Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mother's Retreat Tutorial

In my recent stories, I have more than once referred to my Mother's Retreat I did back in September. While it didn't necessarily accomplish everything I had originally hoped, it was wonderful nonetheless. Circumstances ended up being beyond what one weekend could solve--it was no fault of my retreat!

In fact, it was so wonderful, I did it again.

Before I go on, I would like to give credit where credit is due. I didn't just come up with this idea out of the blue on my own. The original inspiration came from Linda Eyre in her book I Didn't Plan to Be a Witch and Other Surprises of a Joyful Mother. I thoroughly enjoyed that entire book (the several times I've read it now) and this particular technique she shared--taking a "day off"--really resonated with me. I took her suggestions and ran with it and really made it my own. So far, the Mother's Retreat has served me well, and I hope it will continue to serve me well for many years to come!

Rather than just bragging about what an amazingly awesome weekend I had, I thought I would instead share my tips and tricks on how it is to be done, so that you, too, can have a superbly fabulous retreat that will relax your body, refresh your mind, and strengthen your spirit so that you can fight that daily mothering battle with renewed purpose and vigor.

Doesn't that just sound great? Ah, it is. Believe me, it is.

And so, here are my step-by-step instructions for planning your own one-night Mother's Retreat, alone and away from home--also known as "Laura's Guide to Remembering that You Really Do Like Your Kids."

Step 1: Convince yourself that it's a good idea.

How would you feel if you worked for a company that never provided any time off? No sick days, no vacation time, not even a quick bathroom break every couple of hours. Honestly, would you want to work for them? Would you consent to be an employee in such a company? No! More likely, you would throw a fit and refuse to be subjected to working under such harsh conditions.

So...why are you doing that to yourself?

A professional company would probably be sued if they didn't allow their employees time off, whether than be days in a week or minutes in the hours. State and federal laws mandate time off--and it's not because they are trying to be nice. It's because they want productive employees. If a person works and works and works for hours, days, weeks, months on end, they get burned out. They are no longer productive, contributing employees. It is in the company's best interest to allow their employees time to recuperate between shifts.

I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. No, mothering does not end. Your shift is quite literally 25 hours a day, 9 and a half days a week. I here add my voice to the many, many others before and around me who say YOU NEED A BREAK. You will be a more productive employee--a nicer, calmer, more peaceful, more approachable mother--if you take a break. Trust me.

If you're not convinced, try this experiment. While your kids are all safely occupied, go outside. Walk down the street just a little bit, just so far as to stand in front of the neighbor's house maybe. Now stop, take a deep breath, and listen. Just listen... No one is screaming at you. No one is pulling on your legs. There aren't any toys or dirty clothes to pick up. No dishes to wash. No snotty noses to wipe. Close your eyes, take another deep breath, and just let it all soak in.

Now imagine that lasting an entire night.

I'm going to assume that I have you convinced.

Step 2: Convince your husband that it's a good idea.

Yes, this may be the hardest step in the entire process. I probably actually had you convinced as soon as I said "retreat." Mention it to him and his first thought will be, "How can you abandon me with them!?" Husbands are wonderful creatures who are hopelessly attached to us--they just like us so much they don't ever want us to leave. Can you blame them? We're awesome. But it's still a good idea for him to be left alone with the kids for just one night. Just one. You'll be back in the morning!

I don't actually have a whole lot of suggestions on this one--sorry! You know your husband better than anyone, you know what it will take to convince him! My only tips are to make sure you approach it nicely--don't demand anything, make it sound like he's doing you a ginormous favor out of the goodness of his heart (because he is!). And make sure you promise to make it up to him in anyway he wants. I'll leave that one to your own imaginations...

Step 3: Make your plans.

There are several important factors to consider when you start planning the nitty-gritty of your retreat.


Depending on your own family finances, this may be tricky. On my retreats, I intend to pay for a hotel room, eating out twice, and at least some measure of entertainment (to be defined later). That's quite a chunk to pull out of our grocery budget. We save up for a few months before I go, putting away extra cash here and there. I babysat neighbors' kids to earn a little extra cash, my husband will work a few hours of overtime, things like that. I've always used the Cash-back Rewards program from our credit card. It will take a little planning, and it may take a few weeks longer to pull the money together than you'd like, but it's worth the wait.

