Becoming a mum is wonderful but not always easy. It is not unusual for parenthood to come as a bit of a shock. Women who are used to working can feel very isolated and bored. We need to talk about this more so that women who feel that way don’t feel guilty about it. Happy mothers make for contented children after all so we should invest in ourselves. I am delighted to share this guest post from Rachel who you can find on the Muddy Boots Mummy blog. It shows how walking saved one mum’s sanity and might inspire others to get out and about. There is nothing like a good dose of vitamin D and country views to keep us healthy both physically and emotionally.
“My first maternity leave lasted six months. I was desperate to go back to work; completely bored of the unexpected monotony of maternity leave. I truly loved my daughter (which is the only reason I managed to last six months), but it was six months of days spent alone and in a cycle; nappy change, feeding and cleaning. Yes, I had an NCT group, and yes, I joined classes, and that would take an hour of the day. Tops. Talk tended to be about babies, nappies and feeding. There was no escape! The rest of the time I was left to my own devices. I wasn’t eligible for any maternity pay with my first child, so rather than spend money I just stayed in, alone, watching TV and snacking. Unsurprisingly, I put on a fair bit of weight and couldn’t wait to return to work, where I could be more than a glorified nappy changer.
I was ecstatic to fall pregnant again, but I knew that I had to do something differently this time round. At work I was busy all day every day, and then I came home to look after my daughter, study for my part time diploma, fit gym classes in when I could, and try to spend some quality time with my husband. I knew that I would likely struggle once again with the change of pace on maternity leave and needed to have something else to do.
I’ve always enjoyed walking. As a child my parents had a static caravan in Keswick in the Lakes, and we’d go there every weekend, always getting in some good walks. At university I was in the Hiking Society, and then as a teacher I became a Duke of Edinburgh leader and Assessor, as well as supporting the Outdoor Education team. I knew it’s something that I could do more of. When again would I be given a year of my life to do what I like? With my daughter at nursery three days a week, I had the hours between drop off and pick up to myself, and could do the walks that I wanted to do with a baby in a carrier. I wanted to make sure I stuck to this commitment, and so I started my blog. I could record and document the walks that I did with my family, and that might encourage others to get out and do the same.
My gorgeous son was born in May 2019. To say it was a shock to the system was a complete understatement. The first two weeks (whilst my husband was on paternity leave) were pretty good, we spent time enjoying and re-adjusting to life with as a family of four. Then the colic emerged. Weeks and weeks of screaming. When he wasn’t asleep or feeding he just cried. It was incredibly difficult to bond with him, because you couldn’t play with him, there were no smiles, no gurgles; just crying. Thank goodness for my walking.
In the house I was completely trapped with the screaming; you couldn’t watch TV, or read a book or basically concentrate on anything; there was nothing to escape the cries. But outside in a baby carrier he miraculously calmed. So I went out a lot. As soon as he was up and dressed in the morning, out I’d go, exploring some of the fantastic countryside around Yorkshire. I had been worried about sticking to my commitment of walking, but it turned out that it was the only thing I could do to stay sane. Luckily the worst weeks were over summer, so the weather was perfect to walk in. I kept out of the house (for free), I was active, I was in the fresh air… I was LOVING my maternity despite having a colicky baby!
After comments on Facebook and Instagram from other mums who wanted to get out on walks, I started the Muddy Boots Baby Walking Group when my son was just 4 weeks old. Every week we go for a walk, ranging from 2-6 miles, that usually ends in a café, pub, or in good weather with a picnic. It’s fantastic to chat to other parents, whilst babies are strapped into a carrier or buggy and so don’t need your attention!
If you think getting out to walk is something that you want to try, here are my top tips to making it happen;
- Plan, plan, plan. I think getting walks in the diary make you more likely to do them! Decide where you fancy going and decide when you’ll go there, when will you find the time?
- Keep the walking less than two hours at a time. Realistically after two hours, your baby will need a feed. Is there somewhere to stop? Is it sheltered? Otherwise you might need to plan walks that are less than two hours (probably not much more than 5 miles).
- Prepare the night before. Check the weather and get out everything that you might need. Boots, waterproofs, bag for baby. The last thing that you need is an excuse for not going because you can’t find your gloves.
- Make sure you tell someone where you’re going, especially if it’s off main paths. Have a fully charged phone and you might want to try the what3words app. You might want to go with someone else at first, perhaps ask other mums to join you!
- Have fun. Remember that some walks your baby will cry. But they would also probably cry at home. Don’t let it put you off; get out there and enjoy yourself.
I’ll end this by saying that by the time my son was about three months old he was happily over the worst of the crying stage, and is now a totally happy, cheeky 8-month old. He still instantly calms on walks and enjoys going out and looking round. It’s definitely the best thing I could have done with my maternity leave, and rather than wishing I could return to work, I’m wishing I could stay off to enjoy this time longer. If you want to keep up with our adventures, I’m on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.”