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Balancing kids and climbing


Original Post
Channing Lai · · Hong Kong · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 45

Can someone share how they balance pregnancy, toddlers, kids; working a full time office job and climbing hard?
I am at a stage in my life where eventually kids will be in the picture, but I can't quite wrap my head around how I can continue climbing a lot, and have kids at the same time. I understand there is going to be sacrifices, but perhaps some ladies can tell me some inspirational stories of how they have managed to climb at least the same level and still balance being a mom. 

Ken Noyce · · Layton, UT · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 2,249
Channing Lai wrote: Can someone share how they balance pregnancy, toddlers, kids; working a full time office job and climbing hard?
I am at a stage in my life where eventually kids will be in the picture, but I can't quite wrap my head around how I can continue climbing a lot, and have kids at the same time. I understand there is going to be sacrifices, but perhaps some ladies can tell me some inspirational stories of how they have managed to climb at least the same level and still balance being a mom. 

Man here, so probably can't answer all of your questions, but my wife does climb, and we climb with lots of other parents as well.  The biggest thing that we have found is that you just have to get out there and do it.  There are so many people that I know that have a kid and then just stop doing anything using the kid as an excuse.  In reality, if you just go climbing and take the kid/s along they will do great.  For the first year or so, we always bring a pack and play that we can just put the kid in and leave it in a safe location.  The kid isn't really mobile at that point, so all you really have to worry about is being ready to take care of them when they get hungry.  The hardest point is probably from the time they start walking until they are actually good at walking.  During this time, you need to only go to very safe and flat climbing areas and make sure that they stay away from the danger zone of falling rock.  We always bring toys like buckets, shovels, tractors, and things like that to keep them occupied.  Another important thing is the gym.  If you want to keep climbing hard you won't get as much time on the rock, so you absolutely need to go to the gym.  With working full time, it is generally best to trade off and have one of  you stay home with the kid/s one day, and the other the next day so that you can both get a good workout without having to deal with the kid/s.  I currently have 4 kids and my wife has climbed harder after each one until our last one (but she's only 8 months old and my wife has been more focused on triathelons since our last kid), so it is certainly doable, you just have to make sure and prioritize what you really want.  

lech · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 981

Pregnancy:  My wife climbed till 8 months and then started again about 1 month after.  We got a full body harness and that was pretty critical.  By 6.5-7 months she would down climb rather than being lowered as the harness was not supper comfy. She did limit herself to top rope for most of that time. It was less fun to climb pregnant and she did lose about two letter grades from her climbing for about 4 months after, but overall she stated that it wasn't too bad.  Other conditions of pregnancy were a much bigger factor than the effect on her climbing.

Toddlers:  I will second the pack and play.  The can't walk good stage is harder but not bad if you have flat areas near by.  I never found the need to climb separate of my wife but we only have one kid and I was ok when others freaked out as my toddler put rocks in his mouth.  I find a tablet with games and a few downloaded movies to be very helpful for this stage.

Kids: Now my kid is 5 and climbs some easy multi pitch with me on rest days.  He loves to swing from the rope on hard sport days.  He has grown up outside and loves to play in the dirt.  I have gotten my share of dirty looks as he tends to throw rocks (now in a safe direction at 3 not always).  I have been told he shouldn't move the rocks around it could cause erosion or you should have him leave the area as you found it.  Other climbers that don't have kids may complain when they show up at the crag and see your kid there.  They will likely teach your kid words that you would prefer them not to hear.  So far the kid only uses the words we do and doesn't seem to pick up on those used by the other climbers, which is a surprise as they are used often. He also likes to play guns and this makes a lot of climbers talk down at you for not discouraging it more.  I guess my ramblings are to point out our biggest issue with taking the kid climbing is not his ability to hike or his need for attention or even the increased stuff you will have to carry to the crag.  It is the less than chill back seat parents at the crags.  I was shocked to find a bunch of self proclaimed laid back climbers that have never had kids so vocally try to push their values and perceptions of parenthood on your family.

Working a full time job:  As you get older, you will likely find that climbing hard for more than 3 hours a day 7 days a week becomes difficult not due to time, but due to physically recovery time increasing. Sucks to get old. I can only climb hard every other day now. I have plenty of time for a 40 hour a week job (I call this recovery time).  I also have found a second job on the side still doesn't cut into my climbing time. I did give up watching a lot of TV and video games.  If climbing is a priority it is easy to fit it in.

