Life, With Kids

Single Parenting in the Outdoor World

September 6, 2016



I look up to see a fortyish man approaching. I smile, tie the final guyline so the tent ventilates properly, and brush off my knees. “Hey.”

“My wife sent me over. She thinks you might be here alone.” His eyes drift somewhere over my shoulder, as if he expects The Man to appear at any second.

You know, the guy who pitches the tent, lights the fire, occupies the 7 year old while the 3 year old throws a tantrum. That man.

It’s not the first time someone has looked over my shoulder, and it won’t be the last. Let me save you some time: He’s not there. It’s just me, in the woods with my kids, and yes, it is easier to handle two kids with two adults. It’s also easier to handle two kids with four adults, or six, or eight. This is true of camping, and life in general. A two-parent household is a great life, no doubt, but it’s not my life.

And what’s the alternative? Should I stay home, inside, bored? Should my kids be bored because I’m too, I don’t know, single or female or whatever seems to be the problem to take my girls camping?

No, thank you.

“It’s just us,” I say.


He doesn’t look comfortable about that. They never do. I sometimes wonder if it would be different if I were a man, but in the end I figure probably not. What single father hasn’t gotten accolades/attention/dubious glances for solo parenting children, as though he’s in a strictly female realm? Sure, it makes sense for a father to take his kids camping without mom around, but what about the mall? Give that man a brownie. I face the opposite situation, which is hilarious, because if you find me at the mall, please shoot me and put me out of my misery.

“Do you need anything?”

“No, but thank you,” I say, because I don’t need anything–not this time, anyway.

That’s not always true. I’ve been given dry firewood when mine was damp, and propane when I stupidly packed an empty canister. (It’s always about fire with me, geez.) On the flip side, it’s not always me who needs help. I’ve shared my sunblock, water, and (most importantly) s’mores.

“Well, we’re right here if you need anything,” he tells me.

“I’ve got this,” I say.

Because you know what? I totally do.

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  • Reply Mary September 6, 2016 at 8:26 am

    It’s funny, isn’t it, that we assume someone is incompetent based solely on gender? And by funny I mean stupid. You’re absolutely right that this goes both ways, and men see a lot of it too–just not outdoors, where they belong, apparently. Good post.

    • Reply Lynn September 6, 2016 at 8:31 am

      Yes, I definitely see it as something that happens to both men and women. Who hasn’t heard jokes about dads trying to do their daughter’s hair or making dinner?

  • Reply Frances Stober November 17, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    Almost 20 years ago…
    I set the tent up in a local park to make sure i could do it myself before our first car camping trip. Swam in my glasses so i could watch our stuff on the beach. Imagined the headlines during night-time animal growls ‘single mom, mauled to death while protecting her two young children’- it was a racoon.
    The only comments i got were from some helpful guys who were appaled that I stood on my car to tarp-up, also alone until the kids grew.
    Did ok, last spring one of said infants accompanied me on a 7 day walk along the Skye Trail in Scotland. Rewards.

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