easy to put her skates away and retire now, she’s not done yet. With her sights set on the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, Meaghan is facing some of the greatest challenges she has ever encountered in her career as she balances motherhood and career. But that’s not going to stop her.
In this episode:
- Being a fearless parent, pursuing your goals and your dreams while raising human beings, is hard! Avoid comparisons and judgement, stay in your lane, and recognize the amazing things you are doing and the fearlessness this requires.
- Self-care and wellness does not involve a one size fits all approach. Do your research, try things out, and see what works for you.
- It takes a village, in motherhood, in work, and in pursuing Olympic dreams! It’s important to recognize when and where we need help and to not be afraid to ask for it.
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On this episode of The Part-Time Jungle Podcast, I had a truly amazing conversation with Meaghan about motherhood, hockey, the Amazing Race Canada, wellness and self-care, her challenges and successes, and strategies that have helped her along the way.
If you prefer to listen, check out Episode 28 of The Part-Time Jungle Podcast.
I was absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to have this conversation with Meaghan! However, I will admit that I was so nervous but… this quickly slipped away as soon as we started chatting. Meaghan is down to earth, easy to talk to, incredibly warm and kind, and keeps it real when it comes to the juggle of motherhood and work.
Being a professional athlete is a large part of Meaghan’s work and what she does. However, she sees herself as any other mom or any other dad or parent out there. She is trying to balance everything and to do all of the things. Meaghan is trying to be good at her job and also be the best parent she can be.
CANADIAN NATIONAL WOMEN’S HOCKEY TEAM
Meaghan is 35 years old, a mom of a five-year-old and a two-year-old, and is training full-time with the Canadian National Women’s Hockey Team. She is hoping to play in her fourth Olympics coming up in 2022 in Beijing, China. As a female hockey player, it’s not really a lucrative sport. The pay equity is not there and so Meaghan has to work on the side as well. Having said this, she knows that she is very lucky to do what she does. Meaghan does a lot of public speaking and event appearances. She has a number of great sponsors and is a brand ambassador for them. She is able to tie her work outside of hockey, back into hockey.
With Meaghan’s kids being quite young, it is very hands on and busy but also amazing. She faces the same challenges that any parent, working parent or parent that is home with their kids does, trying to do all of the things.
BEING A FEARLESS PARENT
Meaghan says that it is absolutely fearless to be pursuing your goals and your dreams while raising human beings. You are raising the future citizens of our society while trying to pursue your own passions. That is absolutely fearless and it’s not easy. It’s very hard to do.
AVOID COMPARISON & JUDGEMENT
Meaghan has some strategies that have helped her to stay in that mindset. One is to avoid comparison and judgements. This is so hard to do in this day and age especially with social media. It was hard in the past but now we are on our phones a lot more and are more engaged virtually which is even harder. Basically, we are looking at other people’s lives through a camera.
STAY IN YOUR LANE
It’s hard because you want to stay focused on what you want and what you need. But at the same time, you’re seeing all of these other things that other people are doing. Meaghan says that it is important to really try to stay in your lane. Avoid comparing yourself to other people. What you need, what your kids need, and what your family needs is different on any given day and it’s different for everyone. Comparing is just a waste of time and energy. Meaghan says that avoiding judgements is also important. Judgements are also a huge waste of time and energy. Obviously, we don’t want people judging us based on our decisions that we make as parents or as professionals. Doing that to others is equally unfair.
BE KIND TO OURSELVES
Meaghan reminds us that we should also give ourselves some credit for all that we are doing. We can be very hard on ourselves. We all want to be the best at what we do. Give yourself some credit for what you’re doing and know that you are being fearless enough to go after your goals and your dreams and also to be raising your kids. It’s incredible and it’s amazing. Try to be mindful of staying in a positive mindset and staying focused on what you need to do to accomplish your goals. At the same time, give yourself some credit and be kind to yourself.
This can be a hard mindset to get into and to stay in. Meaghan says that she can’t say that she is in that mindset a hundred percent of the time. It’s easy to get pulled out of it. There are so many great things that all of us are doing as working parents. It is important to take the time every day to recognize what you’re doing and the strength and the fearlessness that it requires.
Looking back, when Meaghan was one of the younger players on Canadian National Women’s Hockey Team, there was an older defenseman, Becky Keller, who had two kids. Now, Meaghan is that mom. At that time, Meaghan did not have an appreciation or any idea of what Becky was doing or what she was going through.
AGES AND STAGES
Until you are a parent, you don’t really know what tired is. Meaghan didn’t know. Now that she is one of the older players on the team and a mom of two young children, she tries to be mindful of this. The younger players don’t understand what it’s like to be a parent and that’s totally fine because we’re all at different ages and stages.
