Oct 30 2014

Hi Beth: How do you balance work with being a mom?

Don’t worry. I’m not about to go ahead and turn this blog into another self-help column-mostly because I don’t think I know a whole lot! 🙂 But with that said, I do actually receive a number of questions from very sincere readers (thank you so much! It means the world to hear from you all!). And many of them are asking about similar topics and issues. I’ve decided to start answering questions that warrant more in-depth responses here (much like my good friend Steph Davis does on her blog)… and I’m going to begin with this one from Kristen!

Hi Beth,

I’m a new mom to a two-month-old little girl. I’ve loved your posts on pregnancy and climbing, and your recovery blogs. Thank you so much for opening up and sharing your experiences. I’ve looked forward to your posts! I’m easing back into climbing now and I’m curious about how you are balancing work and climbing. I don’t know exactly how professional climbing works, but I’m also self-employed. I’m trying to learn how to balance taking care of Caroline and starting back to work. Most of my friends have 9-to-5 jobs … So I am curious to learn how you are balancing it all. How are you climbing and being a mom?


Hi Kristen! Thank you so much for you message and big congrats on Caroline! Also, a big congrats on starting to climb again. That is so great!

I’m five months postpartum, and just starting to climb again, too. For me, it’s both humbling and, in some weird ways, enjoyable to take those baby steps back onto the rock. Every day I make leaps and bounds of progress! 🙂 I’ve received questions similar to this one quite a few times, but I’ve been reluctant to answer them because the truth is: I don’t know! And, I feel a little weird writing a post about this as I know there are moms out there with many more things to juggle than me (multiple jobs, multiple kids, hard time finding childcare, etc). But I guess people must be interested in how a professional climber will juggle it, so I’ll do my best to let you know how I’ve been doing it – even though I know I’m just in the beginning stages of getting back to parts of my job.

When people ask about how professional climbing works, I’m not sure how to answer it because being a pro climber really involves performing a number of different roles-just like any freelance career. For me, that includes everything from being a spokesperson for companies, to attending events, to working on product design, to being an ambassador for the sport itself and working with the media. And, if I can find time, actually going climbing! Finding out how to fit Theo in with all of this will be an adventure 🙂

I think answering this question for any mom (regardless of climbing or self employed) will provide a lot of the same conundrums – how do we find enough hours in the day? 🙂 I love my climbing career in all of its forms, and I love being with Theo and raising him. If I’m to be totally honest, I’m not really sure how I am going to find all the hours I need to be the mom, or climber, I want to be. I will say that I am using my parents and their generous support with Theo as much as I can (currently writing this blog while they watch him!) I hope that I can lean on them and Randy’s parents to let me ease back into my work.

As for childcare, we are also on the wait list for day care here in Yosemite, which I think we’ll try when my body is up for more substantial climbing. We did think about hiring a Maternity nurse, as one of our friends had such a good experience with her post-natal childcare. She did warn us that if we ever did go down this route it is absolutely crucial to carry out criminal checks on whoever you’d like to hire. If you’re working with children you should keep an up to date record of these checks anyway but you’d be amazed by how many applicants don’t think to do this. I know many of my friends who don’t have family close by use day care and nanny shares, which we might try once I need more time than my family can give. One of my younger friends who has decided to travel some more before starting a family became a Cultural Care Au Pair recently so she could learn a new language and still see more of the world. This really opened my eyes to how much help an au pair can be when it comes to childcare. They can do tasks that normally leave you with no free time so you have more time to relax or do something that isn’t about the kids for once! And all you have to do in return is pay a wage and be a host family for the duration of their stay!

But, aside from most moms’ troubles with balancing childcare and their professions and time, comes the question on how to climb with this new little human. I’ve found a few things that have helped us in our very limited time so far (I’m positive this will be constantly changing – these might be old news to all of you!) First and foremost, we’ve stayed true to the old saying “It takes a village.” We’ve found the best thing we can do for our climbing and Theo is go out with people that are in the same boat. Luckily, our group of friends all have young children and all want to continue with this outdoor lifestyle, so we help each other out at the crag. Whether that’s taking turns watching kids while another couple climbs, or corralling all the kids together, just having more hands on deck makes a huge difference. And, because we all have kids, we know how valuable it can be to have someone help.

