We recognize the remarkable strength and resilience that mothers possess. For mothers who are also climbers, their physical and mental endurance is put to the test in a unique way.

In this post, legendary climber Beth Rodden delves into the relationship between motherhood and professional climbing and how motherhood has impacted her climbing career. From juggling international travel and training to managing the demands of family life, Beth offers insights into the challenges and joys of being a mother to her son Theo and a climber and the intricate balancing act she navigates daily.


Outdoor Research:   
Can you share one of the memorable moments of your climbing career that you've shared with Theo, and how those experiences influenced his life? 
 
Beth:  
I don't know if I can pick just one, so I'd like to be a bit more broad. The outdoors is very important to us, so incorporating that into something that is familiar and normal for Theo [is important]. Whereas I know when I was growing up, our family camping trips were always a unique experience that you did just a couple of times a year. We are lucky enough to be able to, at least at this point in his life, raise him in the mountains. And so, incorporating that into his regular life is one of the most special things to me. And I feel as a mom, a lot of parents do that. Our job is to say, "Here are a bunch of different things in the world and in life." And you get to pick your palette on what you incorporate into your life. But it's our job to show them all those different experiences.  

Outdoor Research: 
What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have, in your opinion, about mothers who climb and their risk tolerance versus participating in other sports, and how do you address those misconceptions?  
 
Beth:  
Yeah, this is a really cool question. When we decided to try to have kids, there was a huge misconception that you couldn't keep climbing. Not only a question would you have the time and the ability, but would you want to keep climbing. So, the biggest misconception I always had was that once you had kids, you needed to stop climbing or you would just become a part-time, occasional weekend warrior that climbed—that you couldn't have it as a huge part of your life—and I think that's a huge misconception.  

Yes, kids are a massive change in your life. I don't want to sugarcoat that. But with the right people and a lot of work, you can still keep all the important things, or a lot of the important things, in your life. It's just going to look a little different. 

It's an important thing to understand, too. I think there are these expectations on parents, especially mothers; if you're going to be an athlete, you just bounce back [after pregnancy] immediately. And that wasn't my experience. That was the experience of some of my friends, but my experience was like, my body changed. And it wasn't like there was no bouncing back, it was just like a gradual acceptance and learning that my body wasn't going to be the same anymore. But different didn't mean worse. It just meant different. I could still be strong, and I could still be fit; it just looked different. And so, it was a very gradual acceptance and understanding of that for me. But when I accepted that, there was so much more grace and peace in climbing because I wasn’t fighting myself.

Outdoor Research:  
What challenges have you faced as a mother in the climbing industry, and how do you overcome those while still pursuing your goals?  
 
Beth:  
I think when I first became pregnant, I was terrified that all my sponsors would drop me because there just weren't many examples of climbers still maintaining their careers during motherhood; it was kind of like, you did what you wanted to do, and then you gracefully bowed out, and you just kind of became a recreational climber. So, for me, it was really understanding that you could still be a professional climber. You could still be a climber and have a career in it. 

I feel like this is [the same for] mothers everywhere. It's a question of time. And childcare. And that women are expected to do more of the childcare and that sort of thing. And that's not a poor reflection on their partners, but more on how society frames what you're supposed to do and everything. So, for me, the challenge is just finding the time. But, for the most part, I was able to really grow and change.

During early motherhood and even now on what my career looks like in the climbing community, if you look back, what did it look like when I was 23 versus how I'm making a living now? It's vastly different. And one of the coolest things about our community is being able to see how much I've been able to change and still maintain some sort of career in it.

It's really interesting because growing up, and even in my 20s and 30s, climbing was always marketing the person who was the superhero. And I look at my aunt and uncle; they're die-hard tennis people. They've been using the same brand of tennis racket for like 40 years because that's what they know, and they've been able to see that tennis rackets aren't just a fleeting phase or something. But, when I was growing up, it seemed like the outdoors was just marketed for the young. But we were just over in France, and you literally see 60, 70, and 80-year-old couples out climbing in the forest, and they're still buying gear, you know? 

