“There’s nothing that can’t be done; it just takes more planning and preparation.”
This is what one parent told me about the challenges involved in getting outdoors as a new parent. For the most part, I have found this advice to be true. With enough planning I am able to get out on small adventures (a hike, paddle, walk, cragging or camping), mostly by bringing my little bambino with me. Spending time outdoors is something I have been committed to from the get-go, both to fuel my personal passion and introduce my daughter to Mama Nature at a young age.
But there are things I just couldn’t have anticipated in becoming a new parent, or that no one told me could have an impact on my ability to take my baby on little adventures outdoors (let alone clean my kitchen, cut my toenails or get work contracts done).
These factors aren’t meant to be deterrents. On the contrary, I hope I can shed some light on things I didn’t take into consideration so that other new parents can be more prepared than I was. And it’s worth noting that, as I’ll mention below, no parent/child relationship is the same to any other, so some of this may not apply to you at all. It’s just my experience, so glean from it what you will.
For those of you looking for more “How To” articles on getting outdoors with your family, you’ll find that here under Resources.
5 Things I Didn’t Consider (and what I did about it)
1. My Parenting Experience is 100% Unique: This factor pretty much sums it all up, and envelops the others. I can look at what other outdoorsy parents are doing, be inspired or intimidated by the mamas who seem to “bounce back” shortly after birth, and wonder how some ever pull off heading out for a full, kid-free day in the outdoors, but there’s really no use. I did that at first, then realized that my experience is unique, and hey, I don’t want to be away from my daughter that much in these first few months anyways! I’d rather bring her with me, even if that means simplifying our outings.
2. Parenting Style is Everything: This isn’t about right and wrong ways to parent; it’s about doing what feels right for you. For a while I got caught up in what I ‘should’ be doing, and always felt like I was one step behind. But things like sleep-training and parent-directed feeding just didn’t jive with me. Now I have embraced my personal “go with the flow” style. This allows me to provide my daughter with what she needs without fixing every routine to a predictable format or place. For instance, I’ll put her on the bed to nap when we’re home, but if I’d like to go hiking, I plan my trips around her naps so that she can sleep on the go.
3. Postpartum Recovery Takes Time: Going into my own post-delivery experience, the only things I really heard people talk about were severe postpartum depression and a bit about postpartum pain relief. I didn’t have an accurate picture of just how much time it takes to truly recover. Pregnancy takes a huge toll on the body. Birthing a baby is empowering, yet very demanding. On top of it all, you must care for a newborn and get to know your post-baby body. I never considered just how much discomfort I would experience after giving birth – something that greatly varies from woman to woman. Even now, six months later, hiking is hard on my joints, and my back is a tangle of knots with the physical demands of motherhood. I still get out to play outdoors, but it’s pretty taxing on my body. Sometimes I don’t feel like it because I’m just so darn tired. I have had to learn how to be more gentle with myself and lower my expectations. Above all that, I have mourned the loss of my previous identity. Yes, there’s no denying that. I miss my old life, and while I have gained so much and would never, ever want to go back to the way things were, I need to let those feelings wash over me from time to time.
4. Help Really Does Make Things Easier: There were times in the first few months where I would have 15 minutes of free time and had to choose between showering, brushing my teeth, eating, and changing out of my pyjamas. If I waited too long to decide, my 15 minutes would be gone. Add to that laundry, getting food prepped for dinner, work contracts and trying to squeeze in a run or a yoga practice. My husband helps out as much as he can, but he is also trying to balance a demanding work schedule with family life. With no grandparents or other family close-by on a weekly basis (the kind of help you don’t have to ask for!), I have had to enlist friends to take Maya for weekly walks (they gladly help). This has been a life-saver. I can get the chores out of the way, which frees up my time to go on more involved outdoor adventures with the kiddo.
5. Babies Really Do Come with Little Personalities: If I had to describe my daughter’s personality in one word, I would have to say “spirited.” I’m also getting a bit of a taste of my own medicine, as it seems I have passed on my strong will and determination. For a long time, she hated the car seat if she was awake, making it tricky to drive to trailheads if I wanted to go on a more substantial hike. She also rejected the bottle early on (we have yet to try again), so mama is on-call every hour and a half. She is easier to reason with now that she is a bit older. But in those first few months, my thought process was this: in her little world, everything makes sense, even if there was no rhyme or reason to it! I fully embrace her little personality and just work with it. Thankfully, she loves the outdoors and just feels so at home there. That’s good news for me.
This is all just the tip of the iceberg, but at least provides a window into the factors that can affect a parent’s quest for balance, no matter what his or her passions are.
What did you overlook or fail to consider in your own transition to parenthood? What did you do about it?