Becoming a parent is one of those big moments in life from which there is no going back. Fortunately for many adults, a planned trip into parenthood is largely a joy and its own adventure.
It’s also ridiculously hard, and can cause you to reexamine who you are, what’s important to you, and how you want to live your life. This can be especially true for women.
In her May 2017 New York Times article, The Birth of A Mother, psychiatrist, Alexandra Sacks, wrote, “most mothers [after the birth of a child] also experience worry, disappointment, guilt, competition, frustration, and even anger and fear.”
Sacks, goes on to say that during the postpartum period, which can last for two years, many women “find themselves feeling lost somewhere between who they were before motherhood and who they think they should be now.”
For me, this period of early motherhood did in fact come with an identity crisis and rollercoaster of emotions that held none of the fun of an actual ride. Who was I if I wasn’t out running technical trails, skiing big lines, exploring new rivers and mountains? My body, which had always been athletic and strong, felt slow and awkward. My stomach, unsurprisingly, was soft, but so was my butt. I was self conscious and embarrassed. And I was tired. Really tired.
From the beginning, I’ve loved each of my three children with a ferocity and fullness that has surprised me. They are my heart walking around on their own feet. And while my children are not my whole world, my world would be shattered without them. Yet.
Yet. There is more to me than being a mother. When I forget that I am worse for it, and I believe so are they.
There are thousands of articles in pop culture and academia about self-care and its ramifications for motherhood. Good maternal self-care is associated with increased positive outcomes for infants and children, as well as lower incidences of stress, depression and anxiety for mothers.
Self care comes in all shapes and sizes. It could be a long bath, a shopping trip, a night out. For me, it’s a run regardless of the weather. A hike, a ski tour. It’s fresh air and working hard. It’s adventure—be it backyard or big days.
With that in mind, here are my five best suggestions based on my experience for mommas looking to climb back on the adventure horse after the birth of a child.
- First, talk with your doctor, then listen to yourself. Make sure you’re ready for physical activity. If you head out and there’s a medical reason you shouldn't be hitting the trails or the slopes, you could be risking injury. Injury is evil. It will sideline you and add one more reason to your list of why taking time to get outside is not doable.
- If you have the green light to go, then go. This sounds easy, but can be hard when you have a tiny person who needs to eat, nap, cuddle, etc. Hopefully you have some help and can hand your bundle of joy off for thirty minutes while you get out on the trails. Plan ahead so as soon as your baby is in someone else’s care, you’re ready to go. Clothes on, keys in hand, pack ready with essentials. Every minute you can claim as your own counts.
- Find your time. My husband and I have never had consistent childcare, nearby family or extra hands to juggle kids and work. That means I get out at five a.m. before the kids are awake and my husband hits the trails or the skin track after bedtime.
- Make some friends in similar situations. This is new for me. With my first two children I was getting back in-shape and adventuring largely on my own. This time around I have a lady wolf pack. Between the three of us there are eight children ranging in age from 9-years-old to newborn. These women have all been in the position of finding themselves after childbirth. They have compassion, similar schedules and understand that sometimes motherhood trumps skiing.
- Share your passion and your self-identity with your children. I strongly believe in the importance of taking time away from my children to pursue my own outdoor passions and goals. I also believe that children of all ages benefit immensely from time outdoors. The Deuter Kid Carriers have been game changers, allowing us to continue pursuing our love for the outdoors while taking our children with us and seeing the experience through their eyes.
Last two photos courtesy of Gabe and Joanna Boisseau.