I can’t tell you how nervous I was when I first had Mason that people were judging me for taking my not- even-one-week-old outside. Mason was born on June 28 and it was over 100 degrees that week. We were inside the first few days but by July 4th I was feeling so air conditioned out. All I wanted to do was get out into the sunshine and the real world, no matter how sweltering. So Mark and I headed out the door for a walk around the neighborhood and to a restaurant to get breakfast.
The first restaurant had a huge waiting line. We walked in the opposite direction and probably ended up walking close to 2 miles and being outside for a good couple of hours by the time we got home. I was 6 days post-partum, so by the time we sat down on the deck of the second restaurant I remember feeling a bit tired, but I was so happy to be outside. We sat under a nice umbrella on a deck and I just felt so calm. The waitress came up to our table and looked at the car seat with our little bundle in it and said “Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a newborn baby!” She was polite, but I remember thinking she was sort of questioning whether our baby should be outside. On a side note we were so green as new parents, that we were too nervous to even put him in a carrier. So Mark literally carried him in his car seat all over the neighborhood until we sat down. Looking back I can’t help but laugh at how tired Mark’s arm was. That woman’s questioning look would be a reoccurring theme as I walked around with my little guy in subsequent months through sun, rain, wind and eventually snow.
There will always be judgement about parents who take their little ones out in the first few weeks of their life. What I have learned trust your gut. If you’re an outdoors person, your baby will be too. If you want to do anything, going outside and walking, no matter what the temperature, is definitely something you shouldn’t be worried you are doing wrong. Remember, there was a time when we were born in caves and lived in the wild. We may be weak creatures out in the elements, but we aren’t totally worthless. We and our offspring can survive rain, snow, wind and sun.
The reason I am bringing all of this up is because of a recent conversation that started in the Hike it Baby 30 community today. A woman commented on feeling like people were judging her as she walked around her neighborhood on a rainy day with her little one. Here’s part of what she posted, “We have all the proper gear but I feel like people are looking at me like I’m crazy for being outside with my 6 month old baby. Does anyone else feel this way? I’m a first time mama so I’m still working on getting a “thick skin” when it comes to comments from strangers.”
What followed was an incredible chain of amazing comments from other Hike it Baby families who could both empathize and who wanted to give this mom positive affirmation that she wasn’t doing anything wrong. This thread went on for hours. Without revealing people’s names I want to share some of the wonderful responses in case you are feeling like people are judging you as you get out there. Know that we have all felt this. It’s hard to explain to people who aren’t lovers of the outdoors how awesome it is to get out on a stormy day and feel the elements with your little one strapped to your back or chest.
Here’s a pic of the first really gnarly hike I ever did with Hike it Baby in October 2013. It was a stormy day and all of these mamas were together hiking in a total downpour that turned into a hailstorm with 2 month old to 1-year-old babies. I am in the center and Mason was 3 months old. There were 11 women. I remember thinking no one is going to show up for this hike and all of these women showed up. We had a blast hiking in the rain. Afterward, that’s when I realized…wow…that was one of the best hikes I’ve ever done and I was hooked. It helps having a supportive community around you to help encourage you to get out there.
Here are some of the responses in the thread on one member feeling “judged” by people passing by her in the rain.
“I honestly feel proud that I am getting out in the proper gear with my toddler in the rain and just hope that the neighbors see it that way too! But really I don’t care what they think….. I am doing whats best for me and my child. We live in WA and it rains/showers alot…. I can’t stay inside with her all day every day…” — AC
Maybe it’s because I grew up in Alaska and now live in Vermont, but if I’ve ever gotten any comments they’ve all be super positive. It’s still hard to shake the “judging eyes” but there is so much more evidence that going outside is BETTER for children than being stuck inside. Be confident that you are doing a great thing. In the beginning of our outdoor adventures I mentally armed myself with facts about children growing up in Europe and how well they do in comparison to American children, Look up Forest Kindergarten and Scandinavian Children’s winter nap-time habits–if anything, you should start to feel superior!
I once had a lady tell me I shouldn’t have my baby out of the house when it was 37 degrees(we’re in TX and I grew up in Wisconsin). I lied and said in my strong Northern accent, “we’re just visiting from Wisconsin, so to us, this is a nice warm day!” –DE
“I’m having the same problem when I am out with my 4month old sons. But people make comments when I take them to the store to shop too. It’s hard to have a thick skin but I’m starting to learn it’s a necessity as a Mom. I know I am a happier mom with happier babies when we get outside during the day.” –-JE
“I walk my middle child to school everyday rain or shine, snow or not. I wear her 7month old sister everyday. People stare. People offer me rides. I decline <sometimes feeling obligated to share that I have a brand new car in my driveway> I just smile at them all and tell them how great it feels to get outside. And then I tell myself, “I’m doing me. Let them do them.” Who cares what they think! Do you!!” –LL
“Embrace the weird. My neighbors know me as the hike lady. We usually walk at night with my 3 year old in a carrier, the dog & a flashlight. We also post hikes on our neighborhood Facebook page. Weird is way better than normal.” –KH
“I had this happen today. Very snarky comment if my kids were alright out in the weather (which was 30’s and light snow). It’s made me feel bad all day.” –CG
“My son is now 12 1/2 and used to be very small for his age. I live in VA and people wouldn’t just give me looks but would actually stop and say something to me! My son was very healthy and happy. He rarely got sick and had more physical abilities, problem solving skills, and confidence then the majority of his peers despite being born premature after I lost all amniotic fluid. I believe getting out in nature is a big part of this. If you feel its right for your kiddo then don’t worry about those looks just smile, wave, and see how happy little one is…or picture some of these posts on here with below zero temps/wind chills and realize you aren’t even close to that!” –SG
“I had this happen the other day, walking to get to a hike. We had walked 2 miles, were dressed appropriately for the cool weather (40s and overcast), and my baby took off her hat because I was generating a lot of heat (enough to wish I was wearing one layer less). A lady actually pulled her car over to chastise me about it. I just said, “thanks, but we’re actually ok!” and walked on.” –PK
These were just a few comments in this awesome thread that was posted, but the point of all of this is that you are not alone. We can all report similar experiences when it comes to getting outside. Currently we are living in a country that’s battling obesity, ADD, ADHD and a whole myriad of issues with children. Being outside in nature is not the problem, it’s part of a complicated puzzle that’s the solution. With each step you take, you are taking initiative in helping your family minimize these topics that are plastered across the news daily.
The best advice we have for you: the next time you are out with your little one walking or hiking and you get one of those comments or looks simply smile and say, “lovely day isn’t it?” and keep on walking. Then head home and look up the next Hike it Baby event on the calendar so you can find your people. We all understand your need to get outside and we’re here to support one another in our experience to raise amazing outdoor loving children.
Shanti Hodges is the founder of Hike it Baby. She has spent more time outside hiking around in bad weather since she’s had a baby than ever before in her life and is loving it. Perfecting the art of layering has become her new hobby. Feel free to share your favorite laughable “judgement” story with her at firstname.lastname@example.org