Diane Gronkowski, mom to NFL legend Rob Gronkowski, is something of a legend in her family. From the 80s to the 2000s, she maintained her inner calm and flexed her adaptability muscles while raising five rowdy boys, each of whom went on to become pro athletes. (Her sons Dan, Glenn, and Chris Gronkowski also had professional careers in football, while her son Gordie played pro baseball.) But it wasn’t all easy; Diane flew hundreds of thousands of miles to take her kids to hockey, baseball, football, and basketball games, always cheering them on from the sidelines. So, what was it like being the “only female on the team,” as she calls herself? And does she have any words of advice for moms and grandmas in the thick of it? Here, enjoy Diane’s play-by-play on how she weathers the wins and losses of life — and finds joy in every season.
Raising a Super Bowl Champion
Not long ago, Diane Gronkowski, 62, was pushing her cart through Target near her home in Florida, when her phone rang. It was her son Rob, four-time Super Bowl champ who played for the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, surprising her by saying, “I’m at your house, looking in the fridge.”
Diane couldn’t help smiling. “He’s known as ‘No Notice Rob’ because he just shows up!” the now empty nester tells Woman’s World. “What makes me the happiest is knowing I’m going to see one of my sons.”
“Mama Gronk,” as she’s lovingly known to fans, may be the most famous sports mom in the world. All five of her sons went pro (four in the NFL and one in MLB), and they have their all-star mother to thank. After all, Diane was the one who woke up at 4 a.m. to take her kids to practice, bought endless groceries (40 pounds of chicken breast per week!), and tackled the never-ending laundry pile so her beloved boys could make their dreams come true.
But before any draft deals, life was far from glamorous. “For a long time, there was no furniture in the living room or the dining room,” Diane reveals. “All our money was going to feeding the kids.” And through the “permanent commotion,” Diane admits she was almost always tired. “I learned it was possible to be lonely while never being alone.”
Still, she brought the best out in everyone, and now, Diane is welcoming new joys in the form of daughters-in-law and grandbabies. Here, Diane shares her tips on finding new worth from the sidelines — and thriving.
1: Bake away stress, especially during football season.
“Raising five busy boys, I had to have the patience of a saint. And thanks to my mom, baking became a lifelong form of relaxation and a coping mechanism when stress threatened to slow me down,” says Diane. “As far as training goes, I can’t convert ounces to grams, but I can tell you how many quarts of fresh strawberries make a dozen jars of my homemade jam: 40! Watching a hungry child light up when eating food I prepared makes me happier than anything I could ever do for myself.”
2: Find joy in giving.
“I witnessed the ultimate football-mom moment: seeing my son play in the Super Bowl. But I know so many people are struggling,” says Diane. “Families of Super Bowl teams often volunteer in the host city. In 2018 in Atlanta, I loved joining the Patriots’ friends and family as we cooked, served, and socialized at Atlanta Mission, one of the largest soup kitchens in the US. Moments like those are humbling and enlightening and fill my heart.”
3: Lead with love.
“I’ve been through things that have been challenging,” Diane shares. “My sixth pregnancy — a girl — ended in miscarriage. It’s one of those heartbreaks that stays with you, but one thing that nobody knows is that I wear two tiny diamond earrings in my right earlobe: those are for my little girl. And I’ve learned you really need to find someone you can talk to about feelings you’ve been holding in. My husband of 10 years, Mike Walters, is that person. He always listens before he reacts. It brings so much peace.”
4: Remember that you are worthy.
“I remember feeling judged for being a stay-at-home mom, where there’s no paycheck or awards,” Diane recalls. “But over time, I see the unmeasurable rewards of my effort. Nothing’s more important than caregiving and supporting others. There’s a pride and inner strength in knowing my boys became hard workers and good citizens. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
5: Enjoy a second act — this is your halftime show.
“With the kids grown, I’m proud of the work I do now,” says the author and owner of a home-watch business. “When I do a job, I’m gonna do it right! But I also have my bucket list. I’d like to visit all 30 NFL stadiums. I just visited Cincinnati for a game. My kids were like, ‘You’re going to Ohio? You’ll freeze.’ I’ve gotten used to Florida weather. But this goal will keep me busy — and that’s so important.”
6: See the big picture.
“My secret to success is a series of large calendars,” reveals Diane. “I had different colored pens when the kids were little. Everything was easy to see. To this day, I use a big calendar even though I have everything on my phone — I want to look at the whole month at a time. A few of my kids, even Rob, use big calendars too. We’re organized and ready for anything.”
Check out Diane Gronkowski’s new book!
In her memoir, Outnumbered: How an Average Supermom Raised Five Professional Athletes, Diane shines a spotlight on what she calls “the humble role of parent to the high-achieving and the publicly adored.” She says, “This is for all the moms and team captains at home. It’s relatable. Every parent is proud of their kids no matter what they do.” Plus, fans will love the favorite recipes and family snapshots she includes.
Woman’s World aims to feature only the best products and services. We update when possible, but deals expire and prices can change. If you buy something via one of our links, we may earn a commission. Questions? Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.