Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Grandeur

It's been a good 10 or 11 months since I last went on a mother's retreat. Since I started doing them three years ago, I've averaged going every six or seven months--this one was definitely overdue.

To make things somewhat more interesting (and to ease the financial side), I went with my friend Sarah Davis from church. Lucky us, her husband works for AT&T and gets some awesome hotel discounts. Even luckier for us, he announced that he would pay for the hotel. Sweet!

Taking advantage of the moment and aiming for maximum relaxation potential, we selected our hotel carefully: none other than the Ritz-Carlton.


Goodness friends, I have never stayed somewhere so fancy. Chandeliers everywhere, including the elevators. Because that makes sense. We were also offered champagne at least twice while checking in--another not-in-Utah moment, though also weird because I'm obviously pregnant and therefore not drinking alcohol...but I suppose it's the gesture that counts. We declined, though the pink lemonade was Fab-u-lous.

Relaxation priority number one was FOOD. We went to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory with the full intention of taking absolutely as long as we wanted and eating absolutely as much as we wanted. And holy cow, we certainly had enough food to go around. Relaxation priority number two (uninterrupted sleep) commenced fairly immediately after getting back to the hotel. There is definitely a comatose-like effect of having amazingly comfortable beds combined with no children to deal with that led us both to fall asleep quite a bit earlier than we usually go to bed. That may not sound exciting on a weekend getaway, but my goodness does sleep do wonderful things for the brain.

One hiccup to it all was the rowdy bunch of drunk girls parading up and down the halls at 2:00 in the morning. That put a definite damper on the night's sleep, especially for Sarah, and we called to complain in the morning. Thanks to the courtesy of the manager, we were offered room service breakfast for free.

Praise be to the tastebuds.


I have long wanted to eat real cooked-by-a-professional-chef eggs benedict. I always suspected they would be delicious, but the opportunity to try them had never presented itself, and I was nervous about making them myself knowing how hard it is to master hollandaise sauce. This particular Saturday seemed to present the ideal moment in which to sample such fare.

**insert multiple contented sighs here**

So. Amazingly. Deliciously. Rich. and Perfect.

I have never appreciated breakfast in bed before. It always seemed annoying...if I'm going to eat, I'd rather just get up and get on with my day. But with the supreme comfort of these beds plus the to-die-for food, well, let's just say it's the longest I've ever taken to eat breakfast in my life.

The rest of the morning was spent (mostly) in quiet while Sarah and I each worked on our own stuff. My objective for the morning was planning out our family's summer routine--knowing that Jane will be home all day, Chris will be crazy busy with his thesis and summer class, and I will only get more pregnant until school starts again, I figure that being prepared would be a good thing for everyone. I'm quite pleased with what I've come up with, too (we'll save that post for another day).

It was a sad wake up call at the point that we had to check out of the hotel. Something about climbing back into the hot sticky smelliness of the 1993 Geo Metro we'd borrowed from Chris broke the magic spell of the Ritz and brought us back to reality pretty quick. We weren't quite done with the work we'd wanted to do, so we spent a couple more hours at Barnes and Noble to get our work wrapped up, then we ventured back home.

This weekend easily ranks in the top two of my best retreats ever.

Since this is my first retreat in Georgia, I've had a lot of comments and questions from people who haven't heard of this idea of a mom retreating before. I've also heard several "reasons" for That sounds nice, but it would never work for me. Perhaps there are some out there for whom a retreat wouldn't be useful, but I think that for 9 out of 10 moms, this is an activity well worth the effort. The rest of this post will be my responses to such excuses--just a heads up if that doesn't suit your reading today. You can also skip to your excuse of choice for personally applicable suggestions.


Excuse #1: I could never leave my kids overnight.


I have several counterpoints that come to mind on this one. For one, yes, you can. They won't die. It is actually quite a valuable lesson for kids to know that Mom can leave and that she comes back. If you never leave, you'll end up with more negative attachment issues than if you spend some time apart now and again.

This argument holds slightly more weight if you have a nursing baby. I've done that two ways--one, take the baby with you, especially if they are only a few months old (I took Ben when he was six weeks old). Being away from the distractions and to-do lists of your house can still make a very positive difference, even if you still have a baby with you. The other very real option is pumping. You can pump ahead of time and store up breastmilk for Dad to feed baby, and you can take your pump with you to pump while you're retreating. This isn't a post about pumping so I won't go into details on how to swing that, but just know that you will not lose your milk supply with one night of exclusive pumping and your baby will not spontaneously wean themselves if they have a few bottles.

If you find this being a go-to excuse in your mind, honestly answer these questions: What do I stand to personally gain from taking a retreat? How can this benefit my kids and marriage? How do I define my identity outside of being Mom?

*If you can't answer that last question, it would be an EXCELLENT focus for a retreat!


Excuse #2: I don't have the money.


Depending on how you work it, retreats can be pricey or really not. There are several options in both directions. My preference is going to a hotel overnight and eating out for Friday dinner and Saturday's breakfast and lunch. Once or twice I have actually been gone two nights, which certainly ups the cost.

Make a plan for how you will get the money for a retreat without breaking the bank. Intentionally saving up for a few months beforehand definitely helps. Here are a few quick tips.

