Advice from an Outdoor Mama: 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Mom
Motherhood isn’t something I had dreamed of my whole life. I never aspired to have that heavy title. In all honesty, I was on the fence about whether to have a child or not. I really enjoyed our wanderlust lifestyle - traveling the world with a backpack, 40 mile all-day mountain bike rides, or driving hours to park our van in 10 degree temps overnight to get fresh powder turns in the morning.
Call us crazy, but it was a good life filled with adventure, freedom, and passport stamps.
We knew a baby would drastically change our outdoor lifestyle. As an active individual, here are 5 things I wish I knew before becoming a mom.
Your lifestyle will change, but you don’t have to give up your life.
While we expected our lifestyle to shift, we refused to fully give up our love of travel and the outdoors. We started integrating our son into our love of the outdoors from the beginning. I hiked with him daily in a front pack as an infant; it was my only guaranteed naptime. As he got older, I transitioned to a backpack to carry him, but we’ve never stopped walking or moving.
At 5 weeks old, we tested out an overnight trip in our van in a location close by. It was actually way easier than we expected it to be. Since he went to bed between 7-8pm, we had the rest of the evening to ourselves. We brought a monitor and weren’t far away as we sat around the fire.
At 10 weeks old, we set out on a 10 day cross country road trip from Colorado to California and back for Thanksgiving in 2020. It seems safer than flying through the busy airports during a pandemic. The second night we jumped out of bed at 8am and checked his breathing. It was the first time he had slept 12 HOURS through the night. We thought it was a fluke, but it happened again the next two nights in the van. Little guy was tired from all the new places and change of scenery, even though he had plenty of time to sleep during the day while we were driving.
We are raising him in an environment to love the outdoors the way we do. It’s important to travel with your kids, take them outside, and do something new. Our son is more flexible and adaptable because we always take him with us. It’s not always perfect and it’s definitely not easy; there are tantrums, he can get cranky, or bored, but we adjust and keep trying.
What we are doing now to accommodate a two year old will change again in a few months. They keep growing and you have to keep adjusting your strategy. Just don’t give up. Be creative in where you go, what you do, and how you all sleep (naps included). The more you continue to integrate your kids into your life, even though it looks different, the easier it will get.
You will ski (or bike, climb, etc) again
This is a tough one because I’ve missed out on powder days. For those who are addicted to snow, you understand. Powder days are a limited commodity. A good day on the mountain is filled with smiles, good vibes, and the feeling of floating through the snow. While my husband and I always used to head out and ski all weekend together, now we trade off half days on the mountain.
Yes, it’s hard missing out on good snow and camaraderie of skiing with friends, but in a couple years, he’ll be skiing all over the mountain and be able to enroll in ski school. In a few more years, he’ll be on pace with us and our family bonding days will always be spent on the mountain.
‘It’s only temporary,’ I repeat to myself as I’m stuck at home watching it snow. At least we still have skinning.
Embrace the slower pace
While we will all rush through life, work, or seeking out our next adventure, having a baby has forced me to tone down our active lifestyle. But I’ve found joy in this slower cadence of life. We are still very active and on the move, but life just looks different right now. We’ve done our best to embrace this phase of life instead of fight it.
Before a baby, we had our list of mountain towns we hit up every summer to camp and mountain bike, logging long rides daily. Because we know we can’t get the same distances in at our favorite mountain bike destinations, we’re not as inclined to go back right now. This is not a deterrent, but an opportunity to explore new places that accommodate where we are in life these days. I’ve found new spots around Colorado to camp, hike, and explore that I might not have otherwise looked at because I was already comfortable with my destination rotation. So while everything in life feels new right now, find a new area to explore, a new corner of the state to poke around, and settle into the slow down.
Find your people to lean on
It takes a village to raise a child. We’ve all heard the saying, but I never truly understood and embraced it until I became part of the village. It’s the only way to make things work and stay sane. Lean into your network.
We’ve had friends jump in to stick around during naptime (the easiest part of the day), while we sneak outside for an activity. Or the time when our friend picked up our son at daycare in full ski gear (boots included) and carried him in one arm, skis and poles in the other, across the street to a BBQ joint because a snowstorm had closed all the roads. It was an impressive feat. I was stuck an hour behind, waiting for the roads to clear. His wife, who had a newborn + 2 more at home, was supposed to pick him up, but I was able to give him a ride home since I was already on my way. It was a win-win all around.
More often, we prefer to travel and camp with other young families so we can tag team riding bikes. We trade off watching each other’s kids to have girls and guys rides, or sometimes couples rides. The littles entertain each other and we all enjoy our outdoor time. It’s also more fun to have someone to hang out with during naptime.
Of course, we lean on grandparents when they come to visit. Date day is outside time together and we appreciate that solo time now more than ever before.
Accept each stage
We introduced a bike at a young age. The Strider bike sat inside all winter for him to play on. By the time the snow melted, he understood how to get on it and start moving. One more summer (around 2.5-3 years old), he’ll be fully moving on two wheels. Until then, the Mac-Ride is a bike seat that attaches to your bike frame so your little one (ages 2-5) can sit in between your arms and hold onto your handlebars. With them situated up front with the same view as you, it’s a great way to share the experience with your kid and still get out there. It’s recommended to stick to mellow trails, as there will be added weight on the climb and you want to make sure you’re 100% in control and confident of your balance on the way down.
Every phase with kids is different and you will like some better than others. You may not even realize things have changed until you’ve outgrown a phase. But we’re lucky to live in a time that there are so many outdoor devices to take kids along at every stage until they can keep on our our adventures on their own.
Find the good in where you are and be creative in how you integrate your kids based on their ability at the time. Because one day, they will be waiting for you.
ABOUT OUR GUEST BLOGGER
Jenn Weintraub is a Vail area local who loves to chase powder days, pedal miles on her mountain bike, get lost in the woods, explore the open road in a van (current edition: Storyteller Overland), travel through foreign countries, wander through art galleries, eat her way through new cities, and get off the beaten path with her husband, young son, and two sweet husky mixes. You can find more of her stories, advice and tips for parenting in the wild on her website.