A huge goal I had for myself on maternity leave was to get back outside and enjoy the natural world. I drowned my Pinterest boards in beautiful images of happy women with their babies in carriers and backpacks.
I also curate my social media feeds, I only follow those whose lives I admire and aspire to. To have images of nature based parenting scroll through my screen, is incredibly inspiring and I believe it acts on a subconscious level as well. I joined Facebook groups as well, and there are many communities of brave mothers getting out there in nature with their kids, like Annika of Born to Be Adventurous, Family and Sally of Wholistic Health YYC, Tanya of Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies – there are so many. The beauty of Instagram too is you can find circles of people who are living the lives with their children that you’d like to, as well and they will 10000% support you! No overly concerned ladies here commenting on how it’s hot for your baby and should you really be hiking? dipping her in that cold water? etc etc. (Yes I’ve had many well-meaning strangers approach me on adventures out, especially on snow days.)
Why was nature time with the kids such a draw for me? Getting outside has always been a form of meditation. When I am out in nature, I reconnect with natural rhythms and the simple enjoyment of fresh air. I come back recharged and feeling alive. Somewhere in the great outdoors, I grind out anxiety and racing thoughts under my trail shoes.
In order to have a great maternity leave, I knew I would need to reconnect with nature somehow.
In the first few months of my winter-born’s life, I was, among other things, intimidated to do simple things like take her to the mall for the first time in the stroller, put her in the carrier for the first time, go out for my first winter walk (I do live in the Rocky Mountains of Canada, we are talking snow piles and biting winds!) I went from brave and courageous to avoiding going out because I was putting off unfolding my stroller and putting my baby in a snowsuit for the first time. The struggle really is real!
I am very happy to admit I HAD NOT, AT ALL expected this strange sense of intimidation and newness. Every activity, from the mundane to the complicated, would take a concerted effort.
Was it a lack of confidence? Not necessarily.
I knew that both my daughter and I were freshly born into the world as new people. Her a new human, I a new Mum. Just as her eyes grew wide trying to take everything in, my eyes grew wide at the thought of bringing a floppy, fragile little creature with me on my former adventures.
As we slowly began to venture out in the world, it made me laugh. I was VERY intimidated using the Bob Stroller for the first time and had to watch youtube over, and over, and over to figure out how to unfold it and put it in my car… but it was all new to her, too. The first time a dandelion blew apart in the wind ? MIND BLOWN. Bird song? CAN’T EVEN.
When I started noticing the profound appreciation in her face for every tiny moment or whisper of a sound, I knew I’d be shifting the scale of my outings. I, too, began to profoundly appreciate tiny things. Ladybirds in the grass, dragonflies buzzing by us. The fresh smell of crisp autumn air. A sunset setting the mountains on fire. Tiny things. Instead of focusing on the vista of the mountains, my focus narrowed to leaves on the ground, frost covered twigs on the tree and snowflakes falling on the stroller, outlining their crystalline shape.
Have you ever been walking through your city and you get stuck behind tourists gawking at the buildings, or scenery? It’s sort of the same when you are with a little human. EVERYTHING. SO. AMAZING. MUST. PHOTO. CANNOT. HANDLE.
The key to a brilliant maternity leave is scaling your outdoor activities down, way down, we’re talking to the scale of a baby – or a toddler. You’ve got your whole life to scale back up, but for now, scale small and watch how nature takes you in.
This the essence of a “micro adventure.”
Smaller scale, commitment, duration, scale.
This does not mean smaller rewards.
I have found profound happiness in our little adventures every day. The scaled down adventure leads to closer inspection and appreciation of the world in our path. Rather than planning a huge day out once in a while when the stars are aligned (the parents are prepared and the children are happy,) I get out in nature, reconnect and rebalance in very simple ways.
You’ve got your whole life to grow up and grow back outward into nature. Why not join with your little one and get down to their scale, and grow with them.
Get out there in the fresh air, take in the world through the eyes of your baby and prepare to be awed. Nature has some treats for you, too.