The Hanover Park girls soccer team has been part of Erin Shane Fulton’s extended family for years.
When she and Hornets football coach Dan Fulton got engaged, she promised the girls they could come to the wedding if they won a NJSIAA sectional title.
Last fall, when the coach they call “Shane” was pregnant, the girls were extra protective. They carried her bag, and made sure she drank water and had snacks handy.
Senior midfielder Claire Cahill dressed up as Fulton for Halloween – complete with big belly – and she accepted the Morris County Coach of the Year award from her peers 35 weeks pregnant.
It only made sense that after Maddie Fulton was born in January, she would be showered with black-and-gold gear.
The football boosters bought a miniature Hanover Park cheerleader outfit, and members of Kids Helping Kids sent a onesie. Just five months old, the baby already has three United States women’s national soccer team jerseys, one with star striker Alex Morgan’s name on the back.
“No matter what anyone tells you about how hard it is, you never really know until you do it,” Erin Shane Fulton said.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, between the lack of sleep, making sure she’s fed and clean and happy. … It still doesn’t feel real, that I’m a mom. I know I’m her mom and I love her so much. It’s just so crazy to look at this little person, and think, ‘I am your mom.'”
Fulton started maternity leave during winter break, and went back April 23, when spring break ended, joining a growing group of working – and coaching – moms.
Working moms on the rise
More than 101,000 babies were born in New Jersey in 2017, about 275 each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than 400,000 moms in the state have kids under age 6. More than 72 percent of them worked in 2017, versus 65 percent a decade earlier.
Almost 70 percent of women who had a baby in the past year were back at work, according to the U.S. Census.
Both Erin and Dan Fulton are special education teachers at Hanover Park. Vivianne Bolen and her husband, Mark, work together at Mount Olive, he in physical education and she in television production and social media communications.
But after Vivianne gave birth to the couple’s first son, Jack, two years ago, Mark Bolen stepped down from his position as the Marauders varsity assistant baseball coach. That allowed her to stay with Mount Olive girls lacrosse.
Both Jack and 5-month-old Tucker visited mom on the sideline for Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day on April 25.
“Coaching is like my therapy,” said Northern Highlands softball coach Jackie Forte, a mom of two boys with cystic fibrosis. “It’s my time to myself. It’s always been part of my life. I didn’t want to give that up. We all came together and found a way to make it work.”
Story continues after the tweet
Celebrating a 13-4 win over Verona w/ this little man who lends us his mommy to help coach! ❤️Great team effort with 8 players contributing goal in the attacking end along with Nat Arena scoring her 1st varsity goal and earning the hard 🧢! @dailyrecordspts @DodgerAthletics pic.twitter.com/QuaKoP4iUz
— Madison Girls Lax (@MadisonGirlsLax) April 26, 2019
Dependable child care is crucial for working parents, but it costs $8,000 to $11,000 per year on average in New Jersey. Both Vivanne Bolen and Erin Shane Fulton rely on their husbands, as well as careful planning and communication.
“We’re a team,” Vivanne Bolen said. “Mark knows everything I know. It’s not mom’s intuition and all that. He has that intuition too.”
The Fultons believe Erin’s mom, who recently went part-time, and Dan’s parents in Morris Plains, are going to be “instrumental,” particularly when they both head back to practice in early August.
Words of wisdom: Expert tips for moms trying to have it all
Though the number of girls playing sports has never been higher, the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport estimates only 40 percent of them are coached by women.
“By the time August rolls around, she’s going to be different than she is now,” Erin Shane Fulton said. “The hardest part, come the fall, is going to be being away from her. Coaching makes so much of who we both are. We want to make sure we can continue to do that.”
Bringing families together
Coaches are responsible for two families, the one that shares their DNA and the one on the field.
Forte made a point of introducing her sons, 3½-year-old Camden and Rory, who turned one on Feb. 28, to her new softball team soon after taking over at Northern Highlands, saying, “Since we’re a family, I want you to meet my family.” The girls quickly developed a sense for when Cam was around, if only because, Forte recalled ruefully, he was “yelling across the field for Mommy in the middle of the third inning with two runners in scoring position.”
Sometimes those families overlap more directly, like when Alison Preston returned to Mountain Lakes.
Preston had coached field hockey, girls basketball and softball in 1991, before her two children, Katie and Kelly, were born. She stayed with field hockey as her daughters grew, with the players stepping up as babysitters. Preston also started teaching health and physical education at Mountain Lakes in the fall of 1998.
She left field hockey “because I felt like I was giving other kids more time than my own.” But when Katie decided to go to Mountain Lakes five years ago, Alison Preston came back, coaching first basketball and then softball – which Katie played. Kelly Preston is now a three-sport athlete – field hockey, basketball and softball – playing for her mom in the spring.
Both Preston daughters were considered part of the Lakers family, fully involved with the field hockey team even though they were much younger. They attended campouts and group dinners, and tried to carry those traditions on – or bring them back – once they got to high school.
“It’s good for the child,” said Diane Wentworth, a professor in the FDU-Florham department of psychology and counseling. “She’s with her parent, but she’s also getting exposed to the sport and being outside, running around, which is a good thing for mental health as well as physical health. That seems to be a win-win on all sides.”
Added Alison Preston, “It’s a lot of sacrifice to coach, but it brings so much reward. You want to do it. It’s your passion. I found including my kids in what I did, and having them grow up in the sideline, was a positive thing in their lives.”