The wisdom of mothers among us

Trout Unlimited is pleased to offer a complimentary one-year membership to all moms who will be new members. The offer is good through Monday. Sign yourself — or your mom — up here:

Mother’s Day is a chance to acknowledge the selfless love of those who gave us —or our loved ones — life. To acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the moms that raised us, that work alongside us, or live next door.

I’m not a mom myself, but I’ve observed with admiration my mom-colleagues working passionately for clean water with Trout Unlimited, while homeschooling and parenting. I have deep respect for this group of women.

I asked them to share a few reflections on what conservation and motherhood mean to them. I acknowledge that today is a challenging one for some of us. But whether it’s a holiday full of joy and family, or sadness and longing, there is beauty in the stories and hard-earned wisdom of the moms living around us.

I hope you enjoy their words as much as I did. And if today is a complicated one for you, I invite you to borrow from the joy, wisdom, and authenticity they chose to share below.

Wishing you all a very happy Mothers Day.

How did conservation change for you when you became a parent?

Jennifer Orr-Greene, Mid-Atlantic Policy Director

“Here’s an older picture of myself, my dad and my twin daughters (now 16) on a rafting trip on the Ohiopyle River in southwestern Pennsylvania (about 4 hours from our house).” – Jen Orr-Greene

I’ve always loved nature and outdoor activities; my mother called me both a fish (for my love of water and swimming) and a tomboy growing up. As an adult, I read Leopold, Thoreau and others and choose environmental protection as a career path because I felt strongly that the earth is ours to be stewards of, to respect and protect the water, air and land for all to enjoy, to leave it better than we received it. I recycled, conserved water, taught classes on environmental conservation, and helped neighbors and family learn that what they flush down a drain or throw away never really goes away. And then I had kids. And added for my children to enjoy. I took every opportunity to get them outside, to learn kindness to others and to protect our natural resources. They would roll eyes at first when I told them we had to pack out any garbage we found on hikes; now they do it on their own and explain to their friends why they should do it too. Nothing will bring me more joy than to be an old woman in her waning years and to watch my daughters teach their children how to love the earth.

What does it mean to you to be a mother?

Dawn Elzy, Oregon Accountant

Courtesy of Dawn Elzy

My oldest son recently entered a speech competition with a speech on relationships and how both sides benefit. One of the relationships he discussed were parents and children. He said from his limited perspective, he couldn’t quite see how parents actually had any benefit. So he asked me my thoughts on parenthood.

I told him that I find joy in sharing and watching my children go through life’s experiences. And that I am proud of the individuals that they are.

Kira Finkler, Director, Idaho Water Project

Finkler’s daughters at a TU chapter event earlier this year along Warm Springs Creek planting willows. Katherine on the left and Bonnie on the right.

I am lucky to have been a mom for 29 years now so honestly it is difficult to remember pre-mom days! Being a mom is messy, wonderful, hard, amazing and an ongoing effort to try to forgive myself for all the mistakes. My oldest and youngest children are 14 years apart. Spending time together with my family is incredibly important to me but it can sometimes be challenging to find activities that my 29 year old daughter, Bonnie, and my 15 year old daughter, Katherine, both enjoy. That is why I am thankful to TU’s Ted Trueblood Chapter here in Boise, ID. They host events where volunteers can help with some of their restoration projects. Both of my daughters love these events and always want to attend when the opportunities arise.

Mallory Gay, Director of Membership Services

“3 of my 4 boys on a hike (baby is strapped to mom)” – Mallory Gay

For me, being a mom has meant rediscovering the little beauties of life through the eyes of my children. From finding a worm under a rock or seeing a plane fly overhead, these guys take on everything with such exuberance, it warms my cold jaded heart and gives me hope for the future. Ha ha!

What’s the best and the worst part of being a Mom?