Keep an eye out online for good deals on hotel rooms--travelocity, expedia, whichever of those sites you like to use. It's also good to watch for coupons for restaurants you might want to go to.


Decide when you're going to go. You'll want a day and a night when your husband is available to watch the kids, no other events get it. You know when you're available.


Decide where you're going to go. For my retreat this weekend, I went to a town about 15 miles away. My reasonings: I wanted to be far enough away that I felt like I was getting away from home (helps with the break mentality), but not use up all my time traveling. I also wanted to go to an area I was familiar with and, again, not use up my time trying to figure out how to get where I was trying to go.

You don't have to go far. If you can't afford a hotel, look for other possible options--crash at a friend or neighbor's house with the understanding that you'll be there, but not hang out with them at all. :)

Those Left Behind

Ha. That sounds melodramatic.

For the sake of both your husband and your kids, I suggest laying out all the pajamas, clothes, meals, snacks, games, activities, movies, shoes, coats, bottles... so they are ready. The less of an effort it takes your husband in the moment the more willing he will be to let you be gone. Also, if they have fun things to do, they won't spend all their time just missing you!

Step 4: Follow your Dreams! ...and the rules.

The day finally arrives. Take off! Enjoy the wonderfulness of getting into the car and only needing to buckle your own seat belt. Turn on the radio to whatever station you want...or listen to nothing at all. Anything you want!

Pick your YOU activity.

What do you want to do? Go shopping. Go to a movie. Check into the hotel and soak in the hot tub. Get your nails done. Take advantage of your temporary kid-less-ness and spoil yourself a bit.


Eat what you want. Go to that one restaurant you don't want to take the kids to. Order that thing you usually refrain from because it's just too fattening. Order it, and eat it all. If you're limiting your money, pack a few indulgent snacks along with your meals. I Promise You, one night of eating what you want will not irrevocably ruin your figure. Don't go overboard, but feel free to relax just a bit. And enjoy the fact that no one else will ask for a bite.

Erase the "should" voice.

The most important thing about this retreat is doing what will be refreshing to you. Don't do things because you feel like you Should. Don't let anyone else dictate what you do, whether they've talked to you about it or not. Seriously. Do whatever you want.

Ease up on the technology.

Turn off your cell phone--give your husband the contact info for the hotel in case of emergency, but really, anyone else who wants to get a hold of you can wait until tomorrow. Cover up the clock--don't feel rushed. Don't force yourself to go to bed at a certain time. Stay up as long as you want--or go to bed as early as you want. You get to pick! 

Step 5: Get to work.

Alas, it's not all fun and games. If you're anything like me, you've got some work to do, too.

I will say, though, this is actually my favorite part.

Now is a time for personal reflection, life evaluation, and planning. I often have things in the back of my mind that I want to really think about and figure out what to do with, but I never have enough time to really do it right. This is the chance.

I can give suggestions on what to do on this part, but it's really up to you and what you think you need. Would you like a list of ideas, though, to get you started? I'm willing to write that, just not at the moment. I'm kind of tired of typing right now and my kids are climbing all over me begging for attention. I guess my retreat is really over...until next time. ;)


tonyandwendib said...

I must say that this all sounds wonderful and one day I may try it. One day...

Rebecca said...

Yay I can comment on your blog again! For a while there I could only read your posts on google reader and it wouldn't let me access your actual blog.

I remember reading your post when you did your retreat with Ben when he was a newborn and thinking what a good idea it was. I really think I'll do that with #2. In fact I'm excited just thinking about it. A day to relax in a hotel with just me and baby, I'll order a pizza, watch a movie, and then get to work. :) Sounds lovely!

Tannie Datwyler said...

This whole post makes me smile. :) I should totally do this. I love the "getting to work" part. The time to reflect.

Then, we should do part 2 - you and ME out for a girls night. :) No work on this one. Just chatting and no children to worry about in between.