'Adventures in motherland'
Is having a baby the end of having an adventurous outdoor life? Certainly many women worry that it might be and wonder how they might be able to keep their adventurous spirit burning bright as they become mothers.
Most adventures involve a rich cocktail of the unknown, fatigue and self-doubt, fear and daring, skill and judgement, and coming to know yourself and the world better. For the passionate or professional outdoorswomen, how much does motherhood become the adventure and how much is it a trade-off with adventure? And are they judged differently from fathers who continue on an adventurous path?
The film explores how women athletes who ride bikes adventurously navigate the transition to motherhood and the challenge it presents to their bodies, identities and the ability to get outside and find their flow. It draws together the filmmaker’s own account of trying to balance motherhood and mountain biking during pregnancy and babyhood with the experiences of three athletes who have recently become mothers: Tracy Moseley (4x World Champion in Downhill Mountain Biking and Enduro); Harriet Pike (explorer of the great mountain ranges and places often unvisited by bike, particularly in South America and the Himalaya, and member of the Adventure Syndicate), and; Paula Regener (endurance bicycle racer, including the TransAtlanticWay Race and the Transcontinental race, member of the Adventure Syndicate).
We witness how these women find new enchantment in unexpected places and activities, both on and off the bike, as well as how they tackle the big practical, physical and emotional challenges of expanding their world and character to accommodate a tiny dependent being.
Why did you want to make a film about motherhood and adventure?
I have never yet found a film that really speaks to the experience of the deep quandary of accommodating both a woman’s adventuring outdoor self and their mothering self. But I really wanted to know how other adventurous women grapple with the dual demands on body, time, energy and identity that parenting and exploring/racing exert, so I could better make sense of my own experiences. So I decided to make that film.
One of the toughest yet most rewarding things I have ever done was having to renegotiate my relationship to outdoor adventure, and ultimately myself, when I had my two daughters (now 5 years old and 5 months old). As a former elite mountain bike racer and lifelong lover of being in mountains, when I first became a mother I struggled to adjust to the very different set of mental and physical pressures having a baby presented. Grappling with doubts (am I a good enough parent? Will I still be a gutsy bike rider), guilt, changing identities, bodily (dys)functions and the claustrophobia of a 24/7 on-call feeding shift, I experienced first-hand a descent into post-natal depression.
The second time around I wanted things to be different. I wondered what other outdoorswomen did when they became mothers and wanted to keep the fire of their adventurous self burning brightly. When I started asking them I realised I wasn’t the only one who had to work through a bubbling mass of mixed feelings to redefine the role of outdoor adventure in their lives. And I realised that there were lots of differences in how motherhood-adventure juggling was experienced and different coping strategies women used to keep tapping in to their adventurous spirit.
So I decided to roll the camera during my own journey through pregnancy and babyhood - to capture in the moment the magic and consternation that can come with trying to harmonise motherhood and mountain biking - and draw my first-hand experiences together with the experiences of three women athletes who know how to ride bikes adventurously and who have recently become mothers.
The result both evokes powerfully the consternation anyone might feel when they have to weigh up their adventurous yearnings with responsibility, whilst revealing fresh insights on how balancing parenthood and adventure is specifically experienced by women.
‘motherhood v. adventure’ or ‘motherhood = adventure’?
A key tension running through the film is: How much does motherhood become the adventure and how much is it a trade-off with adventure? Most adventures involve: the unknown; sacrifice; exhaustion, fatigue, sometimes operating on just a few hours sleep; daring, exciting, adrenaline, scary moments, fear, risk; moments of self-doubt; camaraderie, going it alone, isolation; application of skill and judgement, and; coming to know better people, places, and the self.
How, then, do adventurous outdoorswomen navigate the transition to motherhood? Does motherhood equal the greatest adventure? Or does motherhood mean mothers making some difficult compromises and concessions with the adventures outdoors so central to their former lives? How do women adjust to the challenges motherhood presents to their bodies, identities and the ability to get outside and find their flow? Do they feel they are judged differently from adventurous fathers?
The film explores these questions and shows how adventurous women find new enchantment in unexpected places and activities, both on and off the bike, as well as how they tackle the big practical, physical and emotional challenges of expanding their world and identity to accommodate a tiny dependent being.
For me, motherhood forced me to confront squarely why I previously rode a mountain bike the way I did, why I needed adventure at all, and why I needed adventure to be a particular way. It made me question why I needed to push myself so hard, why I felt I needed to be fit and lithe. What was I trying to feel? What was I trying to prove? Who was I trying to prove it to?
In a future update I will discuss the insights that came from making this film, the experience and catharsis, and where it might take me next …