Hillary Walrath, Control Program Project Coordinator

“This is one of my favorites because it was taken on a float that we did in Wyoming during the eclipse of 2017. My mother was with us and held our newborn so I could get some fishing in. I was able to land this beautiful fish and release it with the help of my oldest daughter. Pictured here are three generations of women who love to fish.” – Hillary Walrath

There are so many wonderful aspects, it’s hard to sum them all up. I think the best part is having a little person love you so unconditionally with such real and honest love. There is nothing that can compare with your child telling you they love you and needing you in a way that no one else does. It’s just the best and makes all of the hard moments fade away. But on that note, the hardest part is never knowing if you’re doing it right. You just have to trust your instincts and have faith that it will all work out in the end.

Nelli Williams, Alaska Program Director

“The river is the glue that holds my family together.” – Nelli Williams

Seeing their eyes sparkle. The times when you are pulled in a million directions and feel like you aren’t doing anything well, including mothering. 

What’s the most important lesson you can impart on your child/ren? Why?

Nichol DeMol, Great Lakes Habitat Program Manager, Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative Project Manager

I believe that the most important lesson I can impart on my daughter is to be an empathetic and authentic person. It can be hard to stay true to yourself and things you believe in when outside influences creep in. But having these two qualities will help her find her way.

Chrysten Lambert, Oregon Director

Photo courtesy of Chrysten Lambert

Stay curious! Sometimes it seems like we learn more from our kids than we teach them, and having children has helped me remember the importance of curiosity. In our rushed lives it’s hard to stop and ask questions instead of just racing to the end of a task/product/project, but every great discovery came from someone taking the time to ask “why?”

Helen Neville, Senior Scientist

Photo courtesy of Helen Neville

For me, having kids has opened up a primary mission to get my kids outside and connected with nature. Maybe I’m just so self-centered I want to recreate my 1970s childhood…?  In all seriousness, I think we all need to be purposeful and proactive about helping our kids build a relationship with nature, given our current tech-dominated culture. It’s important in terms of fostering the next generation of conservationists, of course, but equally important for building confidence and ensuring their mental well-being. Luckily, we live in a place (Idaho) where that’s pretty easy to do, and I am so pleased and relieved my girls seem to be embracing the charge with gusto.

Beverly Smith, VP for Volunteer Operations 

Photo courtesy of Beverly Smith

I think I’d quote Edward Abbey:

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”

Natalie Stauffer-Olsen, PhD California Staff Scientist

I believe that the most important lesson I can impart to my child is that all life has value and is sacred, and we have to treat it as such; and that humans are not above other life forms, but an integral part of the living ecology of our shared home.

BONUS: Tips for getting kids outside/on the river (Hint: snacks are involved)

Food, songs, food, and more food. We never go hiking without chocolate! Also, just keep going. Not every outing is a success, but if you keep getting out there one day you’ll walk into a room and find your kids pouring over topo maps and planning the next family adventure. What’s cooler than that? -Chrysten Lambert

Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. My girls both love to fish because so much of it is an adventure – it’s about forts, and collecting rocks, and imaginary worlds, and (a new one for us) documenting every creature we find on INaturalist, and every so often catching fish. It’s quality time where mom and dad aren’t on devices (aside from an INaturalist capture,) working or stressed. Being outside with them is time spent more deeply just being. – Beverly Smith

Pack way more snacks and water than you think you will ever need, lower your expectations to simply spending time together and just go. I’ve found if you just focus on being present with them and don’t worry about the end result, it all works out. Usually their grumpiest moments are in the packing stage. Once you get out it makes everyone feel better, kids and parents! – Hillary Walrath

We don’t live in the days where you could turn kids loose to run feral in the hills, setting food and water outside the door should they get hungry. It takes effort and attention and love and patience and snacks — so many snacks — to inspire the outdoor experience many of us were privileged enough to live growing up. And for that effort, from all of us who have benefitted from it, passed it on, and for all of us who will: Thanks for hanging in there. – Shauna Stephenson

Further reading:

Trout Unlimited is pleased to offer a complimentary one-year membership to all moms who will be new members. The offer is good through Monday. Sign yourself – or your mom – up here:

By Jenny Weis.