I am an enthusiastic advocate of the #mumventure – that is, an adventure that a mummy has in the great outdoors after leaving the kiddies safe and sound with their daddy or grandparents for a few hours. It’s a chance for her to get out of her comfort zone, see what she’s capable of and learn new things about herself.
Many of you know that I have three children – 9, 7 and 3 – and while I aim to give them a worldly outlook on life and expose them to as many exhilarating experiences as possible, family adventure – whilst a vital component to The Outdoor Studio – is not actually the theme closest to my heart.
Instead, I’m keen to reach out to other mums out there and promote the importance of exploring and regaining their identity after having children. The Outdoor Studio is basically the final destination of my own journey along this path. It’s the product of me reaching somewhat of a low after having my third child and my determination to get my mojo back.
It’s not uncommon to feel as though you’ve lost your identity somewhat during the Baby Years, but a mumventure can help you reclaim it. At the age of 37, when my youngest child approached two years old, I felt lost, empty, inferior, unsure and uninspired. However, as soon as I recognised and acknowledged this identity crisis, I learned very quickly that outdoor pursuits, whether it was sedate forest bathing or vigorous lake swimming, worked wonders in combatting it. Yep, the mumventure became incredibly important to me.
There are a zillion different versions of a mumventure, and it’s not about scaling the highest peak or jetting off to a far land (although it can be!) but is geared to finding inspiration and challenges close to home, to fit around family life. It is about popping out for a few hours on a Saturday to swim in the sea, go paddle boarding with a friend, hike along the Basingstoke canal with a map in hand, run a scenic 5 or 10K, cycle somewhere to somewhere you’ve never been before, or discover a new footpath…
It is intended to be realistic and attainable, but overall, to show you things about yourself which you may have forgotten or indeed, never got round to discovering.
Mumventures can only take place when our babies are old enough to let us go for a few hours and indeed, vice versa, when we’re ready to be let go. There is never any need to rush a mumventure, because life is not short – there is plenty of time. Whilst mummy guilt is often there, right by our side, including mine, I really do believe that exploring the outdoors and investing in ourselves is a highly therapeutic, restorative and constructive thing to do. Some might say it’s entirely self-indulgent but they’re wrong. It’s a worthy investment in ourselves and we don’t need to earn it, we deserve it.
Last year I started walking the Thames Path, all 184-miles of it. I committed to one 20-mile walk every month, getting up early on a Saturday and leaving my husband to do the kids’ swimming lessons. Of course, lockdown put a stop to it for a while but I’m back on the trail. I’ve now walked 104 miles along this river with my pal Vic, throwing life’s big questions at myself the entire time, although sometimes, just looking marvelling at this iconic waterway and all that thrives on it.
The walk is also raising money for the mental health charity Mind, so all in all, a brilliant use of time and energy.
What have I learned about myself? What has it taught me? That the best kind of conversation is often the kind on a long walk. Six hours is a long time – you’ll find yourself debating, reminiscing, observing and questioning all sorts of things, inevitably learning so much about yourself. If you’re walking with a like-minded individual, their comments and reflections will fuel your perspectives. Ideas will be born, resolutions will be made. Six hours is a long time to walk and isn’t that what a woman needs?
Ultimately, the air, the breeze, the ground beneath your feet, the ache and fatigue is gratifying. There is purpose and there is such reward. Both those things can make such a difference.