A month ago I attended the 5Point Film Festival and participated in a panel about women in the outdoors.
During the question period, and audience member raised her hand and said, “I love what you’ve all said about women being inspired by seeing other women in adventure sports. But after seeing last night’s films, my son and daughter went home with very different ideas about possibility.”
The room fell silent. She was right. Most of the films featured men and told their stories. The women played supporting roles or mentees, not leaders driving the narrative.
Anna Levesque, a professional kayaker who has devoted her life to empowering women on the water, said, “We need to take a Go Pro on our adventures. Nobody is going to tell our stories for us.”
Chills covered my arms. As I sat on stage with other women in the outdoors industry, I pictured the next big adventure for Tobin and me.
That’s when I got the crazy idea to video our adventure. I want other parents to see that while it might not be easy, it’s certainly possible and definitely rewarding to spend time outdoors.
A month later, I’ve consulted with videographers and invested in navigational charts for route planning. Somewhere between logistics and sketching out the necessary gear, doubt crept in and became a constant companion.
I wondered if the idea was too big or dangerous or crazy. I second-guessed my own skills and ability to effectively parent. I worried about finding the time to make this happen with so many other projects up in the air.
That’s when I started looking for inspiration from other single parents adventuring with their kids.
I sat down with Megan Hutton, a single mom who races mountain bikes. Her contagious adventurous spirit, left so excited that I wanted to share our conversation here.
How do you balance your own pursuits with raising a child?
I didn’t have family in the area, and didn’t have friends jumping at the chance to watch my kid while I worked out. Money was tight. Even with those obstacles, I had to work out because it kept me sane and I wanted to model a healthy and active lifestyle for my son.
When my son was younger and I was getting used to life as a single mom, I was tired most of the time. I became flexible about riding.
The only time I could be sure I’d get on my bike was when my son visited his dad. I’d sign up for a mountain bike race on those weekends. I knew that if I registered and paid money, then I was committed and would show up. Races back then weren’t competitive for me. I raced off the couch, happy to get on my bike and catch up with friends. Race results became irrelevant.
Now that my son is older, we ride together as often as we can. He comes to my races and watches me ride. He’s also been doing some downhill races of his own.
Sometimes I feel selfish asking for the time and space required to work out without my son, but who I am as a person and mom depends on me nurturing my passion for the outdoors.
What obstacles have you faced when adventuring with kids?
Without a doubt, spending time with kids in the outdoors adds extra work and most adventures become more difficult. I have to remind myself that taking my son along also multiplies the rewards.
Three years ago I broke my knee. Getting injured not only meant that I couldn’t ride, I wasn’t even supposed to be home alone.
Some people blamed me for taking risks and slung blame.
“Being a mom should come first,” they said.
“Riding is selfish and dangerous,” others said.
“Taking risks jeopardizes your ability to parent,” some said.
Labels like “bad mom” box in women, until moms worry it’s selfish for asking for the time and space required for self-care.
I became so worried about what other people thought that I became afraid to post a picture of me riding on Instagram.
How did you create a space where you could own riding bikes and adventuring with your son?
Other single moms inspired me to let go of the limiting self-conscious believes about taking time. Seeing another single mom pursue her passion for riding helped me own taking the space to be the best person I can, which includes bikes.
I redefined what it means to me to be a mom, a definition that now includes taking care of myself. I don’t buy into the crazy idea out there that once you give birth, your life revolves around your child and you cease being a person with distinct needs and desires.
Creating a community with other women changed my life. I need their support and together we become empowered.
I continue to prioritize putting myself out there to build my tribe. When I meet moms who aren’t already outdoorsy, I invite them to come along and offer them experiences in the outdoors.
How do you motivate your son to get outside?
There are days when it’s challenging to get kids outside. Some times I have to push my son to go and ultimately he ends up having fun. There’s a fine line between when do we need to nudge our kids to get out the door and try something new versus pushing a child too much.
Even with the best of intentions and lots of trip planning, there are times when things don’t go well. I’ve done the research and thought a trail would be appropriate for my son’s skill level and it turns out that it’s a bit too much.
When the trail turns out to be tougher than expected, I do my best to keep it positive and not get frustrated. Each time we go outdoors, we both learn valuable life lessons.
I’ve learned about patience, what to bring and when to turn around.
My son has learned to keep going to get out of it, that sitting down and quitting isn’t an option.
What advice do you have for other parents?
Don’t wait until you have it all figured out – there will never be a time when everyone is in the perfect mood, when the weather is just right, when there are no nagging household tasks. Get outside despite the fact that the stars aren’t perfectly aligned.
What’s one dream trip for you and your son?
My dream for us is to backpack the Art Loeb trail. A couple of months ago we went on our first overnighter to test the waters. We’ve fine-tuned the packing list and adjusted the weight of his pack.