How a Mother of Four and World Famous Polar Explorer Juggles It All

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It’s always fascinating how mothers are handled by the media and peers when performing in an arena of high level sport.  Throw in a level of danger and the interest increases triple fold.  As a polar explorer who holds world records for reaching both the North and South Poles, guiding polar expeditions and a mother of four children, including triplets it’s fair to say I have had my fair share of praise and criticism.

When I first began my polar career in 1997 I expected headlines such as mother of triplets walks to the top of the world or a few years later super mum reaches South Pole .... and the fact that I had children dominated the story more than the achievement itself.

Polar Explorer Ann Daniels Pholo courtesy of author

Now fifteen years later, I have walked the whole way to both the North and South Poles, guided last degree expeditions, led all three of the ice teams for the prestigious Catlin Arctic survey and with over 365 days experience in the North pole region have probably clocked up more days sledgehauling in this extreme and hostile region than any other woman on the planet.  

I am currently planning my biggest expedition to date and the dominating headline is mother of four aims to become the first woman in the world to walk to the North Pole solo.  I love my children, I am proud to be their mother and they have been my inspiration all my life.  I am pleased that they are a part of the publicity wheel but it irritates me slightly that as a female the fact I am a mother is always the first thing mentioned whereas one would never know whether the male explorers have children or not.

That said, having children keeps me grounded, encourages me  to keep going when I want to give up, helps me make safe decisions, gives me something precious to come home to and fills the void that often follows a major achievement.

My preparations and planning are all geared around school hours and holidays and when I leave I can only perform at a high level once I know they will be completely happy and looked after while I’m away.  I don’t have a nanny or childminder but am very fortunate that my mum and dad move into my house to take over my role and now my partner in life Tom makes up the family unit.  Before I leave I write them a letter for every week I’m away with pocket money in, buy and wrap birthday presents, easter eggs and make sure every special occasion is taken care of.  The triplets were three when i took part in my first expedition and for their part have always been supportive of my unusual career, not complaining when I have to leave and as they got older have encouraged me and shown an interest in the polar regions.  Sarah my 8y ear old finds it a little harder but has her older siblings to take care of her and at the grand old age of 48 I see my next major expedition as my last.

All in all having children has helped me to want to do my best in life, to show them how to live and I am certain I have them to thank for my greatest achievements.  

I truly believe that women, mothers or non-mothers, have the potential to achieve greatness.  We just have to believe that a bit more and not accept second best.

To all women, you are unique and special.  Go out there and kick some butt.

Ann Daniels - Mother of Four and polar explorer.



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