Valerie Betrand 27/03/2017 | Posted in Canada, Internationalisation, Norway
About three years ago, I decided to quit paddling. I thought I had become selfish and irresponsible. People that did not know me questioned my lifestyle; colleagues tried to lecture me, and my near ones could not believe why I still ‘bothered’. You see, most people look at life through a confined box and everything that fits inside: work for a salary, money for a house and car, and a family to raise and care for. Anything outside that box is labelled selfish and irresponsible, therefore the guilt I put on myself.
About three years ago, I decided to quit paddling. I got my first kid while competing at my top in snow kiting, kayak surfing, white water kayaking –freestyle, slalom and creeking- and rafting. The mother-at-home title never fitted me: when Noah was 2 months old, we left to tour across Europe, him and I alone. When he slept I paddled, next to his basket: when he woke up we played. Noah had crossed over 15 countries and met tons of incredible people before he could say his first words.
Two days after popping out kid number two, I remember asking an older nurse that I trusted if I was being completely irrational to wish taking my new-born on tour with us. I thought -and almost wished at that point- that she would have convinced me not to and have me settled down once and for all… all at once removing the building pressure of combining two worlds that for most, clearly collided. Her answer shook me off my feet, as she replied with one simple question: “Can you provide the same care, love and affection to your baby on tour as you would at home?” Evidently yes, I could. And off we went. Alicia was 11 days old.
Daily reminders of the standard box have always been present; my dad couldn’t possibly picture how my two small ones could live next to a river and sleep in a car or tent for extended periods of time. Friends kept asking when we were coming back, as opposed to “how’s everything?” And eventually the sleepless nights and never ending daily chaos of raising two small ones, while training hard and competing, while dealing with work deadlines and long-term planning to make ends meet, while completing a master degree online with -more often than not- poor or none existing internet connection, had started to weigh on me. Why on earth would I put this upon myself: how much easier would it have been to simply have stayed home with all conveniences and the comfort. I let my guards fall: I felt beat, empty and misunderstood, as I screamed but only to myself, ”I’ve had enough! Only one of us can live life; the other one’s gotta take care of the rest.” It was my sacrifice to make. I was the mom, after all.
About three years ago, I decided to quit paddling. It lasted one month. A very long month. I became overly miserable within no time and I felt horrible about myself. My own vision of self was destroyed –the athlete, the sport, the community, the life- and I couldn’t find anywhere else I belonged. Until one day during that month Noah (then 2 ½ years old) started asking me about airplanes, car rides and camping. It was a Friday night and he had started packing some clothes and his favourite teddy bear. He knew the gig; our gig. And he knew all too well that mom and dad were happy living this way and that he too benefitted from it: that there was nothing in the way of play, fun and discovery once some obligations were left behind. He had the answer all along: THIS is where we were at our very best. Thanks Noah.