I’ve never understood people who make grand pronouncements about how moms are supposed to behave. As far as I’m concerned, moms should be able to do anything they like. If they enjoyed doing stuff outdoors before they had kids, they should be able to enjoy the same things even after they’re moms.
But I do understand about “mommy guilt.” There’s tremendous pressure to put your kids first, not only from society, but from yourself, too. So you end up forgoing some of the things you love to do – and that can make you anxious, depressed, and even resentful.
That’s why I was so excited to hear about Adventure Mamas, an organization whose mission is to redefine motherhood by encouraging moms to enjoy outdoor life, without being constrained by guilt or societal pressures. According to Adventure Mamas, you shouldn’t have to give up outdoor adventures just because you’re a mom. Sure, your adventures may change a bit, but it’s still entirely possible — and even desirable — to get outdoors to do the things you love.
Adventure Mamas has been around since 2015, and is now a network of more than 15,000 women around the world. These are women who are interested not just in pushing strollers, but in pushing themselves to have adventures that provide both physical and mental challenges, sometimes with children, and sometimes without. Like TheSkiDiva, Adventure Mamas is a community of women who share a passion for the same thing and want to connect with one another for support, camaraderie, and just plain fun.
I recently spoke to Justine Nobbe, co-founder of Adventure Mamas, to find out more about this exciting initiative:
SD: Tell me about yourself. Have you always been interested in the outdoors?
JN: Not exactly. I grew up in a small town in Indiana where there was essentially no outdoor culture. I didn’t get into the outdoors until I was midway through college – I was working toward a degree in English — and I started coming across all this literature about people who were living in ways I had no idea was possible. It totally blew my mind and changed my life pretty profoundly. As soon as I graduated I started working in an outdoor gear shop and figuring out what I could do to enter the outdoor world. I did a bunch of bike touring, trekking, rock climbing, and even worked as an adventure therapy guide in Utah for several years.
SD: So how did this lead you to start Adventure Mamas?
JN: My husband and I had a son in 2016, and although that was really exciting, there’s that moment when you think, okay, so how does my old lifestyle fit into motherhood? I started to do a lot of research to try to find a community that validated a woman’s need to continue to adventure after she had a child. There were all these individual women doing different things – you’d have this skier or this climber – but there wasn’t a community that supported women pursuing their passions that was relevant to me. So I decided to create a meet-up group in Salt Lake City to make friends with women who weren’t going to let motherhood slow them down. I told a good friend about it who thought it was a great idea [Stephanie Feller, Adventure Mamas co-founder], and we pitched in together to make it happen. It just took off from there. Other groups began opening up across the country, and it kept growing and growing. Now we have ten national groups, as well as a lot of international women who are engaged, too.
SD: So what makes adventure so important for women and for mothers, in particular?
JN: At Adventure Mamas, we believe in the transformative power of adventure and wild places. There’s a lot of research that says being outside looking at a landscape, or breathing fresh air, or moving your body can be extremely healing and centering. Adventure – putting yourself in a challenging situation, where your adrenaline is pumping and you have to think critically – gives you tremendous focus and clarity, which can translate very easily into everyday life. For mothers, adventure is extremely important. There’s research that says that women with children are more susceptible to mental unwellness than other populations, so adventure can actually be preventive healthcare. It’s good for your health and for your personal identity, which translates into healthy families, healthy communities, a healthy culture, and yes, even healthy kids. We want to tell our kids that they can do anything and be anything, but a lot of adults don’t believe it themselves. We seem to get stuck in a rut. We want women not to just talk to their kids about how they can do anything, but to show them through their actions.
SD: So what makes Adventure Mamas different from other outdoor women’s groups?
JN: Although there are a lot of outdoor women’s groups that are multi-adventure – that is, they cover everything from hiking to skiing – they aren’t necessarily oriented toward women with kids. Much of their outreach and marketing is done toward younger women. So say you’re an enthusiastic outdoor woman who belongs to one of these other groups, and you find out you’re expecting. The new baby arrives, and while it’s an exciting and happy time, you don’t feel like the other group applies anymore. You still want to participate, but you may be wondering, is it weird if I bring my baby along; what if I have to nurse on the trail; will people be upset if my baby is crying. This has been a pretty universal experience for the women we’ve met. It’s disheartening, because your identity is so warped after you’ve had a baby, and now, on top of that, you don’t feel relevant in the outdoor community anymore. For us, it’s all about getting outdoors and exploring, with your kids and without. We have women-specific events, where we encourage women to adventure without their kids so they can do things that are harder, but we also offer events where women can bring their children along. And as we move forward, we’ll be facilitating more events where we’ll offer childcare, too.
SD: What kind of outdoor activities does Adventure Mamas have?
JN: We are very specifically adventure based. We’ve had events across the country that facilitiate everything from kayaking to rock climbing to stand-up paddle boarding to mountaineering. We’ve had more than 40 events since we started. Our first national event will take place this July. We have an expedition that’ll be scaling 13er’s and 14er’s in Colorado. We also offer workshops on things like the role of self care as a mother and empowered motherhood and things like that. Even better, we’re a non-profit, so all this is free.
SD: Is this just for young mothers?
JN: I think people think we’re more oriented toward younger women and new moms, and I think the resources we provide are important for new or expecting moms. But we also have this important sub-niche of women with older kids who are almost empty nesters. A lot of them are stepping up and saying, I’ve spent my whole life caring for my children, but now I feel really lost. I used to like to do these things. Am I welcome here? So it’s really dynamic. We’ve had so many women reach out and say ‘Can adventure grandmas be better represented?’
SD: So how’s it worked out for you?
JN: I have an 18-month old son who comes along on a lot of things. It’s been kind of his whole life. Adventure Mamas started because of him, so we’ve been doing things together from the get-go. Of course there are ups and downs, but I embrace them. I personally find adventure parenting easier than indoor parenting. We’ve been on 5 or 6 cross country road trips, and done bike tours, hiking, climbing; he comes everywhere. The thing about Adventure Mamas is that a lot of moms want to pass their passion for adventuring on to their kids. I hope my kid continues to want to come along, but if he doesn’t, that’s okay, too. I’m still going to go.
Editor’s Note: Adventure Mamas is a non-profit organization, but it needs money so that it can continue offering outdoor adventures to moms at no cost. The organization has a fundraising campaign going on through the end of June at generosity.com. To make a donation (and to get some great swag), go here.