I was delighted that my article in the January issue of Climbing (8 Confessions of a Climbing Mom) generated a lively response. You can find some wonderfully positive and also some incredibly indignant responses posted on the forums at gunks.com and rockclimbing.com. I encourage you to enter into the discussions on this real and important issue.
One of the main messages of the article is that a mom needs to set up a good system if she plans to continue climbing on a regular basis. But even the best climbing mom’s system is precious and precarious.
A good illustration: In my article, I describe the great system of my friend, Jannette, the uber climbing mama of the Gunks. Jannette’s system, which has been in place for several years, enables her to get out one day a week for adult climbing, without kids, all year long.
“Fantastic!” you say.
But only weeks after the article appeared, Jannette’s system nearly fell apart when she was laid off from her job. Thanks to Jannette’s powers of corporate persuasion and also, no doubt, to her considerable talents -- she managed to get herself unlaid-off. So her story has a happy ending on several fronts.
Before Jannette was rehired, she wrote me a frank email that I’ll reproduce here with her blessing, which starts: “I'll need to find a new system.”
Jannette’s system was based on working four days a week, with the money from her salary partly used to hire a nanny for one day and the one day off a week used to climb. Musing aloud in her email, Jannette continued, “If I do find a new job, that would be good for our finances, but as for climbing - I fear having a full time job will make it hard for me to have any adult-climbing time.”
Jannette explained, “My kids will be bummed if I go off without them too often. They love to climb too. But I can't do multipitch with 2 kids. I am not comfortable with them lead belaying yet and I would want another adult with us (and 4 on a multipitch is way too burdensome).
For some who suggested in the online forums that a mom should climb multi-pitch with her children, here is Jannette’s thoughtful perspective. She wrote, “I just think the risk of the kids having to deal with their mother possibly injured in a lead fall and having to remain calm in an emergency and know how to escape the belay, do the rope and gear management, and get help is just too much responsibility to place on children. They aren't technically and emotionally ready for that yet.”
Jannette adroitly summed up the balancing act that she faces as a dedicated climber and dedicated mom. She wrote, “Although I love being with my kids, it's so much fun to escape with another adult and spend the day climbing together without any parental responsibilities. I'm not in any rush to turn my kids into hardcore rope guns.”
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