Climbing Hard:  This is a very ambiguous term.  I wouldn't say that myself or Ken climb hard because that is always a grade or two above your current level. We try hard and have both gotten stronger since having kids.  My wife has also gotten stronger since having a kid. Having kids is not the limiting factor although it may be a weak excuse used by some.

Ken Noyce · · Layton, UT · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 2,249
lech wrote: 
Climbing Hard:  This is a very ambiguous term.  I wouldn't say that myself or Ken climb hard because that is always a grade or two above your current level. We try hard and have both gotten stronger since having kids.  My wife has also gotten stronger since having a kid. Having kids is not the limiting factor although it may be a weak excuse used by some.

Good point Leron,  when I say climbing hard, I just mean climbing hard for me (i.e. pushing myself and getting stronger).

Ryan Pfleger · · North Lake Tahoe, CA · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 15

Great advice from Ken and lech. I would add that you should start getting out with your kid as soon as possible. Dont wait until they're 5 and they walk well, and know not to throw rocks at the crag dog or whatever. At this point they'll want to know why they have to do this new thing they haven't been doing until now. It also is imperative that you have a partner who is in full support and on the same page with getting the family out there. I was one of those parent's who gave up climbing and kayaking and backpacking for many years while my kids got older. Don't do it that way.

Alicia Sokolowski · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 1,095

I don't climb hard, but I never have.  I do climb harder now than I did before kids.  I also climb often IMHO for someone with two kids and a corporate job and still does other sports like kayaking and caving.  Lots of good advice above, but I think the key is what Ryan said.  Early and often.  My boys are more comfortable at our local crag than they are in our living room.  They have all their play areas mapped out and currently (ages 6 and 3) need almost no intervention from us.  They let us know when they want to climb and have their own agenda otherwise.  Babies sleep a lot.  You might as well get in a couple pitches while they do.

señdera la reina · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2017 · Points: 0

It is possible to bring the children when they are small because you control all of their time.  When they get older and join their own activity and sports, then there will be the challenge.  Do you go to climbing gym or take them to gymnastics class?  On weekends there is baseball game and birthday party.  Children will find friends and want to be with them.  Choosing these things will be the struggle.

Austin Goff · · Winston-Salem, NC · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 80

We bought each of these:

https://www.kidco.com/product/travel-products/peapod/

https://www.guavafamily.com/products/lotus-everywhere-travel-crib?gclid=Cj0KCQjwre_XBRDVARIsAPf7zZhPqIZLgh4aZMmnPr2FP6n5lFYGutFmgs1O0BywYqXH0yh-A8Qr9aMaAsccEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

 but i would probably only get the pack and play. Its expensive but lightweight and turns into a backpack. It changed the game for me.  I've found that with my 2.5 year old i can download some movies and bring toys for when i am climbing and then i try to hang with her when i am not. On the days that its just me and a climbing partner she is still able to come along and entertain herself while I climb and belay but i still make a point of including her between pitches. My partners have all been understanding despite not having kids of their own. They have become like uncles to her. I feel bad that they have to deal with her sometimes but outside of having to help her pee outside while i am in the middle of a pitch she doesnt require too much from them. I try to make a point of carrying my share of the gear and also to have weekends set aside where i know i am not climbing so that we can do different activities and give the climbing partners a break. The key is to get them outside early. She  is so much easier to manage and fun to be around when we are outside climbing rather than at home.   

Ken Noyce · · Layton, UT · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 2,249
señdera la reina wrote: It is possible to bring the children when they are small because you control all of their time.  When they get older and join their own activity and sports, then there will be the challenge.  Do you go to climbing gym or take them to gymnastics class?  On weekends there is baseball game and birthday party.  Children will find friends and want to be with them.  Choosing these things will be the struggle.

Birthday parties are the worst.  They are always right in the middle of your Saturday and completely ruin the entire day.  Fortunately, as a parent, you do have the ability to choose what other activities you allow your children to participate in.  Maybe I'm just a mean parent, but I don't think kids need to be in every possible extracurricular activity available, and I look at the schedules before I put my kids in something and make sure that whatever I am putting my kids in won't completely take over my life as well.  

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 735

A very wise woman once told me: "Sure, you can have it all! Just not at the same time."

Pregnancy: I didn't climb through pregnancy, I was not a very serious climber at the time, I had no climbing partner support system, and I had other things going on. In 4 months after giving birth I defended my PhD, moved to another city, and started a new job. But a lot of women do climb and have no problem. You can keep climbing until the day you go into labor... and I know multiple women who climbed regularly, and fairly hard ( though not hard relative to their-pre-pregnancy level). It doesn't require much time-management at this point.