Meaghan had a hard time as a new mom. She didn’t have a lot of friends with kids and she came back to playing very quickly after she had her son, the oldest of her two kids. Meaghan was back on the ice when he was six weeks old. Her doctor cleared her for full contact play when he was three months old. The day that she was cleared, Meaghan was back on the ice with her team. She was at camp with the National Team when he was four months old. When her son was six months old, Meaghan played in the World Championships.
TAKING A TOLL
It was a lot really, really fast. Meaghan says that she doesn’t feel that she leaned on her village and on her support network as much as she could have. This took a toll on her. After the world championships that year, she completely crashed. She didn’t experience any postpartum depression or anxiety until after the world championships.
LEANING ON A VILLAGE
That entire experience taught Meaghan the importance of leaning on that village and that support network. Oftentimes as new moms, we think that we need to do it all, that we need to be perfect at it, and that we need to be able to do it all on our own. That’s just really not the case in any part of the world, except for North America it seems.
Meaghan’s husband, Scott, is incredibly supportive. When Meaghan is on the ice or at the gym in the mornings, he’s taking on the responsibility of dropping off and picking up their kids from their dayhome or school. Scott will get their daughter down for a nap so that Meaghan has time to eat. Meaghan recognizes that they are lucky that they can make this work.
Meaghan’s mom is also very supportive. Not everybody has parents around to provide help and support and Meaghan feels incredibly grateful to have this. During the last Winter Olympics, Meaghan’s son was two and a half and her sister lived with their family and was their nanny. Meaghan says that it is important to recognize that we can’t do it all. We shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed for asking for help and for outsourcing.
Meaghan has days where she is training and skating in the morning, home with her daughter Berkley in the morning, picking up her son Calder from school, and taking him to hockey. By the time her family gets home it’s 6:30 PM and who’s cooking dinner? Meaghan and her family started using a meal delivery service a few days a week to help manage their juggle and the dinner crunch.
Meaghan’s job is obviously very physically taxing and she doesn’t have the energy to clean all of the time. So every once in a while, when she’s just absolutely bagged, she hires a cleaner. Meaghan feels so fortunate and lucky that she can do this. For her, it’s all about recognizing when and where she needs the help and not being afraid to ask for it. She knows that she will be a better mom and will be better in her job as a result.
The importance of prioritizing herself was really driven home for Meagan after her difficult time following the World Championships after having her son. She wasn’t taking care of herself the way that she should have been. Now, Meaghan implements a number of tools that she’s found from a variety of different places.
WELLNESS & SELF-CARE
Meaghan emphasizes that what works for her may or may not work for others. She encourages people to do their own research and to try things and see if it works for them. If it doesn’t that’s okay because there’s no one size fits all approach when it comes to health, wellbeing, and self-care. For everybody, it looks different. Find what works for you and make it a priority. You can’t take care of anything or anyone else unless you take care of yourself.
- GRATITUDE JOURNALING: One thing that Meaghan does on a daily basis is gratitude journaling. Practicing gratitude is something that she has been doing for well over a year every single morning. Meaghan uses a journal for her gratitude practice called “The Five Minute Journal” that you can get at Chapters. It literally takes five minutes in the morning. You write down three things that you’re grateful for, three things that will make your day great, and a daily mantra. Meaghan purposefully wakes up in the morning before her kids, to do this – unless they wake her up, of course! From the minute she wakes up, it helps her to have a positive mindset, and to set the tone for the rest of the day. It allows Meaghan to go into her day a happier and more grateful person when she does this. In the evening, she writes down like three great things that happened that day and then, something that could have gone better. This daily journaling takes Meaghan 5 – 10 minutes each day but has really made a huge difference for her.
- MEDITATION: Meaghan also meditates. She has been practicing meditation for two and a half years. She started because she was so stressed out and was clenching her jaw so much that she cracked a tooth. Her tooth had to be pulled! Meghan’s dentist is also a yoga teacher. She was the one who suggested that Meaghan try meditation. Meaghan now meditates for 20 minutes every single day. This is time that she carves out for herself. If she doesn’t get it in during the day, then she does it before she goes to bed. Some days she has time in the mornings. Other times it’s while her daughter naps in the afternoon. Meaghan always finds 20 minutes to meditate and it has made a huge difference in her life.
