"Maybe we would have more moms in this league if something like that was there for us," says McDonald.
Jessica McDonald is now a World Cup winner, but she's also the only member of the U.S. women's soccer team who is a mom. So when the team won the World Cup this past weekend, McDonald had not only her 23 teammates to celebrate her win with, but also her 7-year-old son, Jeremiah.
"He doesn't fully understand, but at least he's an age right now where he's actually going to remember this," McDonald previously told The Associated Press. "He's going to look back and be like, 'Wow, I was there. Wow, my mom is actually cool—like she said.'"
Jeremiah has been in France with his mom during the tournament, and judging by her Instagram, he was her biggest fan. After the big win, McDonald posted a picture of her little boy sprinkling her with confetti on the pitch, along with this caption: "We did it, bud!!!"
Still, she's not entirely sure her 7-year old understands what a history-making event this tournament was. "My kid has no clue. One day, he will!" she captioned another set of photos.
McDonald is a trailblazer, and her teammates believe that her presence (and Jeremiah's) on the soccer field in France may inspire a generation of athletes. One teammate told the Associated Press that they are in awe of how she manages to raise a child and be a world champ. "Her ability to balance life is just incredible and I think, hopefully, going forward more women choose her route and not feel like they have to choose their career over having a family. I think the new generation is going to feel like they have the option of doing both," McDonald's teammate Crystal Dunn told the AP.
McDonald has seen people close to her stop competing after parenthood. "Both of my parents were both multi-sport athletes," McDonald told Vice in 2017. "Their mindset was, be an athlete as long as possible, up until they became parents. And so they dropped their dreams for their children. And I'm not sure how I feel about that, as their child—that they just gave up what they wanted to do because they became parents."
McDonald is the only mother on the U.S. team right now, but there have been many other mothers who combined parenthood and professional soccer. According to the AP, the U.S. Soccer Federation has been paying for nannies since 1998, but when McDonald is playing on her regular team, the North Carolina Courage in the National Women's Soccer League, childcare still eats a huge chunk of her paycheck.
Earlier in her career, she was reportedly only making only $13,000 a year as a pro soccer player and couldn't afford childcare. Baby Jeremiah would chill in his stroller on the sidelines during practice.
"If anything as simple as childcare was covered by the league or your organization, that would be life-changing for moms, especially when we're scraping pennies," McDonald told The Oregonian. "Maybe we would have more moms in this league if something like that was there for us, but I feel like we're far from that. The situation is way different for us than it is for male athletes and it would be nice to have better support from our league in that area."
McDonald has previously said that the National Women's Soccer League doesn't really support mothers, but hopefully that will change soon. The country just saw what a mom can do when she's got support on and off the field.