Finding Herself as a Wild Woman in Motherhood
My heart pounding in my ears, the familiar heavy breaths that remind me of the power of challenge, the heavy-footed skip-steps that barely clear the rocks and branches strewn across the trail. Sweat and tears burning my eyes and leaving a film on the lower frame of my sunglasses. Raw marks on the inside of my arm and on my shoulders from my Camelbak.
10 miles down, 1 hour and 55 minutes later.
I get into my car, legs like jello, and catch a glimpse of myself in the rearview. Face red; streaks from where sweat had made rivulets through the dust that had clung to my cheeks. Hair piled on top of my head like an osprey nest- wild, unruly and unnecessarily large- strands bursting from the hair tie thanks to Wisconsin humidity. And a big grin.
I hadn’t felt the smile slide across my face and cement itself between my cheeks. But there it was, a reflection I knew as myself…but different.
It was a snapshot of the woman I didn’t know I was.
The wild woman who’s shins are scraped from branches, whose hands are blistered from climbing, who does things that scare her, things that teach her that being uncomfortable is okay – that tired legs and a happy heart are a product of her wildness.
A part of myself that is somehow intrinsically linked and wholly separate of motherhood.
There has always been this fear – that “self” time is selfish.
That wildness is reserved for your children. A wild childhood is magic but a wild motherhood is strange. That wildness and womanhood are separate. I had always assumed that motherhood meant domesticated. That making sandwiches and shuttling to soccer practice couldn’t exist within the same world of wanderlust and winding trails.
Turns out they are not mutually exclusive.
Teaching myself this has been a journey learned on running trails and solo hikes. A journey through guilty moments and proud ones. It’s been learned through sharing wildness with other mamas- and with my children. When I am carrying my girl in the backpack as I chase the boys down the trail and I look down at my boots and the earth below I smile the same smile that snuck across my face after my first trail run. Because hopefully, they learn by watching that their wildness can stick, it isn’t just for childhood.
Embracing my own wild woman means ignoring laundry and hitting the trails on the rare kid-free afternoon and not feeling guilty. It means a journey of miles over years, it’s a slow journey with many u-turns and no real destination.
But, when I catch myself doing something I thought I had forgotten in myself – a horseback ride across a river in the Sierras, a paddle across a quiet lake before the mist has lifted – I feel the familiar smile of the wild woman.