But climbing through pregnancy will do very little to maintain your climbing fitness level long-term. You should climb if it feels good to go outside, hang out with your husband/friends, and move your body on the rock. However, if you don't feel like doing it... your climbing will recover back to your pre-pregnancy levels just fine, even if you do take the entire time off. You just have no idea how you would feel. A friend of mine (a 5.12 climber) was very intent on climbing as much as possible through pregnancy, but found out that her energy levels and motivation just weren't there, so she went climbing a few times when she felt like it, but mostly didn't climb. 4 months after giving birth she sent her first-ever V7. Another friend was really invested in climbing through pregnancy, and found out that due to joint laxity and pelvic pain she was in pain just walking, and climbing was unthinkable. She's had two kids now. She is back to crushing, climbing harder than she did before pregnancy.

Babies/toddlers: If your husband/SO is a climber, and psyched on it, you will get plenty of climbing, and it won't be too bad. Especially with just one kid. Yes, you will have to pack a lot more shit, and you will choose climbing areas based on ease of approach, good place to let the kid play safely, and you will need a third person to help manage the little ones. I've seen that some people actually become better climbers when they go from a lackadaisical attitude of "oh, we'll go whenever, no need to plan in advance", and realize that they have to plan/schedule things.
Indoor climbing is easy to manage, especially now that a lot of gyms have childcare. But you might have to make adjustments. if you are used to climbing with your husband, you might have to each find another partner, so you can go climbing at different times, while the other parent is watching the kids.
IMO how far you live from climbing and how far you have to drive with the kids would be one of the biggest deciding factors for outdoor climbing. It's not the day at the crag that is the hardest thing to manage with kids. It's the drive to and from. if you have to drive 5-6 hrs now, that would turn into 7-8 hr drive with a baby/toddler. And you just won't do this more than once a month, if that much. If you are 45 min away from climbable rock, no big deal.

Again, you don't know how you would feel. You might be super-psyched about climbing and getting back in shape, or you might find out that the motivation is just not there and you don't want to try hard. Right now you think that climbing is the most important thing, but you might find that you feel differently after you have a baby. I know women who bounced back within months, and I know women who had couple years of climbing at a mellow level and less frequently than before, but not feeling particularly bad about it, and who rallied back and re-discovered their psych when the kids were 4-6yo. I also know women who just faded from climbing and relegated it to the " fun thing I used to do before kids"... it could happen to you, even if you don't think so right now, and you might not even feel bad about it... or you might.

I started climbing seriously after my younger was born, and finding psych wasn't a problem. But yes, I only climbed outside once a month during her toddler/preschool years, which realistically meant maybe 6 weekend trips at year, by the time you take weather into account. At the time, as a newer climber, it felt like plenty. You might find yourself changing what kind of climbing you do. Maybe you used to be a trad climber, all about long multi-pitch. And you switched to single-pitch sport until you are comfortable leaving the kids with soemone for the weekend on a regular basis. You mgiht be a sport climber, but may choose to switch primarily to bouldering because of the logistics.

Older kids: everyone thinks that by the time the kids would be older (school age) the climbing would be a breeze. While yes, you no longer have to worry about them walking off a cliff, or have to take them potty and deal with temper tantrums, this introduces a different challenge, and the one I was not prepared for, personally. My kids do not climb. Oh, I tried. And they tried. If things were different, my daughter might even have gotten into climbing more seriously, but she didn't. So as they got older, they had other activities, and they wanted to do other things. The weekends became about gymnastics competitions, robotics tournaments, and such. I was able to climb more during the week, but the weekends were still tough. If you kids climb... sounds perfect! Except if they become serious about it, your personal climbing goals might take a back seat to their projects. Pretty much the ideal scenario is the kid who likes to climb, but casually/just a little, and who is not involved in any sports that require weekend events. Good luck with that.

Alicia Sokolowski · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Aug 2010 · Points: 1,095
Ken Noyce wrote:

Birthday parties are the worst.  They are always right in the middle of your Saturday and completely ruin the entire day.  Fortunately, as a parent, you do have the ability to choose what other activities you allow your children to participate in.  Maybe I'm just a mean parent, but I don't think kids need to be in every possible extracurricular activity available, and I look at the schedules before I put my kids in something and make sure that whatever I am putting my kids in won't completely take over my life as well.  