- COLD THERMO: Meaghan practices cold thermo. She has a cold tub made out of a chest freezer in her basement. She plunges every single day for three to four minutes. The temperature is close to or even sometimes below freezing. There are physical benefits in terms of circulation, the endorphins that are released once you get out of the water, and hormonal balance. For Meaghan, it builds resiliency and is a reminder to her every single day that she can do hard things. It is hard. It never gets easy but she still does it. When her body is feeling physical stress, it forces her to breathe. It’s been an incredible tool for Meaghan for times when she feels stressed out or overwhelmed. If plunging in cold water seems far too overwhelming, but you are curious about this, Meaghan suggests trying a cold shower. Turn your shower as cold as possible. Stay in the cold water for as long as you can and just breathe through it. This is how Meaghan started. End your shower on cold. When you get out of the shower, see how you feel.
- SLEEP: Meaghan is in bed every single night at 9:00 PM. This is a non-negotiable. She is very strict and diligent about it. As an athlete, Meaghan needs the sleep for her recovery. If she doesn’t get enough sleep, she literally cannot do her job.
- NUTRITION: Meaghan has to eat upwards of 3000 calories per day. She makes sure that she is getting whole foods that are nutrient dense. Celery juice is a big thing for her. Organic coffee, which is free of mold and toxins, is another. Most commercial coffees actually have mold and toxins in them, which is so gross! What you put into your body is what you’re going to get out of it.
- TREATING HERSELF: Meaghan believes that treating yourself, doing things that just make you feel good, is huge. That could be having a glass of wine or having a piece of chocolate.
- TIME FOR WHAT MAKES HER HAPPY: Meaghan says that finding what makes you happy and making sure that you schedule that into your day is important as well.
WINNING OLYMPIC GOLD
Winning two Olympic gold medals has been a dream come true for Meaghan. If you could think of the thing that you want the most in the world and how it would feel to get it, that’s it. For Meaghan, at the end of the gold medal games, when the final buzzer has gone and they’ve won, she feels an immense sense of relief. For Canadian hockey players, it’s either gold or it’s nothing. It’s like you either win or you don’t win and you fail. That’s a lot of pressure and a lot of stress.
WANTING TO WIN FOR SO MANY
Meaghan says that players want to win for themselves and all the work that they’ve put in, for their teammates, and for their coaches. Players want to win for their families and their entire support networks that have gotten them to where they are. They want to win for all of Canada and the amazing fans that are watching. As well, players want to win for all the little girls out there watching that want to play for team Canada one day. It’s not about you. It’s about winning for the entire country. That’s a lot to carry. It’s a heavy weight. When the buzzer goes and you’ve won, it’s like that huge weight has just been lifted right off your shoulders. There is a great amount of relief, happiness, and pride. There is so much pride to be Canadian and to be where you know you are in that moment.
Now as an older player and having gone to the Olympics and winning a silver medal, losing in a shootout in 2018, Meaghan feels so grateful for her two Olympic gold medals. Male hockey players want to win the Stanley Cup. The gold medal is the Stanley Cup for the Canadian Women’s Olympic Hockey Team. Meaghan is so grateful for everyone that has been a part of her experience and to have had the opportunity to represent her country.
HER CHILDHOOD DREAM COME TRUE
She has got to do what she set out to do and wanted to do her whole life. Meaghan was that little girl sitting on the living room floor watching the first Canadian women’s team play in the Olympics in 1998. She turned to her parents, at that time, and said that she was going to play in the Olympics one day and win a gold medal. For Meaghan, thinking of that little girl is just pure happiness, pride, and gratitude. Having that dream come true is incredible.
INSPIRING YOUNG FEMALE HOCKEY PLAYERS
Meaghan loves speaking with young girls playing hockey. She tells them that when she was their age, she was exactly where they are now with a goal and dream of playing for team Canada. If she can do it, then they can too.
BEIJING WINTER OLYMPICS 2022
Meaghan’s goal now is to play in the 2022 Olympics and to win gold for Canada. This goal is for all of the same reasons from previous Olympics. However, it is also for all the moms and all the parents out there who are trying to do all of the things. She wants to show that you can do it. It can be done and it is possible. Helping and inspiring others to pursue their goals and dreams is a huge source of motivation for Meaghan.
THE AMAZING RACE CANADA
Outside of playing in the Olympics, being a contestant on The Amazing Race Canada was one of Meaghan’s greatest life experiences. She had no idea going into it what to expect. During the race itself, on any given day, contestants had no ideas what they would be doing.
One of the greatest highlights for Meaghan was the friendship and the bond that she developed with her racing partner Natalie Spooner. Going into the race, they were hockey teammates, but they weren’t really that good of friends. Now, they are best friends. She and Natalie talk every single day. She’s like a little sister to Meaghan. Meaghan is going to be the maid of honor in her wedding next year. If they hadn’t done the show together, Meaghan doesn’t know if they would have created that same friendship and bond.