1~$5 bills: I buy all my groceries with cash so I stay in budget, and I never spend any $5 bills I receive as change. It's a small enough amount that it doesn't hurt my grocery budget but it's large enough that it adds up relatively quickly.

2~Holidays: Another tip for getting money for a retreat would be to time it with a special occasion, like your birthday or Mother's Day, and use whatever money you budgeted for that holiday for a retreat. You can also ask for cash from family and friends in place of gifts and then use that money for the retreat.

3~Friends: Go with a friend and split the costs! You'll likely end up paying for all of your own food, but if you can halve the cost of a hotel room, you've just made quite a dent in the bill.

I used all three of these ideas to pay for my retreat this weekend. Otherwise, the Ritz most certainly would not have made the possibilities list.

A few things to note that can help with costs: Find a hotel with free breakfast. Pack snacks for the evening/day so that you aren't tempted by more costly gift shop offerings. Watch out for wifi fees--find a hotel with free internet so you can work without being charged.

If your finances are such that paying for a hotel and eating out really isn't in the cards, don't worry! There are so many other options! Find a friend who's going out of town and stay at their house while they're away. Go camping instead and take advantage of the restorative powers of nature. Send Dad and the kids away to stay with family for a night and relax with the house to yourself (just make sure that you are really retreating and not just doing more things around the house). Find a friend with a guest bedroom you can borrow for a night. Lock yourself in your own guest bedroom or office, armed with snacks and headphones or ear plugs to block out the kids. I promise, there is always a way.


Excuse #3: My husband would never let me do that.


First question: Have you asked him? You may find him more willing in real life than he is in the imaginary conversations in your head.

Yes, husbands may balk at the initial proposal of leaving him alone with the kids overnight while you get to run off and do all kinds of amazing and fun things by yourself. Chances are, though, that once you present him with a clear explanation of what you're doing and how you're going to pay for it, he'll start to come around. Then once he understands the benefits that it will bring you, the kids, and him, he's likely to jump on board quicker than you expect.

Just to illustrate what I mean by benefits, here is a before and after picture of this weekend's retreat. On Thursday, I had multiple meltdowns throughout the day because I was beyond stressed at nothing more than business as usual. I was snapping at the kids all day, frustrated with Chris, and getting nothing done in a house that desperately needed a good cleaning. It all climaxed with a trauma trigger that led to an impromptu hour-long cry fest in a Walmart parking lot. Such was my mental state going into my retreat.

Fast forward to now, four days post-retreat: My house is clean, including the closet in the office where everything just gets shoved until it all falls out. We had friends over for dinner on Sunday evening and we had a very pleasant visit without any stress. Chris has started a new semester and he and I were able to sit down and map out a good plan for how we're going to manage the busyness there. I have already pulled together most everything I need for my summer routines with the kids. And last night, I ironically had the exact same trauma trigger, but this time no meltdown. I instead had a pleasant evening getting some errands done and then hung out with Chris before going bed.

It was a night and day difference, people, and Chris knows it. With enough warning and planning, he is more than happy to let me go on a retreat because he knows that a much nicer, happier, productive wife is going to come back.

Let me note here, however, that I have had a handful of conversations with other moms when I came to realize that the line "He wouldn't let me" was actually a clever cover-up for "There is no way I'd trust him alone with the kids."

Ouch. Would you say that to his face? This is a more delicate issue that I don't necessarily want to get in the middle of spouting out random unsolicited advice, but a here are a couple of thoughts. Dads are already more competent than we sometimes give them credit for, and the only way they get better is with practice. He'll never learn how to take care of the kids alone if you never let him. Also, the kids' relationship with Dad is just as important as their relationship with you. Don't take that away from them.


Excuse #4: I wouldn't know what to do by myself.


This post is WAAAAAAAAAAY longer than it started out in my head, so I'm going to wrap up this one with a cop-out. Two years ago, I wrote quite a thorough post about what I do on my retreats. You can read that here: Now Get to Work. While you're at it, I also wrote a lengthy post on how I pull together retreats. It covers similar material that I've already written here, but it might be useful to you nonetheless: Mother's Retreat Tutorial. To sum up though, there are two primary objectives on a retreat:

1. Relax and refuel.
2. Prepare what you need to be a good mother, wife, and human being.

I'm done with my soapbox now, and I think I'll go start paying attention to my kids again. If you find yourself really wanting a retreat but don't know how to pull it off, call me and I'll help you brainstorm. If you happen to want personal tutoring on how to take full advantage of a retreat, call me and I'll come with you. :) I'm always up for another retreat.

4 comments:

Ruby in the Rough said...

I love your advice! I am a firm believer in taking frequent brakes from the kids. I just had a four-day retreat to Arizona that simple and fabulous (and focused on house hunting).

Katie said...

I have had a ton of resentment over being a working mom, and have had great difficulty coming up with positives about it. However, one HUGE positive is that both my husbands have been 100% able to handle the kids on their own, and if I was ever worried about it in the beginning, I had to just get over it very fast!

Liz, Karl, Madison, Brooklyn and Aubrey said...

Can I just say, JEALOUS! I could definitely go for a ritz Carlton retreat right about now. :) Wish I could have gone with you.

Tannie Datwyler said...

That sounds amazing. :) I love this post by the way. It just makes me smile. The eggs Benedict... so Laura. Besides which, debunking all the excuses is also awesome.