Amanda Beard with her son, Blaise

Amanda Beard with her son, Blaise (Aqua Sphere photo)

"Those days weigh heavily on you," she says. "But I know I'm showing him dedication and being committed to things and what hard work can lead to. He's starting to understand that mommy's a swimmer and has to work out."

For Beard, family always comes first. "It really puts things in perspective. Family is my priority and that consumes me more on a daily basis. If I have a bad workout I'm not constantly thinking and worrying about it like I would in the past because we have a gazillion other things going on when I get home."

Plus, her family gets to come along for the ride.

"I brought them to Australia and China last summer (for meets), so it's been really fun," she says. "You get to share experiences with the people you love."

This summer, she hopes to tote them along to London.

"It's way more fun doing it this way," Beard says.

A father meets the challenge too

It's not just moms who are juggling Olympic dreams and training with the realities of child rearing. Two-time gold medalist Mark Gangloff, a breast-stroker who lives and trains in Auburn, Ala., is married and has a daughter Annabelle, 2.

His wife, Ashley, a former collegiate and professional diver, is a graduate student, "so it's a little crazy right now," says Gangloff, 29. He works out 21/2 to 41/2 hours a day. On his longer training days, Annabelle spends time in day care; otherwise she's with dad.

"We love going to the park and going to the library and doing puzzles, books and looking at the fish," says Gangloff, aiming for his third Olympic appearance.

"In a lot of ways I'm Mr. Mom," he says, laughing. "Since swimming isn't a full-time job, I get to go home and take care of a lot of things that need to be taken care of."

As a young, single Olympian, Gangloff says it was nice to be 100 percent focused on training: "You can devote everything you have to swimming and in a way that's a lot easier. But having a child gives you a better perspective. I feel more confident and calm when I'm at a swim meet because I have a more worldly perspective on things that really matter.

"It's not that I don't care about swimming; it's just that I really enjoy being a dad and I wouldn't give it up for anything."