So often our kids’ needs feel big! So big, that they supplant all our needs and wants. Surely, at the very beginning of their lives, this makes sense. The amazing, wonderful thing about kids is that they grow, learn and change without our teaching them. It’s something as a mom that inspires me daily. And slowly, we must step back and let them have that independence and grow.

What I find harder to do is grow, change and learn daily as an adult. Especially when it comes to hiking. This past year felt stagnant, so I did what I always do: I made a list.

I came up with nine hikes I wanted to do in 2018

  • 1-mile walk at our favorite nature center
  • 2 miles at the campground we’d be at this summer
  • 1 mile to the beach

I stopped my list. This isn’t what I wanted. And it definitely wasn’t different.

As parents, we end up balancing our needs against the needs of our kids. A lot of times, that looks like sacrifice; shorter hikes, closer to home and easier terrain. I wondered if I was sacrificing too much. If I was honest about what I wanted, I knew I needed, wanted and perhaps craved something longer … harder. I wanted to be challenged.

I knew that even if I didn’t put the beach on the list, we’d be there this summer. Could I say the same about other hikes I wanted to do?

Making time for yourself on the trail by Heidi Schertz for Hike it Baby

My first mountain! One of the ways I stay inspired is by giving myself attainable goals.

I started again with a new list

  • 7-mile solo backpacking trip: point-to-point on the Ice Age Trail
  • .5-mile climb (we don’t do a lot of climbing and I was excited about this one)
  • 7.6-mile point-to-point on the Ice Age Trail with family
  • A visit to a bird sanctuary with a 1.5-mile hike

I made my list. Excited. And then the doubting voice asked, “Are you even capable of a 7-mile hike?”

At first glance, especially if my kids were coming with, the answer would be “no.” With Graham at 4.5 (40 lbs), Warren at 2.5 (30 lbs) and me at 6 months pregnant, I’d definitely need help. I chose to make some of the sections solo mama hikes. However, I knew I also wanted to start increasing mileage for both my kids. We were going to attempt some longer hikes as a family.

Making time for yourself on the trail by Heidi Schertz for Hike it Baby

Whenever we go on vacation, hiking is always part of our itinerary, and we never regret that choice.

I think this is really when the push to grow drove home. I’d committed to challenging myself and doing things a bit beyond my reach. My goal was to see if I could go farther. I wanted my children to see me prioritize growth. If I couldn’t do it solo, that was OK. And it was OK to ask for help. Nowhere was it written that I could only grow in isolation. By putting longer mileage on the menu, I was prioritizing my needs and growing as a wife, mom and a woman.

Prioritizing growth means more space for ourselves

As parents, especially as moms, our needs can get swallowed by our kids’ needs. Our obligations seem large, and our time for ourselves seems small. By asking for help to achieve my main hiking goals (longer distances), I really had to step outside the mentality that I had to mother my children alone. In Hike it Baby, I’d found a wealth of friends who desired those longer hikes too. Additionally, those planned solo hikes actually ended up on the calendar! It’s a lot easier to accomplish a goal when I give myself a plan. Once the hike was on the calendar, it meant that I was less likely to say “yes” to other things that would have taken that time away.

It also meant that I had already secured “time off” with my husband. That time is when I recharge. It allows me to not feel frazzled when my kid dumps his juice for the tenth time that day. Making a shift in the way I approached hiking and finding something new, different and challenging proved to get me really excited about the hikes for the upcoming year.

Making time for yourself on the trail by Heidi Schertz for Hike it Baby

Another way to stay inspired, even on short hikes, is to do something completely new. Like visiting ice sculptures in winter.

Finding a creative plan of attack

I realized hiking longer distances with small children can be more logistical, but isn’t impossible. And to help with my goal, I invited friends and family for some hikes, while I planned others for the weekends when my husband could attend.

I also thought harder again about my shorter-mileage hikes. Would simply changing the location and destination affect how I felt about them? We live close to a bird sanctuary but have never been. My kids would love the birds and the length, and I’d love to see this amazing place for the first time.

And that’s when ensuring everyone’s needs got met felt less like sacrifice and more like balance. Growth does that for you. It makes more space for everyone, and I was going to find it with my family and by challenging myself.

Photos courtesy of Heidi Schertz.

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In what ways have you grown on trail? Is there a challenge that you’ve been dying to try out? Share with us below.

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