I went into motherhood in this industry thinking one thing. And yeah, sure, some sponsors cut my pay. Some sponsors dropped me. But, I still have a career in climbing. I'm still able to pursue it in a fulfilling way, and so that has been such a surprising, great thing. 

Outdoor Research: 
As a mother, what role has mentorship played in your climbing career, and who have been some of your most influential mentors?  
 
Beth:  
It's interesting. In that regard, I don't feel like I had mentors [who were mothers] in the professional climber realm. So, my mentors in that regard were my "normal" friends who have climbing as their deep passion, but also have other jobs. They didn't stop climbing and their lifestyle after having their kids, to their credit and praise. To me, that was harder; packing up the car on Friday evening and driving and climbing all weekend and then getting to the gym during the week. They were the ones that I really saw and was like, hey, that seems like an attainable thing. Whereas when I was just in the professional climber's sphere, I didn't look around and see that. It was like you either were a professional climber or had kids. There wasn't a melding of both. And I want to make sure that I'm not bagging on people ahead of me, I just hadn't seen an example yet of what I wanted. But I saw that example with my "normal" friends. I was like, oh man, this is how they're doing it, and that looks really appealing to me. They are such inspirations to me, for sure.

Outdoor Research: 
As a mother, what role has mentorship played in your climbing career, and who have been some of your most influential mentors?  
 
Beth:  
It's interesting. In that regard, I don't feel like I had mentors [who were mothers] in the professional climber realm. So, my mentors in that regard were my "normal" friends who have climbing as their deep passion, but also have other jobs. They didn't stop climbing and their lifestyle after having their kids, to their credit and praise. To me, that was harder; packing up the car on Friday evening and driving and climbing all weekend and then getting to the gym during the week. They were the ones that I really saw and was like, hey, that seems like an attainable thing. Whereas when I was just in the professional climber's sphere, I didn't look around and see that. It was like you either were a professional climber or had kids. There wasn't a melding of both. And I want to make sure that I'm not bagging on people ahead of me, I just hadn't seen an example yet of what I wanted. But I saw that example with my "normal" friends. I was like, oh man, this is how they're doing it, and that looks really appealing to me. They are such inspirations to me, for sure.

Outdoor Research:  
How is your perspective on risk and adventure changed since becoming a mother, and how has that influenced your approach to climbing?  
 
Beth:  
This is an interesting one that I don't have a clear-cut answer for yet. Before becoming a mom, I had so much more time to climb. Again, the time resource question. And so, I was doing a lot more longer routes, and after becoming a mom, I started bouldering a lot more. And I've always wondered, like, what was the chicken or the egg? Do I not do long routes as much because I don't have more time? Or is it because I have this bigger awareness of risk now that I'm not acknowledging. I'm not certain, to be honest with you. I feel like, yes, my relationship with risk is different. I was never flagrant in dangerous situations before, but I was married, and we were two adults who understood our decisions and passions. And now you have this innocent third person that doesn't get to make those decisions with you.

Here's a good example. Watching climbing films, I used to be featured in a lot of them and whatnot, and I used to always be like, oh, that's so cool. A lot of times, they play up to the brushes with death or the risk involved. And I'm like, do I want to show that and heroize that to our kid and his friends? That you can't pursue climbing in a safe way?

Probably the answer in a very roundabout way—it’s made me start thinking about how we market climbing and the important parts of climbing. Is the most important and the coolest thing showing free solos and crazy 36-hour pushes where you don't sleep, or could we also celebrate it like in France where it's like literally this, like lifetime family thing that they go bouldering in the forest together? And I feel like the climbing community has always made the choice to do death-defying things. But it can also be equally enriching and rewarding to do it in controlled but different ways. So, I think it's a question of how climbing is perceived.  

Outdoor Research:  
What impact has climbing had on your physical and mental health, and how has it affected your ability to be an active and engaged parent?  
 
