And then there were 3: Road bumps in the life of an outdoor family

About two months ago, Meghan called me.  She’s an avid outdoors woman, soon to be mother of one, and the mastermind behind the Adventures in Parenthood Project. She’s spent a good part of this past year calling and interviewing parents who have managed to stay active in the outdoors with children in tow (more about her interview with me here).

Ever since she called, I’ve been half wishing she would have called me at this time last year instead, I think the interview would have been more upbeat.

Remember this “life comes at you fast” commercial? I’ve sorta felt like MC Hammer this past year.

Just. One. Step. Behind…..  Thinking about the ‘good old days’ when I was ‘2 Legit’.

Meghan asked me a whole series of questions, and I reminisced about long river trips before kids, exploring with just Ari strapped on my back, and even adventures with both of my little boys.  Her last question to me was: What would you have to say to an outdoor adventurer who is feeling uncertain about starting a family because it may compromise their adventurous lifestyle?

My answer: It does change your lifestyle.

There’s no may about it.  Children change everything.

I felt so guilty when I hung up the phone with Meghan.  What kind of outdoor mom am I, admitting that I’m less adventurous because I have three kids?  I used to define myself by my adventures… my kayaking prowess, the peak I hiked to on a whim the weekend before.  My degree is in outdoor education for crying out loud.  Who am I if I don’t go on thrilling escapades every weekend, kids or no?

What happened to me?

One child only changed things for Joe and me a little, and it’s definitely possible to continue an adventurous lifestyle with one little one in tow.  Even two was doable for us; the 2:2 ratio worked pretty well.  But I’m finding that three is a bit more tricky. Part of it is the temperament of child #3. She’s more demanding of my time and attention, she screams bloody murder in her car seat, and doesn’t let us get much sleep.

The other part of it is this stage of life we’ve recently entered into.

Our family has been through a lot of adjustments in the past year. I went from a low mobility pregnancy, to bed rest, to giving birth, to having a new baby, to dealing with postpartum anxiety, to moving out of state, to kids adjusting to a new life, to Joe starting a new job…

And perhaps the biggest life adjustment (aside from Viv) is the way things have changed for my oldest son, Ari. We moved into a neighborhood with other kids. Lots of other kids. He also started kindergarten.  He made friends, and for the first time, his friend aren’t the kids of my camping friends, but a set all his own.  Their parents don’t know me (and my desire for adventure) from the man on the moon.  He’d rather play with them than hike with us.  He’d rather go to so-and-so’s birthday party than spend the weekend in Moab.  He’d rather attend the spontaneous neighborhood talent show than go look for ‘dinosaur bones’ in the empty canyon up the road.

You see, up until now our children’s lives have revolved around us.  The center of the universe is shifting, and rather than our free time being filled with outdoor pursuits that we love, we also have to make time for things that suit the personalities of our kids.

That’s not to say that these changes are bad by any means. Ari is becoming his own little man, learning about relationships, and friendships, and doing things without his parents.  This is important stuff!

My love for the outdoors and my need to be in it isn’t going anywhere. I still long for overnight river tips, days spent in the middle of nowhere on foreign dusty roads and sunset views atop seldom hiked peaks. Ahhh, yes, I do… But it’s not really all about me anymore.  It’s not about my adventures right now.  It’s about my boys, and my little girl.  And how I can best raise up some new adventure buddies while also allowing my kids to evolve their own unique personalities.

This is all just part of the evolution of this outdoor family. We just need to find a new… normal.

Thankfully this rough patch is already showing signs of fading (knock on wood).  Viv’s temperament is getting better and better as her digestive system matures and she becomes more and more skilled at self mobility. She even let me set her down for a whole 15 minutes the other day! Ari’s staring to grow tired of neighborhood drama, Isaac is growing increasingly self sufficient, and we’re all getting more sleep.

And really, Viv’s already been on 5 camping trips in her 6 month life span, so maybe I also need to give myself a little credit…

We’ll fit in kid-sized adventures where we can for now.  In the vacant lot next to the house we built a ‘jump’ and a little dirt path.  All the neighborhood kids, mine included, take turns seeing how much air they can get off that thing.  So what if we’re not in the middle of nowhere.  My boy’s are happy, they’re getting exercise, we’re enjoying the night air, they’re exploring their limitations, and making friends.

