There is a real problem in being torn between two worlds, between the family/home world and the outdoors. It is almost like having a demanding mistress but knowing the demand exists only in your head. I guess this guilt exists with any hobby or personal activity that takes us away from home; but there is something about being an outdoors guy and leaving the family to go hiking for two nights (!!) that is almost heart breaking. Family.
I’m off for the weekend, nothing dramatic: a bit of walking, a couple of nights of bivying, some peace and quiet with no interruptions or crying (my 1 year old daughter just learned about the concept of tantrums), but it feels as if I’m leaving on a 3 month expedition. I guess it starts when you first make a decision to go: you won’t be home (but that is probably days or weeks away), it will cost money that will need to be discussed with the wife and there needs to be some house chore planning since you can’t just “dump” it all on your partner.
Next comes the reminder: “honey, you remember I’m going for the weekend” and then she realizes that you’re not going to be there to help with your little brat of a child (they all are). She will also need to do some extra errands because you are not around to pick up the slack, and then bang – the guilt settles in. It’s not your partner’s fault, she will be doing some extra stuff but she’s fine with it because she is great: supportive and understanding, but you are now stuck with the guilt.
Now comes the second bomb – “hon, I’m leaving on Friday evening straight from work“. From now on, she is doing her best not to be upset, even though she just got another evening with solo child duty and she is fully bummed. Despite it all, she is supportive: “don’t forget to pack everything today so you can leave normally in the morning”, and you thank her. But now the guilt is worse, it is all consuming – I’m a terrible person leaving my wife to deal with it all while I’m outside having fun. Indeed a terrible person, or am I?
When I’m stuck indoors for too long, I get grumpy. I’m getting some kind of “urban routine” claustrophobia and when it kicks in it escalates quickly. I become cynical and harsh, I snap for no reason and maybe even get sick – I’m sure you know the feeling. So all I need is to remind myself that that person is just waiting to pop out when I’ve been worn down from my claustrophobia. I need to go outdoors. It is not really a choice and I think my wife knows it, which is why she is really fine with it despite the hardship my weekends bring.
That guilt over going outdoors by ourselves is important because it is a reminder that we have our priorities straight, but it shouldn’t win. If you are like me and you know that a little monster grows out of you if you don’t get to spend a couple of nights under the stars every once in a while, you need to go out.
Find a way to manage that guilt and schedule some time outdoors. Time it with your partner so it works best and minimizes the impact on the house, but schedule it. I try and spend a night or two outdoors once a month and it is doable. Another good way to ease the guilt a little is to make an extra effort around the house and with your family in the week leading to you going: spend quality time (no TV, computers or phones) with your partner and children, keep the house well maintained (including things you’ve been avoiding) and leave the house in a close to perfect condition. This way you know your partner doesn’t have to deal with too much.
Guilt from solo outdoor weekend is inevitable, but the question is how we manage it and still get to go outside. Staying indoors is not an option.
What are your ways to ease the guilt?