The Transition to Parenthood: 5 (More) Things I Didn’t Consider

Hello dear readers! I’m sorry I disappeared for a little while. Life with a toddler is busier than I have ever experienced before. Busier than a full course load and 30+ rehearsal hours a week when I was studying theatre at Queen’s University. Busier than when I was working three jobs at the same time so that I could afford my rent here in Banff. Busier, much busier, than life with a newborn.

What’s on the menu today? I’ve been thinking again about the logistics involved in being a part-time working and outdoorsy mama. I first wrote about it in The Transition to Parenthood: 5 Things I Didn’t Consider. And as we’ve entered toddlerhood, I have discovered more things I didn’t consider. People seemed to have appreciated the first post in this series, so why not a second? Here we go.

Climb, explore, rip apart, destroy, repeat. Photo of Maya by Paul Zizka Photography.
Climb, explore, rip apart, destroy, repeat. Photo of Maya by Paul Zizka Photography.

1. Let the Child Lead

I used to pride myself in being a multi-tasking person and mother. As my daughter has grown up, and subsequently required even more attention, I have made a firm commitment to uni-tasking when I’m playing and engaging directly with her. We have entered what I call the “brain exploding” phase, where new words spill out of her mouth daily, her fine motor skills are developing incredible precision, and her curiosity drives her to knew heights (literally!). My own adventures can take the back-burner for now. Child-led play has become one of my favourite activities.

2. Toddlers Fidget When They Need To Move

I used to think my cluster-feeding newborn was tough to bring on the trail. Now I realize it was a breeze compared to this stage. Maya will last maybe an hour in the backpack before hair pulling and kicking indicate it’s time to let her loose. She can walk surprisingly fast up the trail, but of course she is distracted by an ant! a leaf! a log! every few feet. Check out my 7 Tips for Hiking with a Toddler for ideas of how to make the most of your hikes with a kid this age.

3. Practicality Will Keep You Sane

A huge weight lifted off my shoulders when I discovered, and accepted, that it would be impossible to keep my standards for, well, everything. Organization, cleanliness, punctuality… I do my best, but I simply had to let go of my perfectionism in these areas. I also let practicality guide my outdoor pursuits. I pushed it a few times this summer, but mostly preferred gentler, whine-free adventures. Eventually we’ll be able to handle longer hikes and less stressful overnights.

Most days my outdoor adventures look like this: walking the trails around Banff, pushing a Chariot. Sometimes the easiest thing is the best thing. Photo Meghan J. Ward.
Most days my outdoor adventures look like this: walking the trails around Banff, pushing a Chariot. Sometimes the easiest thing is the best thing. Photo Meghan J. Ward.

4. Systems Need to Be Adapted

What worked last year may not work this year. Take winter, for example: last year Maya would happily snuggle in her bunting bag on a cold day and let me plow through snowbanks on our daily walks. But if her preferences this summer and fall are any indication, she won’t be as content to do that this coming winter. That means I need to find a warm suit she can walk around in, as well as warm, waterproof boots. For more on that, check out Gearing Up for Winter: How to Dress Babies and Toddlers.

5. Help Still Goes a Long, Long Way

I hit major burnout this past year because I was trying to do far too much. I can’t imagine what would have happened if it wasn’t for my friends and family who took Maya off my hands for a few hours at a time. I probably would have disintegrated into oblivion. We live far from family, and so it was essential to find regular care so that I could have some time off, spend time alone with my husband or head off on a hike or bike ride without needing to worry about a toddler. The best you can do is reach out and ask. If people don’t know you need help they may not know to offer it.

What would you add to the list?

Author: Meghan J. Ward

Meghan J. Ward is an outdoor, travel and adventure writer based in Banff, Canada, and a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Meghan has written several books, as well as produced content for films, anthologies, blogs and some of North America’s top outdoor, fitness and adventure publications. She has a forthcoming travel memoir (Fall 2022), to published by Rocky Mountain Books.

10 thoughts

  1. This may not apply to everyone, but for me a mantra has been “stay calm”. I can’t reason with my toddler, and her requests /demands are rarely reasonable in the first place. I’m onto my 3rd (and last) toddler now and am much calmer than with my first. Going with the flow is the way to go! Lovely post, I particularly liked “uni-tasking”, a phrase I shall now adopt and apply!

    1. That’s a good mantra, Emma. Mine is similar: “This too shall pass” – both the bad and the good, so cherish it!

      I agree that there is often no reasoning with a toddler. It’s all about helping them feel loved and supported as they navigate a very confusing world and overwhelming emotions.

  2. Great points! I can especially relate with your decision to “uni-task”. As my daughter gets older I can see the wheels turned and feel like when we play together, I need to give her my undivided attention.

    I’ve also learned over the 9 months I’ve been home with her to be kind to myself. It’s so easy to second guess your decisions or wish you had done things differently. Neither is usually worth wasting energy on. I’ve found it more helpful to put things in the past and move on 🙂

    1. That’s a really important lesson, Sarah, about being kind to yourself. I could have easily included it here. Each day we make choices as parents, and we’re doing our best. We can’t beat ourselves up for the small things – I’m sure decisions only get harder as our kids get older!

      Thanks for contributing.

  3. Sounds like you are going to raise a daughter who loves to adventure. When I read this, I had just finished post about how my dad put aside “bigger” adventures and spent time in the outdoors with his three daughters. We all love outdoor recreation now and don’t have any memories of “forced marches” or dad leaving us behind all the time (not that it’s bad to do things on our own here and there!) to go ski or climb mountains. Way to go!

  4. We’re still getting accepting what might be realistic with a little one, and what might be pushing it. I keep telling myself that it’s all about expectations and adjusting them. It seems like that becomes even more so with a toddler, yes? Here’s to still getting out there, even if getting out there is a short walk on a mellow trail.

    1. I think it’s just a matter of evolving in how you approach things. Some aspects get harder, some get easier and new challenges present themselves at various stages. In toddlerhood you’re often negotiating with someone who doesn’t know what it means to be reasonable. You can’t even bribe them! But like all stages, it will pass all too quickly!

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