Single mom Mhkeeba Pate, 34, holds an MBA and a law degree and works full time for a prominent charitable trust. What more could she take on? Cheerleading for a professional football team -- the Seattle Seahawks -- of course! Mhkeeba tried out for the Sea Gals cheerleading squad three years in a row and made it to finals but got cut each time. Last spring, her perseverance paid off, and she made the squad.
by Mhkeeba Pate
as told to Julie Weingarden Dubin
The first time I tried out for the Sea Gals, my daughter had just turned 1, and my son was 3. I was practicing law at a large Seattle firm, and I really had no idea what I was thinking other than how much I missed having something in my life I was passionate about -- dance.
I have no formal dance training and only a few years of cheerleading experience compared to my teammates, but I was willing to work twice as hard. The challenges are picking up the Sea Gals' style of choreography and performing the dance moves larger than life so fans sitting far back can see.
Last spring, I made a vision board as an art project with my kids and included becoming a Sea Gal as one of my goals. I wanted my kids to understand how to set a goal and work hard to make a dream come true. I wasn't afraid of failure or worried about my age in comparison to all the young women auditioning. I let go of all that and gave myself permission to pursue my dream, and that's when I made the squad.
I love performing in front of a large crowd and making people smile. I get such a high from dancing because I can leave behind my inhibitions, insecurities and worries, and just live in that moment. I always have a relatively calm and professional demeanor, but cheerleading allows me to open myself up and become my alter ego, and I find it exhilarating.
I have a tremendous amount of support from my family, making it possible for me to cheer for a professional team. We practice twice a week for four hours a night. I also have to spend at least two to three days rehearsing the routines.
My mom picks the kids up from school while I'm at work, and when I get home, I cook dinner and help with homework. During the season, my kids play at my sister's house while I'm at practice. There are times I don't get to see them before bed because practice runs late.
I try to do something fun with the kids the day before a game. Having to balance my duties on the squad with motherhood helped me to hone in on making the time spent with them about quality, not necessarily quantity.
I've realized that being a little older than some of the ladies on Sea Gals is an advantage. I bring maturity and life experiences. I was self-conscious about my age at times, and the fact that I'm the only mother on the team, but I've grown more comfortable with where I am in my life and feel proud to represent mothers. I don't know the magic cut-off age for being a professional cheerleader, but I'm definitely inspired to keep doing this for as long as I'm able to be a part of such an amazing group of women.
I want my kids to learn that if you believe in yourself and work hard, the sky's the limit. I didn't make the squad three years in a row, but I still heard that voice inside of me saying that I could do it.
Motherhood's taught me that I'm enough, just the way I am. I know that all my children really want is me and my unconditional love.
It's OK to go back to enjoying some of the things you used to do before you became a mother. It doesn't make you a bad parent to pursue your passion -- it makes you a better parent because you start to appreciate all aspects of your life.
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