I have always been an athlete. A runner, first – then a climber, a biker, a skier – a mountaineer. It started gradual, even casual, and then, propelled by the inevitable gravity of curiosity, then companionship, then love – became as essential to my being as air. I wondered, after, while leaning back against my cams, feeling the weight of sky above and air below, and the hard push of rock against the soles of my feet, how I ever lived without high alpine mornings, mountain queens, cam oil, and padded bike shorts (with the matching, subsequent tan lines).
It was a far cry from my midwest upbringing and from the New York dreams that had originally brought me out West. For close to a decade I reaffirmed that this (my life in Boulder, Colorado, and then, in Crested Butte, Colorado) were simply a prolonged “stage” – something I had to “get out of my system” before settling back into the usual profession of a career academic: PhD program + big city + published book of poetry + overpriced mochas and the requisite head shot. I told as much to my family, sister, mother, father, brothers and an extended line of cousins, second cousins, and third cousins (twice removed) – the traditional Roman Catholic German tribe we were, constantly expanding, conquering…
However, while half-heartily applying to PhD programs and flirting with the bright lights of Chicago, my full heart was already invested in dirt and snow and a quiet-kind of funky life. My passions and my actions (as well as the investment of time and money) ensured I remained right where I was. Not only did I remain squarely at the end of my dirt road, I frequently dared myself further, deeper into the wilderness beyond it. In fact, the glamour of the mountain life quickly faded to the point that predawn ski tours, lunch singletrack laps, and working vacations in a Moab campground became usual…utterly ordinary. It was the rest of the world that seemed strange.
Largely unimpressed by my gypsy ways, my sister explained that “All that mountain stuff is going to need to change when you have kids. It won’t be about you anymore. It’ll be about them. You won’t have time to go wandering off whenever you want.”
I brushed off her concerns…but those doubts and fears regarding the necessary sacrifices and inherit despair of motherhood, had already found roots; it was why I waited, year after year, one more season, one more race, one more festival, one more grand adventure before “settling.”
Little did I know…that while my mountain life would change (shifting to make room for the small life growing within and then, beyond, me) – I was wrong. My sister, my family, my everything, our culture, and our predominant narrative (the one that speaks to our expectations of motherhood, of life after children) was resoundingly wrong.
There were choices, and sacrifices. But there was absolutely no settling for our family.
It I is possible to live an adventurous, active, mountain life with children. It is possible to be a gypsy at heart and still to provide security and stability for one’s family and the next generation. It is possible to have a career and a passion for freedom. It is more than possible. From my experiences and the experiences of fellow mountain mamas, I believe that it is not only possible – it is absolutely necessary. And that we have a duty to not only raise our children in the traditional sense (to clothe, house, feed, and education them according to today’s standards), but to also nurture the wilderness within them.
To teach them to:
- seek out and embrace adventure
- pursue and value personal freedom
- effectively calculate risk, then…
- risk failure for the sake of opportunity and possibility
- embrace their natural curiosity and love of learning
- invest sweat, action, and effort towards their goals (not just dreams and words)
- be self-reliant and independent
- give back to and enrich their community
- be compassionate
- have strong values and morals (and have the courage to stick to them)
I know that these lessons can best be learned within the strange, wild spaces (within and without) of a mountain life.
But it isn’t easy – an unconventional life. There is no rule book or how to guide (and no real healthy examples to speak of in the media). You must balance the freedom and flexibility of a vagabond with the security and stability of a 50’s housewife. You must balance that love of adventure with the demands of running a household (and all the financial planning that comes with it). You must have and do and be it all, all at once, 24/7.
It isn’t easy, being a mama mountain. But it is the only life that I would ever choose; it is, for us, the only life that is worth working towards.
How can you raise responsible, ethical, wild children? How can you practice self reliance and independence in a world consumed by victimhood and dependence, a world in which basic skills and fundamental values, wisdom, are being sacrificed and lost? How can you transfer your passion for adventure and wilderness to your children while still empowering them to pursue meaningful careers and a stable, moral life? How do you balance the demands of career and motherhood with your burning passion for the mountains? How can you be an athlete and still practice attachment parenting? And homeschooling? Is that the answer?
There are many questions, and I don’t claim to have all the answers – but I do have my experiences – my trials, my lessons, my mistakes, and my triumphs which I can now pass on to you. How I…
- first, escaped the dulldrums of a midwest, Chevy poverty
- then, escaped the 9-5 cubicle and pursued an unconventional life
- regained my athletic body and my love of wilderness after my pregnancy
- balanced the demands of motherhood with my passion for mountain adventures
- sustained and built my family while still living the vagabond lifestyle
- built financial stability as a ski bum
- committed to attachment parenting as an athlete
- built multiple streams of income to support us through the economic challenges that come with living in mountain towns
- coped with the sacrifices demanded and required by my choices (they are there and they are many)
- will preserve our adventurous lifestyle through homeschooling and a nontraditional approach to education
Together, we will explore many of these questions and topics in our blog and in our ebook (set to hit sometime this summer!). Sign up for our newsletter to be “in the know” when it comes to wilderness, babies, and living (& loving) an unconventional life.
And, in the meantime, comment below with your ideas, questions, comments, and experiences. How do you find balance in your life within all the different roles and shades of you? What does an adventurous life mean to you?