The feeling of freedom and entrapment is common as a climber, father and husband. As a climber, I want to climb more. Being a husband, I want to spend more time with my wife. As a father, I want to spend more time with my kids. Then there is work. (Having worked very hard at making my passion my work, it generally does not feel like work, and count myself very lucky, but that is another story).
I have been a climber for 20 years or so, I’ve been married for nearly 10 years and been a father for over 9 years. The difficulty I have, is finding the perfect balance between them all. No matter which area of my life I spend time on, the others lose out.
I guess my kids are the most important part of my life. There is only one chance at being a parent, and childhood happens only once. When I spend a lot of time with my kids, I feel connected to them, and their interactions bring me a lot of happiness. Their curiosity and excitement about life, written all over their eyes.
My wife is my rock and soul mate, and she has always been very supportive of me and my “obsession”, climbing. She supports me when I’m down, and she is very good at the things I am very bad at.
Then there is my climbing, which brings me joy and happiness. To be a good father and husband, I need my climbing. The only problem is that it takes me away from the ones I love. I find myself in a never ending battle of juggling. Always feeling guilty when I go away on a climbing trip, but feel frustrated if I don’t.
I love the feeling of freedom climbing gives me, but somehow feel trapped by its allure. That feeling when all of your concentration is focused on that moment, and all of life’s stresses seems to dissipate. To be physically and mentally pushed to your own boundary, success seems insignificant, but that feeling of being in the moment is very addictive and almost therapeutic.
I am not the only one with this dilemma. Chris Bonnington says “At the end of the day, climbing is probably irresponsible… But we are better parents, because we’re doing things that fulfill us”. Andy Kirkpatrick wrote in one of his books “At the airport she started crying. I thought, my number is up soon… When there is competition between my kids and climbing, I shall stop”. Steve McLure wrote in his article ‘The Conundrum’ the following “For a while I was confused about who I was and what I wanted – trips away, or home with kids, it was a constant emotional battle”.
It is such a myth that once you have children, life stops and you should give up your interests. You may be more focused with your time off, and utilise it in better ways. When you have children, your priorities do change, and maybe going away on long trips may diminish, but you cannot change your passion. Climbing makes me happy, and it makes me a better parent as a result.
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