Today’s guest post and pictures are from Sabrina Carlson, mama and blogger at Mama Wild and Free.
I wasn’t so sure I wanted to become a parent. I’m a fiercely independent person. I love my alone time. I love climbing mountains, riding my bicycle through the forest, traveling to new places, running wild and free. Parenthood, I was sure, would bring all of that to an abrupt halt.
But here is what I’ve learned now three years into this parenting journey. Being a parent does not mean an end to your fun or adventure. In fact, I’m finding that the constraints of motherhood are actually driving me to explore, adventure, and travel MORE. Yes…that’s right. MORE.
Let me explain. Before you have a tiny person who depends on you for their every need, you think you are busy. Like…”OMG I’m sooooo busy” kinda busy. I allowed myself to get sucked into workaholic perfectionism constantly. 60 hour weeks were the norm. I said yes to everything, whether or not it was the very best use of my time or even something I wanted to do. I participated in a million activities from gardening, to the local running club track workouts, to cooking gourmet meals nightly, cleaning my house obsessively. When I could find some spare time I rode my mountain bike, though not as often as I wished I did, ran trail races, and occasionally traveled outside the US. Then, every once in a great while, I might collapse into bed for three days with exhaustion and try to recover.
As a mom, I have zero time in my schedule for anything that doesn’t serve a high level purpose in my life, family, or community. I don’t have space in my reality for the self congratulatory habit of manufacturing panic about artificially inflated to do lists, just so that I can base my self worth on how much I checked off said list.
After a rough start in this parenting thing I figured out I have two choices. I could continue to allow everyone and everything else to dictate my schedule and priorities while I try to cram the new, rather time consumptive, responsibility of parenting on top of it all and feel overwhelmed, insufficient, and exhausted with zero time or energy left to take care of myself. OR I could get ruthless and unapologetic. I could weed out everything that isn’t 100% essential. Learn to say no (to myself sometimes more than anyone else), and not need to explain or justify it. Just…no.
Now that I have peeled back the layers of all the extra burdens I unnecessarily placed on myself I’m less stressed, less frantic, and not only have time and patience for my family, I have more time for my own hobbies and interests than ever before. I consistently ride my mountain bike at least twice a week now. I hadn’t been able to say that since the dirt bag days of my early 20’s. I plan long weekends alone, or with a friend, to do something epic at least every 3 months, and my family and I adventure together all the time. I can’t say I was really that consistent before.
Why? Why was I LESS consistent putting adventures on the calendar before the constraints of parenthood!? It seems a little nuts really. I think because I “could do that anytime” I allowed myself to get sucked into whatever story I was spinning in my head about what was more important in that moment. No more. I don’t have the luxury of “going with the flow” these days. So I plan it and I ALWAYS make it happen. If I have time carved out to pursue my passions I will never “just not feel like it today”. Ever.
The result? I play, adventure, and travel MORE now than I did before I had my son.
I’m not going to lie to you. Figuring out HOW to make this work has taken time, intense self reflection (and some therapy) and is always evolving. This doesn’t happen right away with a new baby, and it shouldn’t. That time is unique and reserved for recovery and rest. The first year, even two, are pretty tough. A mama’s body goes through a LOT to make and birth a new person. The notion that “It’s natural so it’s no big deal” is horse manure. Lions eating gazelle on the African Savannah is natural too. That doesn’t mean it was a good day for the gazelle. The sleepless nights and being needed constantly (especially if you breastfeed) are very real, and make recovery long and difficult.
But hang on, Mama. You WILL recover. You child will sleep eventually. AND..this is the best part…you WILL find your groove and a rhythm that works for you. Yes, you will need to figure your child into any plans you make for adventure, be it a run in the woods after work or a trip across the globe. But that doesn’t mean those plans have to stop. In fact, they just might get better and happen more often.
Sabrina Carlson is a mama on a mission to tell postpartum depression where to shove it while living a life of adventure, travel, joy, and meaning as a parent, and hoping to inspire other moms that they can too. She blogs at Mama Wild and Free, can be found posting pictures of her wild and wonderful life on Instagram , and is currently learning that Pinterest is a great tool for adventure planning and vision boarding, and isn’t just for overly complicated craft projects.