If Meghan were to ask me that question again, I think I would give a longer answer.

What would you have to say to an outdoor adventurer who is feeling uncertain about starting a family because it may compromise their adventurous lifestyle?

I would say:  Having a family will definitely compromise your adventurous lifestyle.  But that’s the whole point.  And I wouldn’t change it for anything.


27 Comments so far

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  1. Wow, you perfectly articulated my whole life. Can you read my mind?

  2. Aww, I feel for you! Just look at those sweet little munchkins with you. They definitely change things. But they expand your life, too, and I found as a former Environmental Educator, I understand my job better now than when I was working at it, because I’ve lived it with my children. I went through a couple of years after I had my second child that were not very full of adventure for any of us. Those kids can take a toll on your body, and you throw school into the mix and it gets even more complicated. (That’s part of why I’m glad I pulled my oldest out of school so we can homeschool, but that was for different reasons.) My kids are older now, elementary age, and I will say that it is really fun now. We still have limitations on where and how far we can go, but they are troopers in the car and can do adult hikes. Because we kept trying and kept doing small adventures all along, now that they are older they know the routines and look forward to getting out and exploring. They even help me pack! You are in the most intense phase of life right now. It does get easier, and you will start to reap some rewards soon. And your little girl will get less clingy and will be happy to let you go out on your own sometimes. Those times will be sacred and you will appreciate them so much! So hang in there! :)

    • Jennifer – Thanks for your encouraging comments! I don’t really want to rush my kids life away by saying “I can’t wait for that day!”, so I’ll just say… “I look forward to that stage.” I’m sure all stages in the life of the outdoor parent has it’s ups and down. Just wait till for my blog post in 10 years when I have a 16 year old who’s just too cool… :)

  3. Ohh, Linds. I hear you, and I don’t even have a new addition to the bunch. It feels like with every transition there’s that period where you have to find the new normal, and when the changes pile on top of eachother it just feels like it’s that much harder to find normal. It happens, though.

    One thing I would add: kids totally change what an adventurous, outdoorsy lifestyle looks like. But the ways they change it are kind of amazing. I haven’t done a long hike in a very long time, but when I get out to “explore” (our word for kid-hiking), we don’t measure the distance traveled. We measure it in acorns gathered, mushrooms spotted, logs balanced across, hills slid down, cool critters discovered… all things you might miss in trying to bag another peak or complete a loop before sunset. While my leg muscles could use more work than they’re getting, I find so much joy in watching my kids discover things on their own and fall in love with nature that I am willing to wait on the long hikes until they are bigger. It is different, but it really is very good.

    • Kristal – Explore is the perfect word for a kid hike, your ‘explores’ look like ours. It really is a great way to ‘hike’. Loved your comment. It’s so true… Thanks!

  4. Christine

    Wow, well said. :) This makes me feel a little better about our life – with 4 almost 5 little ones. I was feeling bad that we don’t get out as much as I’d like, but this really rings true. Thanks!

    • Christine, Thanks for the comment. Wow, almost 5! That’s awesome. I sometimes think there needs to be an “it gets better” campagin for outdoor parents with young kids :). Best of luck to you too!!

  5. Great post! I’d would say you’re doing great with 5 camp outs in 6 months! Kids do change everything. My son is a teenager and I don’t remember a lot prior to him being around.

    • Justin – Thanks for the comment! I would imagine having a teenager could impost a whole new set of obstacles… :). Sounds like your still getting him outside! That’s awesome.

  6. Amber

    Beautifully said. I will forever be grateful for the way you influenced me to remember to include my 3 little ones in my love of being outdoors. My love of being out in nature has been enhanced as I see my kids’ love of the outdoors growing. Our hikes, ski adventures, climbing adventures… Actually all of our outside adventures aren’t what they used to be. Not even close. To me, they’re better, more complete because I have 3 little cohorts exploring right alongside me. You’ve just inspired me again…time for a walk in the crisp autumn leaves with Elsa, before the snow flies :)

    • Amber – Have I inspired you enough to come to Utah to do that :). It’s so much easier to get out with friends… Miss you guys!

