One of the oddest exchanges I had when my baby bump appeared was when an older person would touch my stomach and ask: will you stay home or keep working? A year into # 3's life (#1 and #2 being our pups) and I still find it odd to confine motherhood to black and white, "working" or "not working." Yes, I'll keep working. I'm a mom, but I'm also a fishing guide, fly shop employee, and marketing consultant. Guide work typically hits like a freight train for the peak season then purrs and slows – so you might say my schedule is flexible. In the winter, I limit my hours and lean into the SAHM, Stay-At-Home-Mom life. So ... yes, I'll stay home but, heck-no we won't be home. There are a few days where #3 and I want to stay at home or stay inside, but we get outside and fish or ski most days. We sit on the wet rocks, get sand in his diaper, dirt and the smell of fish under our nails, and we do a lot of smiling (then some crying). When we're outside, I do less shushing and no-ing, and my goal to parent through positive reinforcement occurs naturally. I overpack, but never regret it, because sometimes you need the light-up glow ball to get him settled into the car seat and sometimes you don't.
I typically start the day with #3 in the backpack where he enjoys pulling my hair, looking at the leaves drifting down to the river's edge and singing. When I stop casting for too long — say to tie on another fly — he gets antsy and starts to pull a little harder on my hair bridle. I start casting again, and that little bit of movement gets him tranced back into the whirling of mayflies and leaves around us. The morning goes, fish are caught then released, snags set free, and #3 is set to the river bank with snacks and nature's toys. I find a nice gravel river bank and let him taste sticks and throw rocks. At this point, I stop catching fish because I have one eye on my fly and the other on my child who is TBSing (technical butt scooching) his way to more than shore-lapping waters. I stop reacting as quickly to trout sipping my fly and my hook sets become pathetic. Fishing today, like most days with our little family, becomes a time of learning to love cold water and fresh air.
The sun is high over us, but the air is cool and the water cooler. Northwest Colorado trout are beautiful in the fall, but the weather can be harsh, so we last until about noon, and I pull #3 to shore. The icy elements set in and I strip his wet clothes and diaper off, replace with dry fleece footsie PJs and a dry jacket and put him back in the pack. He is far from thrilled, and he is back to pulling my hair. We wade back across the river and #3, in a fit, throws his hat to the water. Two rods in hand, a large and full child carrier on, my fishing pack, and an oversized net (essential for netting fish, no matter the size, with a kid on your back) I swoop clumsily down the river a few steps to catch the wool hat. We make it across the river and up the bank, heading down the trail to the dirt road and then to the truck.
My toes are chilled inside my waders, and they feel extra sensitive now that I'm walking on solid ground. As I walk, I begin to notice my stiff fingers and frigid cheeks. I imagine #3 to be experiencing these sensations too and start to walk a little faster. Arriving at the truck, I turn on the heat and then unharness him from the pack. While I pack up and take my waders off, he crawls around in the truck bed, picking up a stray streamer. I effectively confiscate the streamer without tears, and he moves along to investigate the cooler at the far edges of the truck bed. When I'm ready to hop in the truck and drive, he is out of reach. Sitting grinning at me from the back of the truck bed, I'm forced to crawl into the topper and low down beneath the fly rods, which line the ceiling, to tackle him. I carry him like a football under one arm out of the truck bed and to his car seat. Buckling him in he starts to cry and fuss. I look for the remaining snacks I have, his pacifier, his ball, and any other toys that might settle him until we get back to lunch and nap time.
Now, in the driver's seat, I'm warming up from the car's heat on blast and the happiness and pride of a successful day. Towing a toddler to the river isn't easy, and I don't know how we will face winter fishing, but I do know we will try. Together we're rebranding SAHM to Such A Hardworking Mom or maybe Staying Angling and Happy Mom. We aren't staying home, and we aren't done working.