Going for Gold Is a Family Goal for Natalie Hawkins & Olympian Gabby Douglas

Natalie Hawkins a mom who inspiresThey say it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes one strong mom to nurture an Olympic champion. Natalie Hawkins, proud mama of gold medalist Gabby Douglas, has been there for every step of her daughter's journey, celebrating her victories and helping her overcome adversity. The faith-filled mom of four taught her children that all things are possible as long as they believe in themselves. For that reason, we honor her as one of our #MomsWhoInspire.

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CafeMom had a chance to speak with Douglas along with Hawkins, who has largely raised her children alone, as they prepare to share their fascinating journey with the world.

Douglas Family Gold premieres May 25 on Oxygen, and Hawkins is hoping the behind-the-scenes look at the family's road to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio will be an inspiration for all viewers.

At the 2012 London Summer Olympics, Douglas became the first African-American gymnast to win the individual all-around gold in Olympic history. The new reality show focuses on the athlete, the youngest of this tight-knit family, as she attempts to become the first American gymnast to defend her title.

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As amazing as Douglas's victories have been, they have not come without challenges, Hawkins recalls, noting that, at times, the sacrifices were "overwhelming." 

"I went four years without a new pair of tennis shoes," Hawkins says. "My coworkers used to laugh at me, but I was that serious about pouring it into my children. I wanted to put food on the table for my kids to eat and have enough money left over for them to accomplish their dreams and goals."

At one point, Hawkins says, she pawned every piece of jewelry she had in order to have the resources to go to Gabby's competitions and bring the gymnast's supportive siblings along.

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Noting that she had no time for sibling rivalry, Hawkins chose to parent by example. Whether the family was watching Gabby in the gym, sister Joy ice skate, Arielle cheerlead, or brother Johnathan compete in his sport of choice, Hawkins made sure her children were there cheering each other on.

"I would tell them, 'Clap for your sister,' and I'd clap and I tried to live out the example that I wanted them to see," she says.

In 2011, when a competition was not going well for Gabby, Hawkins recalled how, on the walk back to their hotel, she found herself without the words to comfort her daughter. Rather than reinforce a negative image by discussing what happened in the gym, the creative mom told Gabby's siblings not to mention it. Instead, Hawkins queued up videos of Douglas's flawless performances so that she ended the day with a positive image ingrained in her mind, recognizing all she was capable of.

"It boosted me up and put me in a really good mood," Douglas says. "I still had mistakes [the following day] but it was better than the first night. It helped." 

Though it sounds like she was winging it, the mom always had her eye on the bigger picture.

"I parented on purpose," Hawkins says. "It was about being engaged and working to see my kids thrive. You can’t let the ball drop. I wanted them to be involved in sports. I was an athlete myself so I know the type of discipline that comes with sports and being active."

In addition to physical health, Hawkins recognized how athletics could build her children's self-confidence and positive body image.

The hands-on mom also strives to ensure her kids get what they need mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Though it's not always easy, Hawkins says she always attempts to spend one-on-one time with each of her children.

While Gabby is training in Ohio and the rest of the family is in Los Angeles, Hawkins says she keeps their connection strong by sending her daughter inspirational quotes and scriptures via email and text.

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Keeping her daughter's spirits and mindset strong as she readies for Rio is foremost in Hawkins's mind, but it sounds like Gabby has gotten her mom's message loud and clear.

"She always told us to keep fighting," Douglas shared. "Mom pushed the best out of us, and that helped me not just with training but with life."

Hawkins says as parents we're constantly "planting and waiting for the blossoms to come up."

"You have to have faith and trust the process," she says. "In the end, when you sow goodness, you’re going to reap it."

 

Image via Helga Esteb/Shutterstock; design by Anne Meadows

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