I always promised myself I wouldn’t become a “mummy blogger”. I don’t have anything new to say that hasn’t already been said better elsewhere. But as the tumbleweed rolled across my blog, I decided I need to do something different.
Adventure has taken different forms over the last few years since our return to the UK from Canada. First, it was a year (for me) of freelancing, spending time outdoors and trying my hand at writing. But I missed the banter of workmates and felt deeply uncomfortable marketing my ‘self’ – the identity of enthusiastic amateur, small scale adventurer, or even policy specialist. So adventures became a weekend and holiday pastime – still important, still driving how I spent my spare time, but with perhaps less pressure to share what I saw and felt.
Then relocation, back to the north west, and an attempt to find or build a community. I helped set up the BMC’s Women in Adventure Film competition, but felt disillusioned by my volunteering with them more generally. Work ramped up – a team of three part timers grew to 16 full timers in a new organisation – and my travel went off the scale. Note to self – the train from Penzance to Manchester is beautiful but boy, is that a long way to get home.
Subsequently my mum’s illness kicked off, and I had a regular commitment with the Christie hospital. Although her independence continued to be boundless, despite the chemo and radiotherapy, I actually had to grow up and be the responsible adult. And at one point, we compared nausea, as her chemo met our IVF. Thankfully both of those treatment schedules are over, and mum has carried her enthusiasm into the exhausting role of Granny to her grandson, now toddling, talking and generally entertaining us all.
I have, however, struggled to reconcile the various bits of my identity – and although I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last, I am still not quite at ease with the idea of “being a mum”. Perhaps it is because it dominates, and becomes quite exclusive – I want our son to know me, and think of me, as more than “just” his mummy, once he can wrap his head round that notion. Perhaps it is because many of the things associated with “mummyhood” – the terrible adverts showing mum slaving over an enormous Christmas meal, the cleaning and nappy changing, the self sacrifice without recognition or reward – feels like a mantle I will not willingly assume. Perhaps it is because it suggests that I have stopped being all the things I was before – ambitious, unrealistic, outdoorsy, career-oriented, whatever – to take on a role which can look one-dimensional. I didn’t change my name when I married, because I didn’t stop being me, but this feels like a greater and more persistent pressure.
In one of my periodic attempts to work out how to reconcile the various bits of my self, I signed up a few weeks ago for an online course – the “Outdoor Mom Academy”. I hoped for practical advice, but also for reassurance that it is possible to have children and still be adventurous, and maybe also to find a community – online or not – of others doing the same. I was unprepared to be confronted by the “being a mum” issue writ large! But this is a group of women who seem to confidently see themselves as “moms”, without a second glance. And I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, with the clue in the title, and with the focus on encouraging children into the outdoors, and integrating them into an outdoor life. But maybe I anticipated a bit more ambivalence, or maybe even frustration.
I’ve also been trying to actually get out and about with the boy. I visited a friend in Macclesfield and we put our toddlers in carriers and went for a wet and windy walk around Tegg’s Nose. Then I also managed a couple of walks with the boy (& the man, and Granny) in Pembrokeshire during our “summer” holiday (woolly hats required). But I am slowing down again, perhaps as an inevitable function of being 6 months pregnant with an unexpected child 2. The skiing holiday in January is postponed and my body is once again adapting to carrying an extra person around (on the inside). So I will be intermittently charting what I actually manage to do, in putting the learning from my course into practice, in trying to craft new adventures, and in doing so with child(ren) in tow.
Photo by Granny during our recent walk near Skomer, Pembrokeshire