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.