  7. Love this post. Once we were out numbered by the kids, it definitely effected our active lives. For one, running went out the window. No three kid jogging strollers…at least that I want to push! Anyways, I went on a hike with a friend a few weeks ago….they are a year or two behind us on kids (meaning 1-2 years younger) and it reminded me of how hard it used to be and how far we’ve come. Next year at this time I promise your outdoor life will look different. We are making progress but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it!
    And a comment on the whole “my oldest wants to stay home with his friends and not go on hikes” thing. I was that kids. I hated skiing cause all my friends were having parties and I couldn’t go. As I got older, I made more and more friends that either came along or were there with their families…and they are the ones I am still in contact with because we share interests even to this day. I also credit all the weekends where my parent’s outdoor adventures dragged me away from the high school scene as keeping me out of trouble- away from the drinking parties and out of drugs. All my school friends did it…but I couldn’t cause I spent every weekend with my family. I hated it at the time, but am so thankful for it now. So I figure my kids will hate it at the time too, and I am trying to prepare myself for being the “bad guy”. But I believe your family time is MOST important.

    • Alyssa, Thanks for the comment. And the encouragement. What you said is so true! I don’t think I appreciated all the weekends spent wandering the desert with my family when I was young, but I do now for sure! This is why we are trying to find and maintain that balance of friend time and family adventure time now while they are young. It’s so important!

  8. Lindsey, this is a fantastic post. Thank you so much for sharing your heart and your vulnerability. Like many others said, I completely identify with the idea of “finding a new normal.” (This coming from the mom with only 1 kid!)

    • Cragmama – Thanks for the comment. Much appreciated coming from a supermom such as yourself!!

  9. I’m always so happy to see an honest article about parenting, in any context. So often our readers only “see” what we choose to write about and extrapolate our “parenting prowess” from there. I’ve had so many people say to me what a great Mom I am for doing all these great nature things with my kids. I have to tell them–“yeah, it would be great, but I don’t get to most of them!”
    So thanks for the great article and the honesty. :)

    • Christy, Thanks for the comment. It’s true, I don’t every lack for ideas, I just lack the number of arms I would need :).

  10. Cristina

    That’s a really good post! You should see if there is a way to put a “like” button on your blog, I know some blogs have them. It would be a really good addition!

    • Christina, Thanks! We do need a like button… Hummm. I’ll have to try and figure that out.

  11. spot on Lindsey! Love it…

  12. kdog

    Well, you guys are just adorable.

  13. kdog

    Also, the whole kid finding their own friends & own identity business is very interesting, isn’t it? As I type, Noah is watching football on tv, asking Jonny questions like “What game is this? How do you win? Which team are you cheering for?” (Um, the red one?) He has lots of really sporty friends, and that is something that has not been a part of our life at all so far. So I guess we’re exploring some new areas too. But I hope the football watching thing doesn’t become a habit… if it does I think I will insist on use of the mute button.

  14. Marshall

    Lindsey, you know I am a big fan anyway, but this post requires a comment. In life perspective is everything, however many miss the point of keeping life in balance. More and more I see parents pursue their own goals and interests at the expense of their children. To sacrifice for a time, our own self interests, for the good of family is paramount in the development of lasting, loving relationships. You “hit the nail on the head” with this post. Connecting with nature and one another, unfortusately there is no app for that.

  15. No question-kids do change everything. Mine are teens now, and totally obsessed with ski racing. For the last eight years I’ve travelled to Tzhoe every weekend so they can live their passion…and I love seeing them do it. There will be time enough when they’re in college to live life on my own terms-for now, I savor every minute we have together!

  16. […] with her pregnancies and in bouncing back since (you can read about those in her most recent post, And then there were 3: Road bumps in the life of an outdoor family). Slowly, my preconceptions peeled away to reveal a deeply honest and very real human being. Now […]

  17. […] 6. And then there were 3: Road bumps in the life of an outdoor family […]


    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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