This blog is dedicated to moms and dads who devote their time, bank accounts and unending support to their children's activities; and to their extended families and friends, without whom, the moms and dads would be in bankruptcy, or a rubber room (or both).

You've heard of the "soccer mom." As the mother of a competitive figure skater, I am going to introduce you to the life of a figure skating mom. Like the lives of soccer moms, hockey moms, gymnastics moms, competitive cheer moms, baseball moms and others, it is often a harried and expensive existence.

According to Wikipedia.com, the phrase soccer mom does not apply solely to mothers of soccer players; rather it broadly refers to a mother who spends "a significant amount of her time transporting her school-age children to their sporting events and other activities." Some of the most common traits attributed to the soccer mom: She lives in the suburbs; works outside the home; drives a minivan, station wagon, or SUV; and is busy, harried, stressed out or overburdened.

Yes, that absolutely describes me. And many of my friends, too; some minus the working outside the home, but they are no less harried.

Four years ago, my daughter, who had been taking basic ice skating group lessons, came home and asked me if she could join the Atlantic City Figure Skating Club. The request came as a surprise and I reminded her that it cost, at the time, about $80 to join the club; but she felt strongly about it, so I supported her decision. Considering the amount of money that has been spent on this endeavor since then, my concern over possibly wasting $80 on something she may not like is quite laughable. In fact, she loves it-and we're broke.

Figure skating, like many other traveling and competitive sports, can get very expensive when taking into account the never-ending fees associated with the sport, plus equipment and traveling expenses (hotels, gas and meals).

For skaters who compete, private lessons are a must. The coaches are experienced professionals whose fees start at more than $1 per minute. My skater has four different coaches: Two for ice dancing; one for moves-in-the-field (moves required for testing and advancing); and one for freestyle (for competitions and testing). In addition, practicing requires ice fees that are paid just to step on the rink. With a training regimen of 3 to 5 days per week, the cost of the sport adds up quickly. My daughter is expected to contribute, though, by putting away a portion of birthday and chore-money in a skating fund; and she is also responsible for writing essays for skating scholarship applications.

As far as equipment, costumes for competitions sometimes can run up to $300 (although I have found great value on eBay). My daughter's last pair of skates cost $400 for the blades and $400 for the boots (yes, they must be purchased separately); and her feet are still growing! Competition and testing fees run from $100 to $200, plus ice fees and coaching fees. Suffice to say that the cost of having a child who is a competitive figure skater is like having another mortgage payment. I thank my lucky starts that my son's favorite recreational sports cost only about $40 per season.

The investment of time for the entire family is nearly as significant as the financial investment. My husband and I both have had to share the responsibility of having to take vacation time to travel to events or just to get my daughter to practice. With limited ice time in the area, sometimes it requires driving to Vineland or even Delaware just to practice. The majority of the ice time in this area is during the day. So getting my skater to the rink and gym regularly would be impossible if it were not for the generous help of others, including friends, family and coaches. My fellow skate mom and good friend, Lisa, has practically adopted my daughter and always makes room for her in her crowded SUV. The same can be said for several of her coaches.

When there is a competition or a test, our schedule is even crazier. This week my daughter needed her skates sharpened. Unfortunately, there are no pro shops in my area that can sharpen her blades; so after a full day's work, I was off for a 3 1/2 hour round-trip to get her skates competition-ready. Later in the week, I took off early from work on two consecutive days to make the round-trip to Delaware for competition events. Our Thursday trek took a total of six hours for one two-minute performance. Friday's would be significantly longer, since summer shore-bound traffic is added to the mix; that for only a 2 1/2-minute performance

In the end, like other parents who travel the state and beyond for their children's activities (and go broke in the process), it is all worth it. Our children are learning responsibility, teamwork, goal setting and financial management. They are also seeing the dedication of their parents to them; and the value of dedicating themselves to something. Most important, our children are learning how to win, how to lose and that hard work inevitably pays off.