It’s November 1st. I’ve got a bucket full of Halloween candy and a waning desire to “get healthy”. You know the one. Lose weight, exercise more, start taking better care of myself, maybe even brush my hair on a regular basis. Challenges. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
I’m not gonna lie, the last year was rough.
We moved to a new city where we didn’t know anyone. My husband was working 80+ hour weeks some months. I stopped nursing my youngest after we moved. By the end of the year my babies were all grown up and I didn’t know how that happened! I kept telling myself we just had to survive this first year, then we could come up for air and reevaluate. Well, we’ve finally begun breathing again and after looking around at our life it seems we’ve got some work to do.
I know I’m not the only one that has gone through a similar year, maybe years even.
There are so many different situations in families where one partner is working most their time outside of the house and the other is working just as hard at home. Some are military, some are investment bankers, others work seasonally all day until the sun sets or beyond. For us, its residency, that part of your medical training where you are essentially a resident of the hospital and not of your house. There were days when my children didn’t get to see their father because he was up and out of the house before they woke and home well after they had to crawl into bed.
But I’m not complaining. It’s the path we’ve chosen and I’m choosing to believe it will work out for the best in the end. In the meantime, I have to acknowledge the fact that in this crazy life we were living, I wasn’t taking care of myself. Ultimately, that isn’t good for anyone, not my spouse, and definitely not my kids.
Stress eating, coupled with a lack of motivation, maybe even a little depression, has me staring at myself in the mirror with an uphill battle in front of me. The thing is, I know exactly how it happened and it might be different than what you’re expecting.
My life started to get off track the moment I stopped getting outside with my kids.
When I first found Hike it Baby about a month after our move, I was ecstatic. I needed friends, I needed things to do, I loved exploring and I wouldn’t have to sit in a circle and sing songs I didn’t enjoy. The branch I joined was new and the Branch Ambassador that had started it worked full time so they didn’t have anyone to host midweek hikes. Within a month, I was hosting hikes and had even signed up for training to become a Branch Ambassador myself.
I remember the first hike I hosted. I was so worried about making sure everyone had a great time and no one was left behind. I felt like a mess, continuing to look down at my guidebook to make sure we were on the right trail. I thought I’d never see any of those families again, but in the end, they all came back, so it must have gone all right.
September arrived and I got to experience my first HiB 30 Challenge. I did it! All 30 miles and then some. I remember how empowered I felt to know that I could get anywhere on my own two feet. We had car trouble that month and it didn’t faze me, because I had the power to get us where we needed to go.
When January rolled around I loved seeing what everyone else around the country was doing to stay out and active during the winter. I threw on my layers and got out there, too. We live in Atlanta and people would ask me if we would continue hiking during the winter. My answer would always be, “They are hiking in Michigan right now! Alaska doesn’t even shut down. They just modify their activities!” I loved being part of this community that motivated and empowered families to get outside all year-round.
Then came April and by the end of it I felt like a failure.
I joined the April Challenge and I think I logged less than 10 miles. My three-year-old had started preschool three days a week. It was good for him and it was supposed to be great for me. He attends this amazing play-based nature preschool where they spend most their time outside. Since my son was spending so much time outside at his school I started substituting that for what used to be our time outside together. I didn’t think it would be a problem since he was spending the same amount of time outside that he had been before, more actually, and that was the most important thing.
However, I was very wrong. You see, I needed my outside time, too. With my new-found freedom of a few hours to myself a week I was supposed to start taking care of myself, but I didn’t. I just found ways to be busier than ever. I made sure my children were taken care of, but forgot to take care of myself.
We are raising a generation to love the outdoors, and like any mission in parenthood that is a beautiful and often self-sacrificing thing.
I can’t hike as fast as I want to when my three-year-old is walking beside me. I’ve tabled the idea of taking up kayaking as a family until he can swim well. Our hikes are often local and short. It’s all a sacrifice to make sure they grow up with the same desire I have to enjoy the outdoors.
The problem is, over the last few months I’ve made it all about them and taken myself out of consideration entirely.
I need to hike.
I need to swim.
I need to climb rocks and jump over logs.
A little while ago I went on my first hike by myself and it was an amazing feeling. I got to go “fast”. I felt how out of shape I actually was, since I wasn’t stopping to pick up every stick and rock every few feet, and I was reminded of how good hiking was for me.
Over the summer I took my family to Yosemite for the first time. Needless to say, we are going back next year and probably every year for the rest of our lives. On that trip, we did a hike we couldn’t have done a year ago. We started at about 8,600 feet and over the course of about three miles gained an additional 1,000 feet.
Altogether, we went about 6 miles that day and my daughter, who was 5 at the time, hiked every one of them on her own two feet. She can do it. Hike it Baby led us to this point. What I realized on that trip is that I want to be able to do it too. My children are going to keep growing. They are going to get stronger. They are going to get faster.
The question is, will I be able to keep up with them?
Yosemite has a group of High Sierra Camps that you backpack between to make a seven-day loop. When we found out about them they immediately made the bucket list for our family. We want to take the kids someday and I have no doubt they’ll be able to do it, but will I?
I started this Hike it Baby journey because I wanted my children to enjoy the outdoors, to enjoy getting out there and exploring. I think I’ve actually succeeded in doing that. The most important thing now is that I continue to enjoy it with them.
Today marks the start of a new Challenge month and I’ve already got a hike planned for later this morning. I don’t know if I’ll make it to 30 miles or not, but I know I don’t want to let another week go by without hiking. I don’t have to think about the weight I need to lose or the energy I need to gain. All I have to know is that when I go outside I feel better. So today, it’s not just my kids that will get outside. I will too.