I’m a single mother of two and I want to start riding a motorcycle, but there’s a lot of reservation because of the risks involved. Am I being irresponsible by riding a motorcycle and taking all those risks that might even involve leaving my kids orphans?
Balancing responsibility and risk is a constant as a parent. Every decision you make is no longer just about you, but about those who depend on you and who you want to see raised successfully into great adults you want to hang out with. I’ve seen parents end up on all different sides of the debate, but usually after having some serious discussions.
Start with your values: what do you want your life to stand for, what do you want to model for your kids, what risks are you willing to tolerate in them when they begin to venture out into the world? What other challenges do you face that might impact your ability to be present, and what is the risk of stifling part of you and how might that show up in your parenting? These are just a few of the areas to be thinking about as you imagine a future with or without a bike.
If you’re willing to take on some risk, then how do you want to incorporate that into your life as a parent? Is motorcycling something you see as a solo event, separate from them, or is it something for you to pursue as a family? Does it change how you view it if your kids are part of the activity, a way to connect, share and grow? Families climb, ski, and fly small airplanes; they ride bicycles on public streets in busy cities or down mountain trails; all types of activities have dangers associated with them yet are pursued eagerly by a significant portion of the population as a way of bonding and seeking adventure. But just as often individuals within families pursue their own interests. My daughter started riding and jumping horses when she was five while my son sought thrills in numerous high-adrenaline sports. My husband and I rode motorcycles; we all skied and snowboarded. We chose to accept the risks undertaken by the others; the alternative was to squelch our passions, something none of us was willing to do.
An onerous task for any parent is deciding what happens to your kids if you aren’t available to care for them. Facing that decision is heart wrenching, not only because they will be facing life without you, but also because it forces you to confront the reality you might not be around to watch them grow up, no matter the reasons. But planning for the unthinkable also lets you take it off the table as a concern. My kids were reassured when they were young to know exactly where they would live if something happened to us, and I was comforted knowing the person I had chosen would love my kids as her own. Having a solid financial plan that included life insurance meant they would be provided for, and wouldn’t be a burden on anyone. It wasn’t fun to think of these things, but it was reassuring to me that I hadn’t stuck my head in the sand either.
Finally, should you decide to take up riding, becoming a competent motorcyclist must be part of the equation. Are you willing to take classes, practice, and keep growing to constantly improve your skills? Are you committed to always wearing the right protective gear, abstaining from any form of alcohol or drugs when near a bike, and making smart decisions about where and when to ride? You can’t prevent all accidents, but statisticsclearly show that taking all of the above steps substantially minimizes your risks, and that is well within your control.
Heading out to the dirt as a family, going for rides with friends as a break from parenting, adding a sidecar to bring your kids along, or opting to wait until they are grown are all viable choices. What’s critical is that you make the one that lets you sleep best at night.
PHOTO: RTW PAUL
I raised 2 boys solo from the ages of 2 and 4yo. I decided very early on that they should see me, as a woman deserving of having my own interests and time. Women are usually so selfless and giving to their family that they can lose their passions and identity.
Because I didn’t have baby sitters on hand, my adventures were few, but first chance I was out there doing something for me and then I just figured ways of gathering other single Mums who wanted to go on adventures with us- we had a group of adventuring Mums and kids. We just shared the load.
I remember when I was pregnant for the first time, I automatically became more careful and tried to minimize the risks, but ultimately I had to keep doing the things I loved for my sanity.
My favourite quote from one of my boys is when they were only 4 and 6 and we were out skiing (how many kids never get to ski) when my eldest said, “You just make us do what you want to do.” I have never let him forget that one!
My boys think I am a bit nuts, but I know they are really proud of my adventures. Most importantly, they respect my need for my own interests and I hope they transfer that value to their own relationships.
Go out there, have fun, try new things and come back a happier Mum.
Thanks, Lynda! Such good advice. And thanks for posting your story, Liz!