Shouts From The Stands: Rules For Swim Mums

by SwimSwam 13

January 13th, 2020 Lifestyle, Swim Mom

SwimSwam welcomes reader submissions about all topics aquatic, and if it’s well-written and well-thought, we might just post it under our “Shouts from the Stands” series. We don’t necessarily endorse the content of the Shouts from the Stands posts, and the opinions remain those of their authors. If you have thoughts to share, please send [email protected]

This “Shouts from the Stands” submission comes from Monica Zwolsman, a swim parent from Australia.

Nobody expects to be a swim mum. We hear that swimming opens up a child’s lungs and all this water-safety-for-children lures us in. Next thing, it’s squad training three times a week, and before you know it, we are up way before 4 am every morning for the swim-run, waiting two hours, then rushing home – only to repeat in the late afternoon.

Swim Mum Rules:

  • We refer to our children as flyers or breaststrokers (and we do not titter…titter….see what I did there…heehee!) or backstrokers (not a masseuse!) or freestylers.
  • Learn terms like long course, short course, kick, pull and sets. And know that split seconds count; the difference between 25.55 and 25.51 seconds is mega.
  • Do not shout at the pool when your child is swimming in a race. The child cannot hear because its head is underwater. No, even if you shout very loudly, if you in fact scream blue murder, they will not hear you. Accept that. Shutup. If you have to, mutter quietly under your breathe. I like to quietly mutter : “Do not false start” and Go, frogggie froggie, go” or “Come AAAARNNNN”. Each to his own, but whatever you murmur, do it quietly.
  • Do not get up to pee or speak to friends when your child is about to race. Some races are under 30 seconds. Mums don’t want to have spent all that time driving to the meet, sand sat there all day, to miss their child’s moment. And if you do, NEVER confess. Yay to Meet Mobile.
  • Meet Mobile is a phone app and a godsend to those of us who cannot remember what child is swimming, or what their time is. This is important because you need to know if they have swum a PB. If they do not swim a PB (Personal Best, for you newbies), you cannot say: “Good swim” or “Nice Job”. This will be met with fury.
  • When your child swims badly, say nothing. I repeat NOTHING. Because whatever you say will be wrong. Just get in the car and drive home. Let them listen to their music. Do not try to analyse what went wrong or how they can do better next time. Say nada. Do not even LOOK at them.
  • Real swim mums do not wear fancy clothes or blow-dry their hair or put on glossy make-up before heading to swimming carnivals because we are too frickin’ tired. We get up, we prepare and pack food, we drink coffee, we dress for comfort because the benches are hard, and the day is endless, and we are not allowed to bring wine into swim venues.
  • Togs for racing are pretentiously called SUITS. They cost hundreds and hundreds and need to be replaced every year. Do not expect these fancy suits to pick your child up and run down the pool in winning time, nor are these suits lined with gold. They are teeny tiny bits of fabric that barely cover the essentials and take forever to tug on and off and tear as easily as paper. And do not even suggest that Kmart has cute $15 togs that will be just as good. Apparently you will be wrong.
  • Save for medical specialists because your kids will be sucking toxic chlorine chemicals into their mouths and lungs, and their skin will be ripped to shreds by hydrochloric acid. Expect their teeth turn mottled yellow and any remaining hair turns pale green. Hair unprotected by the cap will become bleached, brittle and snap so… scant eyebrows….random underarm fluff….because pool water attacks to kill. Just saying.
  • Get a hobby. Befriend the other swim mums. Knit, Read, Crochet. Do something. Because nothing is more endless than sitting while your child swimming every day, every weekend, up and down the pool, following the black line.
  • Learn to cook. A lot. Seriously, you need to cook three monster meals a day, plus snacks for going to the pool, back from the pool, then back again later to the pool, and then the final return trip home. Swim kids don’t have lunch boxes for school; they need Uber Eats carry bags.
  • Do not expect a return on your investment. Swim fees alone cost a few thousand $’s a year, then throw in entry fees to swim meets, travel and equipment, and you are looking at mortgaging your house. There are very, very few rich swimmers. You should have made your child play golf or footie or soccer. Your bad, so no good being sad because it is TOO LATE NOW.
  • Do not begrudge the fresh and perky former swim mum whose child has given up swimming. Do not notice how she is swanning about shopping leisurely, all the time in the world, while her child is home on the XBOX or out with friends drinking and smoking bongs and doing whatever it is teenagers with energy to spare get up to.
  • Swim mum, other swim mums see and feel your painful and exhausting dedication to parental duty. We see you cry with pride when your child swims a good time or, yayayaya, gets a medal. Well done. Give yourself a big hug.

About Monica Zwolsman

“I am a single mum of two rather fabulous teenage sons, a breaststroker and a middle-distance freestyler. Yannik and Soren train every morning and most nights at Southport Olympic Swimming Club on the Gold Coast in Australia and, like every child in Australia, they are unnaturally obsessed with both swimming and competing. I prefer to eat chocolate while lying on my bed reading chick lit and flipping through travel brochures planning a life after my children get their drivers licences (one year three months and four days). This is what I do when I am not teaching English, cooking for my sons, cleaning our house, driving them to swimming, waiting for them at swimming, or travelling to swim meets. Oh yes, and we have a very spoilt spaniel called Piglet who we all adore. He loves swimming too.”

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I would add: Do NOT talk or move between “Take your mark” and the start of the race – ever.


Good point! I would expand that to be after the long whistle though.


Saw a swim mom walking around in heels at meet this weekend. If I’d had the energy, I’d have tripped her.


Oh, please write an article about be a SINGLE swim mom. That is a whole other struggle. Just not fitting in at team dinners, trying to afford everything, trying to be in five places at one….and when do you even have time to clean the house?


How about the single swim mom of a distance swimmer who needs to find two timers and someone to lap count because said single mom is also an official. I am actually not complaining. I gladly do for my child.

Monica Zwolsman

I am an absolute single mum…. no help from anyone at all ever…kids help with housework…Saturday and Sunday….and I cook madly on the weekend..both kids at same club and as for club dinners…I just feel awkward and sad and try to cling to my kids who kindly ruffle my hair and pat my arm before dashing off…