By day, Jen Mayfield is an Elmhurst mom of five, helping coach her children's soccer teams and doing the usual "kid stuff." But come nighttime, she dons a helmet, elbow and knee pads and a pair of roller skates, calls herself "Heleanor Throosevelt," and sets out to hit people-hard.
Mayfield, 39, who moonlights as a member of The Chicago Outfit roller derby team in Chicago, decided two years ago she wanted to try out for the team. She'd always been athletic and ran triathlons, but she was ready for a new challenge when a friend told her about the roller derby tryouts.
Her husband traveled a lot and she wasn't sure how he'd take the news about her nighttime activities, so at first she put her kids to bed, with her oldest, who was 13, babysitting, and headed to Summit for the 9-11 p.m. practices. After a month of her double life, she finally told her husband.
"He hates it," she admits.
Balancing a family of young kids, who range in age from 4-15, and the derby isn't always easy. The Chicago Outfit is a traveling team and Mayfield recently had to stay home to take care of "kid stuff."
"As a parent, I have to put my family first and sometimes that's frustrating, but you do what you have to do," she says.
But being part of the team is something Mayfield is going to find a way to fit into her life until her body tells her it's had enough.
"It's really fun. Practice is hard and fun and it's very social. The games are very challenging physically and it's a big mental game, besides the hitting," she says.
And, while being a big hitter doesn't sound like part of the job description of an Elmhurst mom, Mayfield loves it.
"You're getting hit constantly. I'm not a small woman, but for roller derby standards I'm small. I take a lot of hard hits and I fly off the track," she says. "But it's a great outlet for stress release. You can be so mad and then you're out there and you're like, 'oh, I'm gonna beat the crap out of people' and they expect it and they're laughing."
To date, Mayfield has dislocated her shoulder, had a partial tear in one knee and an MCL injury in the other knee. She has a hematoma the size of a fist on her thigh that still hasn't healed and countless bruises. But when she laces up her skates to compete in front of the thousand or so fans in the audience, she shakes off the pain.
"It's painful, but overall, it's really fun. And it's nice to be part of a sport that's different," she says. "Plus it's a tight-knit group of women who are really different than me and who I wouldn't have had the opportunity to meet."
Liz DeCarlo is the senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.