She does travel a bit to Africa, to Des Moines, to Calgary to cover the Winter Olympics for ABC. But between trips Peggy Fleming lives the life of a suburban mom.
One might expect her to speak like someone out of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Not so. A conversation with Fleming is more like a peek into Parenting Styles of the Moderately Rich, Famous and Busy.Fleming's husband is Greg Jenkins, a dermatologist. They have an 11-year-old son, Andy. She is, at age 40, six months pregnant with another boy. ("I wanted to know the sex of my child. Though it's a little like opening your Christmas present early.")
She mentions Andy and Greg and the baby often. These three are the people who give her life meaning.
Fleming was in Salt Lake City this week as a keynote speaker at the National PTA Convention.
"I select the things I do now," she says. "I don't do too much." Her job as PTA honorary membership chairwoman means she speaks at the group's national convention and tapes public service announcements. She is also an official spokeswoman for the world association of pork growers. That job recently took her to Des Moines, Iowa, to speak and attend the world's largest barbecue. ("It's even going to be in the Guinness Book of World Records," she says. "Thirteen tons of pork.")
She also works for ABC Sports for occasional but intense periods of time - such as during the Winter Olympics and on a recent filming trip to Africa.
Fleming is satisfied with this balance between career and home. "You know you can't always perform and do the things you were well-known for as a teenager. I don't have to pretend I'm 19 when I'm 40."
She's glad. "That pressure and all that practicing were too time-consuming."
Fleming likes to be able to concentrate on what she's doing and do it well. That's why she's spaced her children 11 years apart. She went back to skating and traveling with the Ice Follies right after Andy was born and says she didn't have time to do a good job of raising more than one child until now.
"I'm amazed my mother did what she did. My parents had four girls and no money. She just spent the time with each of us that we needed. She managed to be sensitive to each of us and our problems. She didn't work, we were her job and that was enough."
From her father Fleming learned a love of sports and the outdoors. Her mother taught her to appreciate art and music. And what has she passed on to Andy?
She smiles. "Well my pediatrician says it's in the genes, but I don't know. Anyway he is athletic. I was a child who took to sports easily. A tomboy. Full of energy. So is he."
Part of her message to the PTA was the importance of becoming involved with your child's life. "You can't expect someone else to know what your child needs."
She seems, though, to not be overinvolved with Andy. She lets him take the lead in choosing what he wants from life. When he asked for art lessons she let him beg for a while to make sure he really wanted them. And even though he showed an amazing talent for tennis when he was in first grade, when he wanted to stop taking lessons, she let him. Now he's interested in tennis again.
"I try not to program him too much. Kids like to do things that are easy to do well. You have to encourage them.
"You have to teach them to stick with commitments, too. When they want to quit in the middle of the season - that's the time to push the issue. Because they need to learn to finish what they start and work with people who aren't their friends. Life is like that."
Fleming says she hasn't always had this easy, calm approach to motherhood. "When Andy was first born I was always worried there was something wrong with him, always asking Greg if he was normal. Greg would say, `I don't know.' I'd say, `But you are a doctor!' And he'd say, `I'm a dermatologist. You have to ask the pediatrician about babies.' "
So Fleming took Andy to the pediatrician over and over again until finally the baby doctor told her, "Trust your instincts."
So she has and says Andy has been very easy for her to raise. "We have a wonderful time together." With her next baby, she says, she'll only ask for her husband's expert opinion in cases of extreme diaper rash.