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Wrangling Kids in the Rockies? Introducing the Dirtbag Momma

Dear Dirtbag Momma,

There are already thousands of websites, books and celebrities telling us how to be better parents. Then we get unwanted advice from all corners including in-laws, frenemies, and old dudes on road bikes. Why should we listen to you?


Just a Dirtbag Momma in Colorado


Dear Dirtbag Momma,

Wow, great question! I was thinking the same thing myself. The short answer is- don’t. Don’t listen to me, your neighbor, your kids’ homeroom mom or anyone else who wants to tell you how to raise your kids unless you decide you value their perspective. Most of us are idiots anyway, and we are all only pretending to have it together. 

All I can do in this column is offer you the exhausted perspective of a mom with three kids currently ages 6, 3, and 2 (yeah, those last two came in a little close), who somehow ended up living in a place she adores with a husband who she also thinks is pretty cool. 

Before becoming a crumbling pillar of domesticity, we survived almost two decades of questionable decision-making while guiding and living in the mountains, deserts, and rivers. Then we made the brilliant choice to settle down in a valley where the cost of living would make Mark Zuckerberg reconsider buying a house here, far away from family and support networks. My other qualifications include the fact that we live on a budget which wouldn’t hold up against a stiff breeze or a small recession, yet somehow, we make ends meet.

We’ll make it this month, at least. Who knows about Debt-cember? The holidays are anyone’s game.

Anyway, I have a bachelor’s degree in English Education and taught eighth grade for five years before said cost of living caught up with our tally of children on a teacher’s salary and made working outside the house a negative-sum game for me. My third Wilderness First Responder re-certification expired last month, I have never broken a bone, and I am slightly allergic to eggplants. We also take our kids rafting and camping and hiking way too often, and it shows.

As the Dirtbag Momma, I want to provide a public space to recognize, out loud, exactly how flippin’ hard it is to raise a family in the mountain states right now. I want to allow current and former badasses to vent on how much they miss every last-minute road trip, powder day, or climbing season at Indian Creek. Yeah, I love my kids, but man did I have a great rack back in the day…

So please, ask me how to keep six tiny hands warm on a snowshoe trip, or whether to sign your kid up for summer sports with his friends even though you plan on camping every other weekend. Ask me, how can relationships survive when parents who love independent adventure are suddenly not allowed to be independent and whose biggest adventure is avoiding Legos on the stairs in the dark. 

I can’t tell you how to live your life, but I can tell you how I’ve survived mine (so far), and share some wisdom from other mommas who have generously given it to me. I can remind you that you’re not alone.


The Dirtbag Momma

To send a letter to the Dirtbag Momma, email ‘’. All letters are published anonymously with your chosen signature. Some advice might even be serious- just imagine if Dear Abbey, Backpacker Magazine, and Scary Mommy had a beautiful, sarcastic, lovechild…

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