Why is it important for you to get outside with your family?
Rebecca: At the end of the day, my family is a lot happier when we spend the day on a trail than when we spend the day inside cleaning the house or watching television. But I think there's more than that. In order to protect the areas that we love, we need to raise a generation who loves nature, too. So not only is it healthy for us to frequently get away from computers and televisions and just the chaos of daily life, but it's also important for me to raise children who will grow up loving nature and wanting to preserve and take care of it.
How do you teach your children to appreciate the outdoors?
Amelia: I strongly believe that our kids are watching our every move... and our actions and our words must line up. If we want our kids to love the outdoors, they have to see us loving it. This means doing things outside as a family and separately. They need to know that our outdoor life is their "normal," but there are some (very enticing) outdoor activities that are for older kids and adults only. They see us go on solo hikes to refresh, do adventure races and climb mountains that they just can't yet.
Has your perception of the outdoors changed since becoming a parent?
Annie: Before kids I used to get outside because I just simply enjoyed every second of it. Now there's a drive to lay some groundwork for getting the kids outside because as we learn more about the developmental benefits of getting kids into nature, there is now actual science to back up the long-held belief that time in nature really does help build healthy human beings. At the same time, I'm also enjoying simply spending time with my kiddos outside.
What's challenging about maintaining an outdoor family lifestyle?
Amelia: I won't lie, getting outside as a family, especially when the kids are really young, can be a real challenge. There's more gear to haul, more mouths and bellies to keep full and happy, and just more personalities and temperaments to take into account. But we've seen again and again that every adventure from the very beginning is worth it. The kids are literally getting out as early as just a couple days old (for the sake of their parents and them!) It's what they've done their whole life and they love it, too. It's all about balance.
Do you explore differently as a parent?
Rebecca: Absolutely! I like to hike far distances. I like to summit big peaks. I like to move quickly down the trail. But since becoming a mother, I've had to learn to taper my own expectations. There's a time and a place for pushing myself, but when I'm with my children on the trail I've learned that the adventure is not about me and my goals, it's about them. Learning to have patience when they stop to play in the dirt on the side of the trail for a half-an-hour or want to stop for a snack every 50 paces has been challenging. But I want them to look back on our outdoor adventures and remember having fun. Letting them take the lead and being okay with moving slowly, stopping a lot and sometimes never leaving sight of the trailhead is part of that.
What kid-free activities do you enjoy the most?
Annie: Once a year, if I can swing it, I plan a 4-5 day trip into the outdoors somewhere where I have absolutely no children or responsibilities other than enjoying an adventure. Someone else is in charge of the organization and planning down to the last detail, and I can just relax and enjoy the experience. So whatever activity it is, hiking, backpacking, rafting, skiing, etc. I am in heaven.
Amelia: I love to hike and bike on my own (and with my family too!) Being active and quiet helps me refresh my mind, my body and my patience. It goes a long way for the entire family!
Rebecca: Twice a year the moms in my local hiking group plan a kid-free weekend where we can just escape from motherhood and unplug for a few days. Last summer we climbed four 14ers together. This winter we skied into a backcountry cabin. I think it's good for us moms to come together and have an adventure without the kids every once in a while.
Any tips for new moms who want to get outside more?
Annie: Find a group of parents who have similar ages in kids and motivate each other to meet up. You'll all be in the same boat with successes and cancellations and level of adventure your kids can enjoy and tolerate. Don't put pressure on yourself if you can't go out and do crazy adventures with your kids; take it in baby steps. There were years when I could barely get all three kids out of the house, let alone into a double jogger stroller and backpack on my back for a walk in the neighborhood. That was my huge outdoor adventure for the day...
Amelia: I would simply say trust your instincts; know that your babies are more resilient than you give them credit for, and don't let fear keep them from doing the things you love. Also making an investment in really good gear (a way to haul kids + clothing that will keep them safe and warm) is worth every penny for your peace of mind. Finally, find friends that will get out with you! It always helps to have people going through the same stages and challenges as you are.
Rebecca: Just do it. Lace up your boots, grab your baby carrier, toss some snacks and a bottle of water into your pack, find a trail and hike it. Babies are actually super easy to hike with, they love being snuggled and the gentle motion as you walk. Being outside and strolling down a trail will rejuvenate and refresh even the most exhausted new mom.
Are you part of an outdoor family? How do you get outside with your kids?