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Getting To Know: Jill Kirwan

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

In today's feature of the InspHERational Women of the Outdoors blog series, we catch up with Jill Kirwan! Jill is an avid outdoorswoman and busy mom of three kids residing in Northern Ontario. We asked her a few questions about her childhood, favourite outdoor activities and the importance of including her family in her adventures!

1. When were you introduced to the outdoors? Who do you contribute your passion for the outdoors to? Hmmm, I would have to say when I was very, very parents were both quite active and loved the outdoors, so it was a natural evolution that their passion became the 'normal childhood experience' for my siblings and I. My parents were definitely the biggest contributors in the creation and now my continued love for the great outdoors! Skiing, swimming, summers/ weekends at camp on the lake gave me unfiltered exposure to all things outdoors, and fostered a life-long passion to learn, grow and try new sports/ hobbies that are outdoor-centric. Over the past 5 years, I have been learning the ropes as my Uncle's apprentice, deer hunting with both bow and rifle. The knowledge, skill, patience and respect required for harvesting cannot compare to anything I have done to date. I am forever grateful.

2. What are your main outdoor interests?

In the current chapter of life, 3 kids (aged 6, 4 & 10 months)/ work, volunteering, I am focused on what realistically works within the bounds of our schedule/ lifestyle! Biking, hiking, running, walking, kayaking, fishing, hunting (small & big game) are the typical activities and we squeeze in some skating, sliding, baseball, basketball and golf. I also love being in the garden (flowers and veggies) and am new to the SUP world! The kids participate in nearly everything we do, either playing alongside or are along for the ride in the stroller, carrier or bike seat!

3. How are you able to reach a balance between your outdoor lifestyle and motherhood to young children? I think balance is a hefty goal with little ones! I think having realistic expectations and being fluid and kind to yourself/ current situation is honestly more worthwhile than balance. As we grow as parents, we/ you understand you just can't do everything you used to do (with babies/ kids) and that's ok! We can, however, learn and adapt, become more resilient and of course, find the baby gear that makes life outdoors, work for everyone!

With the 'bring them with you' mentality, shifting your mindset that your outdoor lifestyle and motherhood CAN be one in the same is empowering and lightens the blow when someone fights nap, gets sick, or throws a tantrum mid kayak ride because they're 'all done'. You still had 10 minutes of bliss on the lake together, it can still be a win! Outdoors time can just be in shorter bursts and/ or pack snacks bring the tablet along to add extra time to the outing. For the scenarios when it's not safe/ appropriate to bring them, I plan/ coordinate schedules, ask for help and actually take it. The kids have a great time making memories with extended family and I can focus on a successful harvest. Open communication and leaning on your village are key!

4. Is it important to you to incorporate the outdoors into your family’s lifestyle? Absolutely. I cherish my childhood and the opportunities to learn, experience life based on my parents' outdoor/ active lifestyle, as well as outdoorsy friends/ family over the years. I am very grateful to be able to share my passion with the kids, we are making lasting memories, getting fresh air, exercise and filling our cups at the beach, on a trail, outdoor rink, paddling around the bay etc. and they will continue to make memories with other like-minded active kids for years to come. For soon-to-be or new parents, I would say the outdoor gear (baby/ child) available is priceless and allows you to seamlessly bring them with you on your adventures. Be creative, research and follow different active parent accounts for ideas, how-to's and lessons learned (like always pack snacks)!

5. Will you include your children in your hunting adventures? Absolutely. I have brought my older two (6 and 4) out many times for small game, as Fall is absolutely stunning to be able to explore the trails with the kiddos. When they get bored of hunting, or run out of snacks, we search for the best or most unique maple leaves for crafts, count animals spotted, or try to identify tracks we may come across. It's a great time to chat about safety, respect for nature/ wildlife, conservation, gratitude and of course anatomy!

6. If you had one piece of advice for other hunting moms or fellow mamas that are looking to balance an outdoor lifestyle and motherhood, what would it be? Lower your expectations (for a few years at least), ask your village for help, and have fun with them! They are your little people/ side-kicks and you are their role model. Take time for solo ventures, when possible sure, and when not, bring them with you (and an absurd number of snacks and wipes). Any time spent together outdoors (be it in the backyard, bush, on the lake etc.) is an opportunity to connect, share your knowledge, and truly fills your cup and theirs. It could be a silent morning kayak or an evening side-by-side ride for birds, the chats are always comical too: how old is that white pine, what animal would you rather be and why etc. Whatever you choose, will pique their curiosity and have them asking questions. Researching/ reflecting on those questions when you get home/ back into reception, continues the learning and appreciation.

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