Updated: Mar 12, 2019
Motherhood. Woof. People say it is the hardest thing you will ever do. I have what is arguably two of the best kids on the planet. They are healthy, smart, curious and loving. They sleep through most nights and usually use their manners. They are also, without question, the hardest thing I have ever done. Just before my oldest was born I discovered a deep love for hiking. Luckily for me, about 9 months into being a mom I found a group of mothers who shared that love. They had kids the same age as mine, they loved the outdoors and they loved conquering this new gift called motherhood together, outside, on top of mountains. This group of women saved me, encouraged me, pushed me, inspired me and loved me as I was in that new moment of growth. I owe everything to this group of women.
With these women and all of our kids we would go into the wild together and climb mountains (literally). We persevered through winter cold, fall rain and the hot sun. We worked together to get our bodies, with our kids on our backs, to some of the most incredible mountain tops I have ever seen. We picked our way through hiking books, we got unending praise on the trail as strong women and I gained a lot of self confidence in those first two years. I built myself up as a badass adventure mom, because I was surrounded by other badass moms. While we all had an understanding and patience on the trails, we mostly handled our kids on our own. Many of them were still breast or bottle feeding, and even sharing snacks was not a thing yet. We became a tribe of independent women that would work together to get to our next great destination. I was able to draw strength from these women without giving any of them any power, I was still fully in charge of my monkey, and had no responsibility in theirs. That power and independence was addicting, and a big driver in getting me out the door in the morning.
As a family we started RM tent camping at two months and we spent our summer sleeping under stars still exploring our world with almost as much intensity as we had prior to kids. He saw more lakes, mountains, national parks, airplanes, and beaches in his two years than I had in my life prior to moving out west. Having our first child slowed us down by a barely noticeable amount. I developed the ego that many moms of one small one have: this is not that hard, I am amazing at this mom thing, why do these people I know with multiple kids have so much trouble, just bring the kid with you and keep living your life. I was in a pattern of going, constantly moving, and my kiddo stayed in the backpack. We were never a nuisance to anyone else on the trails, we never had to stop unless I decided we should. RM even drank out of the hydration pack and we were able to just lay those around the house and completely skip the sippy cup phase. I was able to get the endorphins of a hard endurance workout while my son slept on my back, and then I got the added endorphins of praise on the trail and on social media. I had an ego the size of Texas at this point, and I was clueless to it. I see it now in others and smile, knowingly, hoping they enjoy their time on top of the world, because now I understand how fleeting that time is.
Then I got pregnant with my second. At this point RM was showing interest in hiking on his own, and I started letting him. Up until that moment motherhood had been a physical burden during these adventures; carrying another human on my back, plus food, plus diapers, change of clothes, snacks, water, first aid kit, the kitchen sink, you name it, I carried it on my back. Like anything physical it was difficult at first, but got progressively easier as I got stronger. Miles and altitude passed quickly while meandering conversations helped pull me out of the loneliness that many stay at home moms experience. I had gained friendships with women that understood exactly what I was going through in my transition, because they were in the same place. Physical exertion had slowed me down to be sure, but that was easy for me mentally. Ryan walking on his own? Not so much. That was, and continues to be, the biggest mental struggle of parenthood so far: the slow down. Every time I think we are starting to make progress a puddle appears, and we are glued to it for at least 15 minutes. All of the accomplishment and pride I had felt lugging that baby up a mountain was devolving quickly into park play dates. Even on days when we try to go some sort of distance it is a struggle. There are unending rocks, plants, trash, puddles and life to investigate along every path and I hate stopping his curiosity in the name of keeping up with the group. I also hate not making any progress in the name of keeping toddler pace. My life, my schedule, my everything revolves around these boys and their needs and some days that is too much.
The other shift that reluctantly crept into my life was a need for other mothers on the trail. I am beyond grateful to have built such strong relationships with other adventure loving moms in the baby years. As the boys have gotten older and more independent themselves, I have needed to rely on my tribe with all forms of parenting: shared snacks and clothes, shared eyes in treacherous situations, keeping a toddler motivated, shared experiences in motherhood that would seem insane to talk to any other grown up about, and even shared yelling in an effort to keep our little ones safe. We are all much more chaotic on the trail now, following toddler pace and path, and feeling like a nuisance in nature has been a big ego hit. RM’s independence has come at the cost of mine. I am now fully reliant on these women that I adore, and I share in the responsibility of their kids as well. My tribe has morphed into a village without me even noticing and I discovered that it does truly does take a village.
While it is a continuous struggle for me mentally, I keep pushing myself to get outside with my boys at least once a week. In the winter months I even try to host a hike once a week as a personal checkpoint to force myself outdoors. It is hard. Hard to get two boys dressed, and then myself, and keep everybody warm for equal amounts of time. Some days one wants to come in after five minutes on the same day the other could stay out all day, some days we find a nice balance. Some days I freeze until the point it takes my feet an hour to thaw after we go inside because I am unwilling to end their fun. Days that are bitter, days that are perfect, days full of tears, days full of snacks, mud, snow, puddles, ice, heat, stickiness. You name it, we are living through it. It is hard, but it is always worth it. Everyone ends those days outside in a better mood than we started.
I push our limits because a connection and appreciation for nature is important for me to instill in my boys. I want to push their curiosities of the world around them, and I want to encourage their independence. There are also the days that I do it just because I know their yelling doesn’t seem so loud outside. So we continue to play and grow together.
These are a few examples of 'The Slow Down' and Our Village