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Say Adios to the Babymoon and Embrace Adventure With Kids

I always find that my kids can hike farther, climb higher or process deeper than I might think. It's the most beautiful thing to watch them adapt, learn, make friends in new places and begin to understand the concept of empathy.
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I'm not a fan of the Babymoon. This is the sister ritual to the honeymoon (except it's really more like a bachelor(ette) party), where expectant parents take one last vacation before their first baby arrives. Entire websites are dedicated to this last hurrah, promoting awe-inspiring destinations like Hawaii, California and Aruba, and promising All-U-Can-Handle relaxation. Which admittedly, sounds tempting in that third trimester of pregnancy, when things are feeling pretty weighty. The idea of escape is alluring.

But to mem, the Babymoon sounds dismal. On the surface, it seems benign -- I mean, who doesn't want to drink a virgin daiquiri while overlooking the Caribbean -- but on a deeper level, I believe it contributes to a psychological shift; a concession. It screams, "Quick, have fun before your life is overtaken with diapers and spit-up and college savings funds!"

Sure, welcoming a baby is a big change. I have two young kids, so I know. As soon as the umbilical cord is cut, a litany of responsibilities ensue. Big love takes hold. In the whirlwind, it's easy to watch the things that make you feel whole as an individual -- for me, this includes travel and outdoor adventure -- slide to the back burner, joining the list called "Things We Did Before Kids."

When I was pregnant with my first child, I dug in my heels and refused to let my diapers become my new white canvas. I ignored the Babymoon, putting the money we would've spent on a luxurious getaway into a Travel Fund, and I made a list of things I wanted to do after our baby was born: sailing, hiking the desert, visiting off-the-beaten-path Mexico. I was already an avid adventurer -- taking solo road trips through Wyoming and Montana, backpacking the mountains with my husband, traveling to Costa Rica and Germany on my frugal budget. "Adventurous woman" was an important part of my identity. No matter how much spit-up covered my hiking boots, I wasn't letting that go.

We started small. At four weeks postpartum, my husband and I ventured with our newborn to a cabin in Northern Colorado, a couple of hours from our house. We were able to drive up to the front door, allowing us to take things that made us comfortable as new parents, which was a lot of stuff, including several pacifiers and a bouncy chair. I remember being nervous. How would our baby handle the high altitude? Would any of us get sleep outside of our usual environment? But our pediatrician gave us the green light, so we went.

The trip was encouraging. We relaxed into the coziness of the simple accommodations, read books, walked in the woods and curled up by the fireplace. I even took a couple of short solo hikes. None of the challenges we encountered were any different from the things that were happening at home, yet here we were, in a place that was rejuvenating for my husband and me, and the experience built confidence.

Our next adventure, when our son was four months old, was a backpacking trip into the wilderness. Since then, a second child has joined our family. She got her passport at four months of age, in preparation for the trip to Mexico that was on my list. And the explorations have continued. Our family has even tried some extended travel on a middle-class budget, including a two-month excursion south-of-the border. And with the help of a supportive family, I've managed to accomplish some of the solo trips that I'd hoped motherhood wouldn't squash. I sailed the Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey for 10 days, and I followed a dream to Rome.

Don't get me wrong. I've had to wrestle with lots of emotions, like guilt, and adventure isn't as spontaneous as it used to be. Children need snacks, diapers, incentives for not whining and other things that require brain power. Nevertheless, it's incredible to take even young kids out of their comfort zone and watch them work it out. I marvel when they notice things I might not even see: rocks, bugs, moss. And I'm hugely challenged when they see stuff I'd rather they not experience, like kids in rural Mexico training their roosters for a cockfight.

But all of this opens doors to conversation and life experience, and I always find that my kids can hike farther, climb higher or process deeper than I might think. It's the most beautiful thing to watch them adapt, learn, make friends in new places and begin to understand the concept of empathy. I also find that I'm a better mother when I return from solo trips, feeling fresh after having my own personal hunger for exploration slaked.

So, I say adios to the Babymoon, or at least to what it represents. The exploring continues. My goal for these blog posts is examine this topic more deeply, share ideas and tips, and learn from the readers in this community. I look forward to the exchange of ideas, so please don't hesitate to contribute your thoughts.

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