“I have a question,” I said. “How many of you are mothers?”
The women on the panel all looked at each other, and no one spoke.
“Um, okay, let me rephrase,” I backtracked. “You must have families, and I’m sure it’s hard to leave them on these long expeditions. How do you do it?”
This was the wrong crowd for the mom question.
I was attending the Create and Cultivate Adventure Pop-up in San Francisco. Up on stage were some seriously badass women:
- Lexi Depont: Big Mountain freeskier – in other words, she points to a mountain, jumps out of a helicopter, and skis to the bottom.
- Claire Smallwood: Co-founder of She Jumps, a nonprofit dedicated to giving women and girls the tools to get outside more often. I met Claire at Outessa, and she brought me as her guest to this cool event.
- Becca Skinner: Photographer and adventurer.
- Noel Russell: Community organizer for California’s largest homeless youth shelter.
- Jenny Gaither: Founder of The Movement, empowering women to feel confident about their bodies through fitness.
- Alyssa Ravasio: Founder and CEO of Hipcamp, a super cool company connecting land owners with people looking for camping adventures.
These women had heart-pounding stories. Tear-jerking, death-defying, awe-inspiring stories. I was captivated by every word. Listening to this panel made me want to start an adventure business, jump out of airplanes, explore every inch of the world.
But I listen to these stories now through the mama lens. I kept thinking, jeez, I’d freaking LOVE to try climbing Mount Everest, but it takes at least 65 days. What would my boys do? What would they say when someone asks where mommy is?
“Oh, she went to climb a mountain. She’ll be home in two months,” they’d say in their cute little voices.
And while that sounds adventurous and inspiring and bucket-list worthy, it also sounds selfish. I have a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old. I love going on solo adventures. I love taking 3-7 day trips with friends. But where do you draw the line? When does it become too much time away? I struggle with this. As do most moms I know. Some moms hesitate to take one night to themselves, while others draw the line at three weeks.
And this isn’t an issue strictly for adventure moms. I started a business before I had kids. A restaurant that required long nights, early mornings, being constantly on call for emergencies. I’d get home after 11pm, reeking of Brussel Sprouts and sour milk. Crash for six hours, get up, shower, and head back into the kitchen. And I loved it. I was hooked on the adrenaline rush, the tickets rolling in, the buzz of the dining room, the hustle of a wildly busy restaurant.
But now, as a mother to young boys, I don’t know if I’d do it again. It’s the hard decision us women have to make. Where’s the intersection of following our dreams, getting shit done, being the person we’ve always wanted to be, and being the mother our children need us to be? When does being personally fulfilled by traveling and exploring become too much of a hardship for your family?
I have not figured it out. All I know is we’re all doing best. For me, time away does make me a better mother. I need time to recharge, to reconnect with the person I was before kids. And I always come back more patient, more understanding, less on edge. Sometimes it only takes a quick run in the redwoods, but sometimes it means four days in Moab. What’s your thing? How do you balance your dreams with motherhood? Leave a comment and let me know!