Shifting Out of Mommy Mode

Yesterday our whole family went up for a hike in Vall d’Incles, a beautiful area in the Pyrenees mountains. Our relatives here took their car and the five of us met them up there after catching the bus. I’ll take you through this lovely day the way I experienced it inside my hyper-drive, mommy-mode brain so you can fully appreciate the realization I had afterward. (Feel free to skip this next part; it’s a little exhausting.)

Let’s go! Let’s go! Get your shoes on! Ali, where’s your jacket? Where do we pick up the bus? Water, check. Jackets, check. Snacks, check. Brian, do you have cash? Liv, put that down, we’re not taking a book with us. Okay, out the door, at the bus stop. We’re doing well. Here comes the bus. Right on time! Perdoni, queremos ir a Vall d’Incles. Este es el autobus correcto, no? Okay, good, we’re on the right bus. No, Ali, you can’t sit way up there, come back here with us. Emily, where are you going? Girls, sit down! Stop playing musical bus chairs! Just sit down! Ah….okay. Relaxing on a bus. We’ll be there soon. Wow, we’ve been on this bus a while. How far up the canyon are we going? Did we bring enough clothing? Is this our stop? Yes, this is our stop. Oh crap! It’s freezing! Yes, honey, I know you’re cold. No, I didn’t bring your fleece. Let’s just start walking to the trailhead. You’ll be fine. Yes, I know you’re cold, but it’s going to warm up. See, the sun came out! Oh, there it goes behind a cloud again. Keep walking, keep walking. You’ll be fine. It’s fun, see! Isn’t this fun?!  Wow, this is really beautiful. What? No, I’m not going to carry you. You have legs. Look, there’s a horse. Get excited about a horse, okay? Hey, there’s our family! Go play with your cousins. You have extra clothes in your car? Thank goodness! Girls, look! Aunt Mari has sweaters for you. What? I don’t care if you don’t like it, put it on! So, what’s the plan? Hike up to the picnic area and have some lunch? Sounds good. Let’s go girls! We’re walking, we’re walking, so far so good. Careful, it’s wet. Don’t slip. Ali, why are you carrying all those rocks? No, you can’t keep them. They belong in nature, put them down. Man, this is really beautiful. What? No, I told you, I’m not going to carry you! I have no idea how much farther it is. We’ll get there when we get there. Hey, girls, look at me, I want to get your picture. Ali, look at me. Ali! Seriously Ali? Just look at me! Oh forget it. Oh look we’re here. My god, this is beautiful. Girls, be careful! Those rocks could move, don’t climb up too far. Egad! Don’t go under those two boulders leaning precariously against one another! They could squash you. Hey, don’t roll your eyes at me. Let’s get lunch going. Girls! Come eat! I can’t believe we’re having a picnic in this gorgeous place…Emily! Don’t let that wrapper blow away! We don’t want to litter in this beautiful place that I’m barely appreciating because I won’t sit down and enjoy it. I’ve got to get some photos of this. Is that one good? No, a little blurry. How about this one? No, the mountain isn’t really visible. How about this one? This one? This one? Girls! Come down from there! You’re up too high! I know you’re cold, honey. We’ll head back down soon, but look at this! Isn’t it beaut–ALISON! OH MY GOD! Calm down, honey, you’re okay. Just climb down real slow…I’ve got you. Don’t cry. You’re alright. What? Family photo? Okay, everybody look at the camera…smile, smile, smile. Are we heading down? Girls! We’re heading down! Do we have everything? Alison, for pete’s sake, put your jacket on. It’s cold. What the–why is this so heavy? Rocks in your pockets? Seriously Ali? We’re walking, we’re walking. Don’t go too fast, you’ll crack your head open. Be careful on these wet rocks, they’re slick. NO! For the last time, I’m not going to carry you!

I wish I could say this is an exaggeration of my perspective during this gorgeous hike in the Pyrenees, but sadly, it’s pretty darn accurate. What the hell was I doing? I should have been completely in the moment and instead I was focused on logistics and safety hazards most of the time. I really do want to stop and appreciate it. I want to turn off my brain and just “be.” Yet, I don’t do that. I go into full-blown mommy mode. An hour after we got back Brian pulled up all of these gorgeous photos he’d taken and it almost made my heart sink a little bit. Was I really in this amazing place that I may never be in again, but didn’t really stop to fully appreciate it for more than a couple seconds? Those boulders and the mountain stream running through them had probably been sitting in that beautiful valley for thousands, maybe tens of thousands of years, and yet my focus wasn’t on the miracle of nature that created this amazing place. Instead, it was on the minuscule chance that one of those boulders would suddenly create its own inertia and squash one of my offspring. I apparently have a relaxation disorder that was acquired about 10 years ago. It’s called “having kids.”

I am determined to learn how to TURN IT OFF. Not the having kids part, just the hyper-drive mommy mode part. This might be the most important thing I learn from this trip we’re on together. I don’t want to have the experience again of looking at a photo of the beautiful place I visited and feeling regret for not having fully appreciated it when I had the chance. It’s going to take a lot of practice to find the balance between enjoying the experience and being a good parent. I guess we’ll just have to go to many, many more beautiful places until I can master it. :-) We might even have to do a redo on Vall d’Incles.
vall d incles


About the Author

Tracey Carisch

Mom, wife, friend and change agent traveling the world with my family to learn our place in it. After spending a career in organizational change management and community initiative implementation, I put my career on hold for our family's trip around the world. In April of 2014 we sold almost everything we own, put the rest in a storage container, and departed on this journey. While my husband continued his software development work to financially support our trip, I planned and documented our adventure, homeschooled our three daughters, and found volunteer work opportunities for us to do in the communities we visit. Now that we've returned to the U.S., I'm completing book about our family's adventure and our lessons learned.

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  1. Tracey, you are not alone with this mommy-mode disorder! It’s hard to turn it off and on… And it is our job to keep our families safe! It looks beautiful! I’ve been thinking of you guys! Chalk it up to a learning experience and hopefully you can enjoy the next destination a little more!! Can’t wait to see more photos!

  2. Oh Trace, I hear ya. I was laughing through your whole account because all I could think of was, “insert my family here.” You have an excellent takeaway from this experience and I REALLY appreciate the reminder. It’s hard to strike a balance for sure, but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep trying!

  3. I could actually hear your voice as I read this- and it made me smile. Sorry for taking a laugh from your frustration. The only thing missing was a “Shasta!” The whole mindfulness thing is tough, but I saw a quote on Facebook or Twitter the other day, “The best way to experience mindfulness is to take a two-year-old on a walk.” Apparently that whole deal ends around five- and I don’t think it includes a beautiful but cold hike in the Pyrenees?? Wish Sam and I could join you to find out!

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