Hilary Anderson is a wildlife biologist who has been running the range-riding program in Montana’s Tom Miner Basin since 2013. She’s a rancher and a mother, raising her four children amid the natural beauty and responsibilities of the ranching life. We asked her to descibe, in her words, what it means to be a mother. This is what she had to say.
I have had a lot of great adventures. I have climbed high mountains and come back blistered and bleeding and proud. I have followed wolves through the forest in negative 20 degrees and smiled at the wonder of them. I have weathered the rain and the wind and a hundred mosquitos biting every exposed bit of skin moving hundreds of cows across the valley. I have run long races until I thought I could run no more. But no adventure or triumph that I have experienced has been more challenging or more rewarding than the adventure of motherhood.
I did not expect to become a mother when I did and saying yes to motherhood back then was all of the fear and all of the joy I have ever known, wrapped into one tiny little blanket. I have found out that it does not matter how much you prepare or plan, what books you read or advice you listen to, nothing can quite prepare you for being a mom. Nothing can prepare you for holding your new baby in your arms for the first time or for the rest of your life after that.
Being a mom is uncovering a place inside you that you did not know existed. It is giving when you think you have nothing left to give. It is having the courage to face the unknown landscape of your soul as your children mirror it back to you. It is being there when it is not easy to be. It is two dirty little hands squeezing you tight. It is hearing the word “mama” called at least one hundred times a day (and night). It is being tired but getting up anyway. It is basketball games and gymnastics. It is a lot of laundry and missing socks and peanut butter sandwiches. It is being your child’s number one fan. It is learning that life is about the process of climbing, not standing on the top. It is big dreams and some nightmares. It is being present and remembering to pause for just a moment.
It is scrapes and bruises and sledding and playing barefoot in the creek. It is remembering wonder as you hold hands with your children and see the forest with new eyes. It is swinging high and laughing hard and finding hidden treasure. It is family movies and Friday night pizza. It is a messy house and math tests and toy dinosaurs on the kitchen floor. It is crying and feeling like you didn’t know you could feel. It is not knowing, but trusting. It is all of you, right there, really living, exposed, imperfect and trying. It is hope. Being a mom is the opportunity to influence the world for the better, the gift of unconditional love and the privilege of a lifetime.
See more of Hilary’s work in the Tom Miner Basin.