Beth:  
This is a really interesting question. In the most simple and basic regard, climbing is the best thing that's ever happened to me. I was always a really active kid, but I just hadn't found the right relationship or sport to marry to that enthusiasm until I started climbing. And so, it was this thing that I could really own in the beginning. And I really loved that. Then I got pretty good at it, and that was how I had a relationship with [climbing]. 

Once I had been recognized for excellence or whatever, I was like, oh, I've got to maintain this excellence. And so, for a long time I had a pretty fraught relationship with climbing. And it wasn't until I had a series of years of cascading injuries and then even becoming a mom that I had to step back and really redefine my relationship with climbing. Climbing ever since I was a young teenager has been this backdrop to my life; to be able to learn about myself. And so, I think it's been this huge boon for me in that way, and it's been this very real relationship where I have highs and lows with it, but it's always been this constant. 

And so, in that way, I'm super grateful that I found climbing. It's familiar. It always lets me redefine myself and my relationship with it. I feel like I've had so many different iterations of how I relate to climbing, from comps, to an angsty 20-year-old, to hating it because it reminded me of getting kidnapped, to hating it because it reminded me of getting injured, to resenting my body, to appreciating my body that I could do anything at all. It's been this constant in my life, and I feel pretty fortunate in that way. And then I know a lot of my peers—once they can't climb hard anymore, they kind of drop out of it. And I feel fortunate that I went through that breakup phase with climbing, and I was able to redefine how I wanted climbing in my life. Whereas I think it's a pretty hard thing that a lot of people get stuck on and then just have climbing drop out of their lives.  

Outdoor Research: 
Has climbing made you a better parent? And that's over simplifying it, but imagine yourself as a parent without climbing versus a parent who actively climbs. What's that relationship like? 
 
Beth: 
I feel like climbing is probably a simple thing to be able to do; it's twofold in relation to parenting. It teaches me patience and problem-solving, but it's also an outlet for me to go and pursue my individual time. Then I can come back to being a mom with a little bit fresher. Not only is it good for teaching, but it is also there for me.  

It's easy to get stuck in the weeds in climbing and in life. And climbing is such a great teacher of the bigger picture. In that regard, climbing is such a problem-solving sport. There are little things—you have to figure out the individual moves on a climb—but then you have to figure out how to put them all together. I feel like motherhood is about trying to figure out how it all fits together and not getting upset if you can't do one of the moves how you pictured it. You realize there's a different way to do that move. It's taught me a lot about the bigger picture. 

I know I get totally stuck in the weeds a lot, and so to be able to zoom out and be like, hey, you've been climbing for almost 30 years now, and it's okay to miss a beat. It's okay to miss a day, or a month, or a season. I think that's a good lesson to pass on to kids too. There's so much pressure on kids these days to do the best in school, do the best in sports, or do this or do that. It's just like, the long game, you know? 

Outdoor Research:  
Okay, how do you hope to use your platform as a climber and mother to inspire and empower other parents within and beyond climbing?  
 
Beth:  
I like this question; obviously, the low-hanging fruit is to say, oh, you'll be fine, and you can still pursue your passions or whatever. But one of the things that I really enjoy is talking with other parents. Talking about the realness of it. As moms and maybe especially athlete moms, there's this expectation or pressure to make it seem like it's all doable, and it's this shiny, perfect thing. But I'm like, being a parent is for real. You don't get out of the house until 1:00 PM, and that feels like some valiant effort. So just giving all of us permission to be real humans with it is the thing that I've loved connecting the most with. Life is messy, and you add another person in, and it's even messier, but it can still be really rewarding.

Outdoor Research:  
Okay, last question. What advice do you have for other mothers or parents trying to balance their passions and pursuits with the demands of parenthood?  
 
Beth:  
My advice is to have patience with yourself and your family as much as possible. And this is going to sound corny but take the small wins when you get them. But, you know, like, if you just get out to the crag, that's like a huge win. Whether you get a pitch in or 10 pitches in, you made it out, and that's great. And maybe the next time you go, you'll get in a little bit more climbing, or maybe you won't. So, my advice is—if somebody told me when I was a new mom, or even now—just give yourself a little bit more grace, and it's still possible. It's just going to look different.

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