OK, I’ve been promising to write about my thoughts on “mom motorcycling” for a while; let’s see how far I can get during morning naptime. Disclaimer: Lots of blather ahead and no photos of interesting scenery. Proceed at your own risk.
There are two categories of “riding while mothering” that have taken more prep and/or mental fortitude than I’d expected: one mental and one physical. We’ll chat about the mental one first.
When I started riding again after Kira was born, the mental issues surprised me much more than the physical ones. I think this is because I had spent some time considering the physical limitations that I might bump up against (not only post-partum discomfort but the logistics of breastfeeding/pumping and the obvious tangible issue of “what do I do with the baby while I’m out riding?”). I hadn’t really considered the emotional and mental limitations.
Every parent is different, so the following is just about me and my personal experiences. I won’t even generalize to say “mom” vs “dad” — I know some dads who have tremendous separation anxiety and some moms who are chill about leaving their kids at grandma’s/day care/whatever. So, blah blah, grain of salt and all that.
My first few “big” rides were a roller coaster of emotion. It felt so good to be back on the motorcycle: the longish rides, the sights, the photos, the scenery, talking to people roadside…I really felt like myself again after a long period of identity issues. While I was physically out on the bike, I felt elated, focused, confident, secure.
The problems came between rides.
I typically ride on Tuesdays, so I would have the following schedule:
Tuesday: Ride all day. Love it, happy, relaxed, joyful.
Tuesday night: Wonder whether I “cheated death” again that week. Start fretting.
Wednesday through Monday: Alternate between planning the next week’s ride and worrying that I shouldn’t go riding.
Monday night: Anxiety about riding. Wonder why I’m putting my life at risk. Usually awake part of the night with visions of getting killed or maimed on the bike. Lots of “what if” thoughts.
Tuesday: Ride all day. Love it, happy, relaxed, joyful.
This started to get really tough on me. When I was actually out there, I felt good and comfortable…not “safe” — I’m not delusional — but I wasn’t having anxiety while riding. I chose to stay off of really goat trail roads because I wasn’t really enjoying them (I kept thinking I’d get hit head-on coming around a corner) but on the nice sweepers I truly enjoyed myself.
But as soon as I was off the bike I started to worry. I had this incredible anxiety that I was going to get hurt/killed and wouldn’t be there for Kira. It was very different from my “normal” anxiety; this was very visceral. It felt like something was pulling out my stomach. I’m sure you parents know what I mean.
So, this was a problem for a few weeks. I finally got some good advice from my buddy Jim on Sport-Touring.net: ”Maybe plan less for your Tuesday and perhaps go into the day a bit more spontaneously? If you feel like a ride, take it. If only half a day, so be it. Or, if you just gotta spend time with Kira, then all is good. Let Tuesday be Tuesday and not your whole week.”
Those Canadians are pretty smart: this wound up being really good advice. I kept the bike parked the following week and noticed something interesting: I still fretted about the baby.
I posted on STN: “Well, I’m pretty convinced that my apprehension is 95% ‘mom hormones’ at this point. I didn’t ride at all yesterday but instead ran a bunch of errands and still had the feeling of general malaise and that something was wrong. I was very uneasy all day, and I certainly didn’t think that I was likely to get killed eating Indian food for lunch or going to the post office. In a lot of ways, that’s very reassuring for me because now I know it’s just going to be uncomfortable for me to be away from the baby no matter what, and motorcycling in and of itself isn’t really the cause.”
I took two more weeks off from riding…my first real ride again was the ill-fated ride to Mt. Hamilton. That actually wound up being OK, because then I had two more weeks to just wrench on the bike instead of riding. Then, once the bike was back together, I had an excuse to just take a short, relaxing ride to make sure everything was working OK instead of feeling pressure to do something big and long and epic.
A couple more short rides later and I didn’t even second-guess my longish trip to Mt Tam last week. As I mentioned in that blog entry, it was the best day of riding that I’ve had in a long time. I felt relaxed and happy…even before and after the ride. I haven’t had any nagging doubts about riding since.
I feel like taking those couple of months to do non-bike stuff and then short little rides really helped take the pressure off of myself. Three years off the bike really built up my emotions and expectations to a fever pitch and then, when I started riding again, the combination of that plus the mom hormones really hit me like a ton of bricks.
Anyway, things seem to be going well now. These days, I just wake up on Tuesdays, get Kira ready for her day off, and then just kind of figure out what I want to do for the day. A couple of weeks ago I just rode a few miles away and treated myself to a massage. Last week, obviously, I rode to Mt. Tam. We’ll see what I feel like doing tomorrow (I think my ideal day would be a massage AT Mt. Tam. Could someone in the park service get on that, please?).
As a reward for sitting through all that text, have a photo of a cute baby wearing a motorcycle shirt: