My Mid Wife Crisis
CEO and Founder Wild Women On Top | Life Changing Adventures
I can joke about it now, but back then, it was no laughing matter.
Being a frumpy, frazzled, fed-up mum fighting forty was not what I’d signed up for. I’d lost my sparkle. I’d lost me.
I’d nurtured everybody else and neglected myself.
But little did I know it was about to get worse. When my husband returned from a work trip to find me curled up in the foetal position, blinds drawn and cockroaches crawling over last night’s dishes, he told me to “snap out of it”. But I didn’t know how.
Then, out of the blue, a friend’s personal trainer invited me to join his group trek up a high altitude mountain in Peru. The thrill of adventure beyond the drudgery of my white picket fence and my complete lack of fitness motivation inspired me to sign up.
A few days later the guilt kicked in and I couldn’t believe what I had done. Next came the fear. Friends told me it was dangerous, I was irresponsible, I was a bad mother. I could die. What was I thinking to take such risks?
Then I told my husband. We both knew life ended at forty and he knew I needed a break. His sister would come help him with the kids. It would be good for him to try being mum for a while, to do the thinking for two little humans 24/7 and do time at the kitchen sink between bottom wiping, counselling, cooking, teaching and first aiding.
Because it was me needing first aid and if I didn’t get it, I’d need intensive care. I knew I should have been happy. I had everything. But I needed a change.
It wasn’t easy. Just like divorce, I’d swapped one set of problems for another. In fact, it was really exhausting juggling work, kids, the home and my trek fitness. I had to do a 5 hour hike with a 20 kg backpack every Sunday, two one hour stair workouts a week and an overnight camping trek to prepare.
The raised eyebrows and askance glances from the tuckshop mums who heard of my adventure were distressing but I was too busy to bother explaining. In spite of all that, the excitement of my upcoming wilderness challenge made me excited and energised. The call to adventure gave me a goal, a quest.
Six months later I flew to Argentina with my best girlfriend. But, we were in for a shock. It wasn’t like they said in the brochure.
We had NO shower – just wet-wipes. We had NO water – just snow.
But what we really didn’t expect was the level of danger. At night we had to wee into a zip lock bag because it was too dangerous to leave our tiny tent. Imagine … being in a capsule the size of a single bunk bed, shimmying out of your cocoon sleeping bag by torch light, sliding your leggings down while kneeling … then manoeuvring a zip-lock bag into place to catch your wee … zipping the bag, before you pull your pants up … all without spilling a drop or waking your buddy. It was wild.
For the first time in my life I Iost my appetite. I lived on Milo for three days. Then we got lost in a blizzard and 2 people died base camp. We never reached the summit. We failed.
But out of that failure I found the phoenix of my future. I found exhilaration. For the first time since winning a gymnastics competition as a kid, I felt awesome. I’d leapt out of my comfort zone, even feared for my life … and found magic. I’d learned courage and resilience. I learned that most of my problems are inside my head.
I found a passion for wild adventure.
And I soon discovered other school mums who needed adventure. Together we planned mini adventures like midnight hikes, camping out under the stars and wild weekends in the bush, always relishing the laughs, thoughtfulness and secret women’s business we shared over a nudie sunrise swim, a glass of red or campfire deep and meaningful. And once in a blue moon, we’d escape on a big adventure trek like Machu Picchu or Mt Kilimanjaro to recharge and rejuvenate.
There was a CFO with two kids climbing the corporate ladder, a lawyer with a downs syndrome child building her business and a mother of 6 who was married to the wealthy stock broker – all of us needed adventure to keep ourselves fit and manage our first world stress.
But this new found confidence shifted the power balance at home. Some husbands didn’t like their wife’s empowerment. One friend confided, “When I feel him wearing me down, bullying me or withdrawing completely, I remind myself I’m strong. I’ve climbed mountains, I’ve walked 100km, I’ve pushed way out of my comfort zone in wild places where I never thought I’d survive,” she said. “I know my mental and physical strength will get me through.”
A few years later, I really needed that mental toughness as I struggled to protect my children from their father’s post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction. I had the strength I needed. The lessons I’d learned in the wilderness got me though the fear and made me brave. And later I used these same lessons to build my business.
This adventure transformed my life. My trekking experience prepared me for life’s tough stuff. Which is lucky, because, let’s face it, nobody cares as much about your happiness as you. Your boss wants you for your productivity, your family wants you for your nurturing and your partner wants you for sex.
Life’s a trek. And everybody who lives long enough to meet their grand-children knows what it feels like to hit rock bottom. So, get trek happy and healthy so you can feel awesome.