I am with you, Ken!  We tend to show up at birthday parties a touch late, directly form the crag.  We also opted out of soccer based on the aggressive schedule.  It also helps if your kids have friends in other climbing families, so they see their friends at the crag every weekend.

lech · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Feb 2016 · Points: 981

I think your level of climbing post pregnancy will all come down to your priorities and parenting style.  Many have mentioned not climbing with their Spouse/SO.  We never felt the need to split up, but we are comfortable with the kid eating a few rocks and crying for a minute until mom or dad can go in direct so the other can fix the issue. Other parents we have gone with weren't like this and insisted one couple climb while the other help watch the kids.  This was shocking to me as it cut the number of climbs being done in half.  It is not wrong it is a choice and both options have merit. The only limiting to climbing with my wife has been multi pitch climbing as this is just not a good idea until the little guy can climb it with you on a butterfly.

señdera la reina · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2017 · Points: 0

It is right that you must tell the children that they do not do their sports because it is important to climb.  My son was chosen for American Legion baseball but I tell him no because the travel is too much on weekends.  His coach was angry because he said it would help my son get a scholarship but I do not let others control me.

The kids now are happy if you give them a phone and snapchat because they can talk to their friends anywhere.  My son sees all pictures from games his friends play and now does not have to clean his sweaty uniforms.  But I still take my daughter to gymnastics and she likes to toprope so I am hopeful.  She goes to the tumbling class with younger children because that is the one that is not the same time as the meetup time for my climbing gym.  She understands because I am projecting.  I know it gives her confidence because now she is the best in her class.

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 743

Short answer? Your life changes entirely after you have kids. And, there's no predicting it. Is it the end of life as you know it? No, just different.

A spouse/SO with or without kids, who understands what climbng means to you will be the difference. Without that, you may not be able to keep a relationship going. Making sure your own needs are met is always a challenge, and something will have to give. If you pursue The Best at everything now, you will need to drop a few things entirely, or, be willing to "compromise". You may discover that watching bugs is the best way to spend your afternoon, rather than get a haircut or whatever.

As far as I'm concerned, kids belong outside. Period. Digging in the dirt and climbing trees should be in a kids bill of rights somewhere.

I am the third person, with my climbing partner, his wife, and two kids, now and then. It's less climbing, but one parent is always right there when the kids need attention. Sometimes, that's a lot longer than you'd think. My opinion is the belayer needs to concentrate on belaying, a parent, on parenting, unless the third is interchangeable with the parents. I am not, and, don't wish to be. I am more than happy to be that third person, though, and their kids are great.

Best, OLH

Old lady H · · Boise, ID · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 743
bruno-cx wrote: I thought the point of having kids was to forge them in your own image by forcing them to participate in the same sports you enjoy.  A total selfish project for one to enjoy and brag about by filtering through social media outlets. Possibly even monetize the little bastards.

Hmmmm. How did that work out for your parents? ;-)

Best, OLH
Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 195
Alicia Sokolowski wrote: I don't climb hard, but I never have.  I do climb harder now than I did before kids.  I also climb often IMHO for someone with two kids and a corporate job and still does other sports like kayaking and caving.  Lots of good advice above, but I think the key is what Ryan said.  Early and often.  My boys are more comfortable at our local crag than they are in our living room.  They have all their play areas mapped out and currently (ages 6 and 3) need almost no intervention from us.  They let us know when they want to climb and have their own agenda otherwise.  Babies sleep a lot.  You might as well get in a couple pitches while they do.

Life goals. :). My daughter is 2 1/2 and I’ve been bringing her out hiking and whatnot but am just now trying to get her into climbing.  Obviously, this isn’t something you can force, but if you can at least get a group of like-minded parents together and get your kids comfortable hanging out at the crag and camping, it’ll make things MUCH easier.

Floyd Eggers · · Kennewick, WA · Joined Mar 2018 · Points: 341

Give them Benadryl before you set out, and if they wake up while your still climbing you just whack em over the head (gently of-course). *Satire*

As long as your not one of those parents you see in Walmart, you will be fine. Plenty of good info here already. I TR Solo or Lead Solo while my son stays home with my GF and I make sure to leave very early so when I get back it is not too long after he woke up. If you go as a group you have to be very mindful of them the entire time, which is very tough when your pushing bad beta and something you really want to send. I take him out randomly when he is up to it, but it is a snails pace to teach him and to set everything up so be prepared to become a guide/instructor. I took years off with other interests (school, peakbaggin, college football, women) so don't be afraid to do the same; If you truly want to climb you will come back to it or find a way to never stop. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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