Another thing that all new moms are good at is being efficient. One of the main reasons I love climbing is for the social aspect, but right now I’ve found that if I want to climb, I need to socialize another time and just use the time that I have to climb. I take the hour or two I give myself and be as efficient as possible. It’s amazing how much I can cram in if I work at it! I also have found it okay to break up my workouts throughout the day. If I can do fifteen minutes here or there, even if it’s push ups or using the Metolius Grip Saver Plus, it helps me to get my body reacclimatized to exercise.

When I’m by myself, I know that I have a limited amount of time before Theo has other plans for our day. Over the past few weeks, I’ve taken him into the garage while I’ve climbed on my home wall. I’ll alternate between having him in his Merry Muscles or on the floor with a few toys to get some training in. My body hasn’t allowed me to climb a ton at a time, so Theo has been able to ease into the climbing life. I’ve also tried to incorporate Theo into certain training – like doing push ups over him – trying to make it fun for him. Or when I’m resting, I let him touch the holds and experience what I’m doing.

I also know a lot of my friends use the childcare at the Touchstone climbing gyms (currently in Berkeley and Fresno gyms), which allows them to climb and be close by. I think Movement in Boulder also offers childcare. I bet as the trend of bigger and bigger gyms takes off, childcare will become more and more regular.

All this being said, if you were to ask me how I feel I’m currently performing at my job, the answer is not as good as I want! That’s just the honest truth. I’ve been working in regards to other parts of my job (writing, product work, etc.) that aren’t as physically demanding on my body. But, I am used to being someone who sets goals in the vertical world, and works hard to achieve them. And right now, I feel as if I’m far from being able to accomplish my own climbing goals. Instead, I’m taking baby steps to get back there and focusing on Theo. As I said in one of my previous posts though, it’s been really important for me to go easy on myself. If I think about how much time I want to devote to climbing and how much time my body will allow – it’s hard for me. But, if I think about where I was four months ago, versus where I am now – it puts a smile on my face.

Every person has a different situation. For me, I haven’t found an easy formula for finding balance, if I do I’ll let you know 🙂 But maybe that’s the point. My most memorable moments in life have been in things that I’ve had to work the hardest on – and if that holds true, then being a mom is at the top of the list already! 🙂

I’m not sure if I answered your question at all, I suppose this was a much trickier one than “What do you take to the crag for your baby?” . . . But I’ll answer that one next!

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  • B

    Hey Beth,
    first off, congratulations on your progress so far! Looks like you guys are getting a great handle on things 😀
    I know that this is more of a "mommy" blog, but I spend 1/3 of my life as a stay at home dad / climber, so I relate to a lot of what you are saying!
    Reading your post brought up a thought I wanted to share. Theo is still probably a bit young, but around 6 months, I started both of my girls on a schedule. We lived by the formula in "happiest baby on the block". This schedule dictated eating, napping, and bed time. We've had amazing success with this and it really helped get my girls into their own rooms, eating better, and taking predictable naps.
    The take away though that I wanted to share, was that with such a more predictable schedule, I was able to make training time and know how long I had before the monsters awoke! At the same time, I was able to get knock stuff off my "man list" and make sure I was taking care of things. This became a great thing for us, but it does have its own pros and cons.
    Not sure if you and Randy have thought about this, but it worked for us and I think it would work better for a regimented athlete such as yourself!
    Keep up the great work, I always look forward to your posts.
    Cheers from sunny San Diego

    October 30, 2014 at 4:43 pm
  • Hey Bryan! Thanks so much for the message, really appreciate it! We actually had another friend mention that book as well – so we'll have to check it out!
    Hope you and your girls are doing great!
    Thanks again!

    November 4, 2014 at 5:55 pm