BEHIND THE SCENES
On the show, when you’re on camera, you are racing. When you’re off camera, you’re actually locked away in a hotel room. You’re sequestered. There’s no phone, no TV, and no Internet. They even take the Bibles out of the rooms. This meant that Natalie and Meaghan had a lot of quality time together. To keep busy in the hotel room, when they were sitting there for 10 hours a day, Meaghan started to keep a journal. At the end of each leg of the race, she would write down what they did, where they went, and some funny things that happened along the way. Then, at night, as a bedtime story, Meaghan would read these journal entries to Natalie. This was a way to stay entertained.
Another thing she and Natalie did during their down time was play cards. A deck of cards was one of the only things that they were allowed to have. Meaghan and Natalie tried to play some competitive games with each other. They had to stop, however, because they were literally getting in fights in their hotel room. All they could play was “Go Fish”!
EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME
Overall, just getting to travel the world was incredible. Meaghan and Natalie were pushed way out of their comfort zones every single day. It was so adventurous and so rewarding. The Amazing Race Canada was an experience of a lifetime and one that they will never forget.
Meaghan and Natalie are really hoping for an all-star season. They did really well in their season winning seven out of eleven legs of the race. Meaghan says that they kind of blew it in the finale and came second. For coming in second, you win nothing. However, the perk of finishing second is that if there is an all-star season, you are still eligible for it. They have their fingers crossed. Meaghan thinks that they would both say yes to the opportunity to do it again in a heartbeat.
Meaghan shares that, as a mom, she has experienced the classic you leave your kids alone for like a minute or two and then, you come back to a mess! One Sunday morning, Meaghan went to go to the bathroom and came back to find yogurt everywhere! It was even splattered all over the cupboards.
She has dealt with the diaper blowouts when she’s been out and realized that she has forgotten the wipes. Meaghan finds comfort in knowing that we’ve all been there and that she is not the only one.
A TOBOGGANING INCIDENT
Recently, Meaghan and her family went tobogganing for the first time. It was her idea. She thought that it would be really fun and a way to get everybody outside. Not even 10 minutes into tobogganing, her son had an accident. Meaghan was supposed to catch him but he ended up swerving past her and running into a tree. As parents, we all have fears of our kids getting hurt. We want to protect them. Meaghan thinks we have those fears, to keep us in that protective parent mode.
When her son hit the tree, he started crying and screaming right away. Meaghan took his toque off and there was blood. She is not good with cuts or bleeding and the cut on his head was very deep. It was so deep that she could see his skull. Meaghan went into full panic mode. Normally, she is pretty good at handling tough situations, challenges, and difficult emotions. She feels like she has developed all of the tools for that. However, dealing with your child getting hurt is completely different.
Thankfully, Meaghan’s husband is very good at handling these types of situations. He swooped in and took charge. They took their son to the hospital where he ended up getting some stitches in his head. On the way home, Meaghan said to her husband that they were never going to toboggan again.
BACK IN THE SADDLE
At home, they were eating lunch and her husband announced that they were going to go back out tobogganing that same day. Meaghan thought absolutely not and that her husband was nuts! Her husband said that this would be the best thing that they could do. They needed to show their son that when you fall and you get hurt, you get back up and get right back in the saddle. So, they went back out and actually ended up having so much fun! It was therapeutic for Meaghan. She saw her son go down the hill and learn how to stop himself.
LEARNING FROM THE EXPERIENCE
Meaghan learned so many valuable lessons from this situation. She learned the importance of staying calm in moments like these. Meaghan had noticed that her son read her panic and he started to panic a little bit too. Meaghan realized that she was a little bit too hard on herself at first. Afterwards, she was a little more kind because a situation like that had never really happened before. When these things happen, it’s also an opportunity to teach our kids. It’s not about us and feeling panicked and them being hurt. It’s what we can teach them. Meaghan knows that the next time something like this happens, she will be able to handle it a lot better.
One of Meaghan’s biggest pet peeves, is projecting perfection on social media because it is not real. In Meaghan’s posts and stories, she tries to be as real as possible about the good and the bad because it connects us. It’s important to know that we all make mistakes, that everyone has their struggles, and that’s okay. It’s perfectly normal and perfectly human to experience all of those things.
YOU DO YOU
As much as you can, try to find a balance. We all try to find a balance but what that looks like is different for everyone. Try not to compare yourself to other people. The challenge is to know yourself and to know what you need on any given day. When things are hard, when things are hitting the fan, know what you need and what your family needs to be your best self and to continue being fearless. And… lean on one another for support. There are lots of tools out there but knowing what you need on any given day and knowing that whatever that is and whatever that looks like, that’s okay. You do you. That is fearless too.
Thanks so much to Meaghan for this fantastic conversation and thank YOU for tuning in!