When you hear the word ‘retreat’, what is the first thing you think of?
Some people think of retreats as only being for mad yoga fans, people who want to sit in silence and meditate for days, or those who want to fast, juice, lose weight or climb up mountains.
Some people think that retreats take place in distant, exotic locations such as Byron Bay, Bali or Thailand. This definitely can be the case. Others presume that retreats are super expensive and totally out of their price range. Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly some five-star luxury retreats out there that come at a hefty cost.
As you can see, retreats come in all shapes and sizes and many of them are likely to be life changing, transformational experiences.
But when you consider retreats that are specifically for mums, you might be surprised to find that there are relaxing and nourishing retreats out there that are not too extreme, not too far away and not too expensive. These retreats are designed with the busy mum in mind. The mum who hasn’t had a chance to even think about taking some time out for herself, let alone organising a trip away. These retreats encourage mums to enjoy healthy self-care activities that they might incorporate into their daily lives when they return home, such as yoga, meditation and nature walks. They encourage a group of mums to come together to connect with each other and most importantly, have a bit of fun!
How I realised I needed to look after myself better
My love affair with retreats began after a very dark period in my life. I had experienced depression and anxiety most of my life but things came to a very unpleasant head in 2011, when my symptoms were so bad that I couldn’t even eat, drive or leave the house. I had been on medication since my first official diagnosis in 2002 and luckily had avoided post natal depression when I had my three children. In fact, after having children I thought that I was invincible – unfortunately I was wrong. In 2011, when my three boys were aged 5, 3 and 18 months, things snuck up on me and I became so ill that I was hospitalised at the Albert Road clinic for five weeks.
Although this was definitely the most miserable and confronting time of my life, I was very lucky that with medication, professional help and the support of my friends and family, I did get better in time.
When I left the hospital, I made a promise to myself that I would never, ever return to that dark and scary place and be forced to leave my family again. I realised I needed to invest in regular self-care and put myself first sometimes, so I was well enough to be there for my family.
As the author Audre Lorde so aptly put it:
So, I started meditating, exercising regularly, getting out and about socially with my friends, spending time in nature and trying to bring some of the joy and fun back into my life.
I also made the decision to take at least a weekend a year, to go away on a retreat on my own, away from my family, to have time out to truly recharge and restore. As any busy mother knows, the daily grind is a relentless, often thankless, task and you can lose yourself in the demands of motherhood. I also realised (having been in hospital) that it was possible for my family to cope without me! Obviously, five weeks had been somewhat extreme, but my husband and my kids did survive without me and this gave me the freedom to know that it was possible for me to leave for short periods again.
My retreat experiences
I have since been on a number of different retreats which I have enjoyed for different reasons – yoga retreats, mindfulness retreats, retreats with hiking (which I found very challenging!) Some have been very structured, some less so. Some have had periods of silence and some have encouraged major changes in lifestyle and diet.
Here are the places I have visited:
Clearview Retreat, Kerrisdale, Victoria, Australia
I visited the beautiful Clearview Retreat, three years in a row, for yoga and mindfulness in nature weekend retreats. My favourite aspects of these retreats were the warm hosts Paul and Jocelyn, the beautiful setting, the delicious home cooked meals and being mindful in nature.
Aro Ha Wellness Retreat, New Zealand
I attended a 6 day/5 night retreat with my yoga studio Warrior One Yoga, at the luxury Aro Ha Wellness Retreat. I absolutely loved the stunning scenery, 5 star accommodation and delicious raw food. However, I did find the hiking on this retreat to be quite mentally and physically challenging. That being said, I am so proud that I completed every hike (despite being last up every time), including a 6km uphill hike on the last day!
Centre for Mind, Body and Spirit, Gordon, Victoria, Australia
I went with two mum friends to a weekend retreat at the Centre for Mind, Body & Spirit. This was a very unstructured and gentle retreat, and my friends and I had plenty of free time to go out for walks, coffees and laugh and laugh with each other.
The most enjoyable part of these different retreats was the opportunity to connect with other women. We formed new friendships, shared new experiences and, most importantly, laughed and had fun!! Away from my kids and husband, I finally felt like myself again, free of the responsibilities and cares of motherhood, if only for a weekend. I always returned a happier version of myself. And the boys had usually had a great time with their dad, eating pizza for every meal and spending most of their time in their PJs. It definitely was a win/win scenario!
My own mothers’ retreats
Up until this point, I was enjoying simply being a guest at retreats. But in 2017, I was looking for a career change and wanted to do something I felt passionate about. I decided that I wanted to bring my love and experiences of retreats to other mums. I had personally experienced the benefits of retreats for me and my family, especially in terms of self-care, maintaining good mental and physical health and having fun with other mums. So, at the beginning of 2018, I launched METreat – Retreats for Mums.
However, mums are not an easy group to convince about investing in themselves! They often feel guilty about taking time away from their families or spending money on themselves. I understand that mums in particular, can find spending a significant amount of money on their health and wellbeing confronting. This is why it is so important to plan ahead when treating yourself to a big ticket item, like a retreat.
How to make spending money on a mothers’ retreat a little easier
Here are some ideas for how you can make the decision about investing in yourself a little easier.
1. Find out if there is a payment plan available
Paying for something in instalments, makes managing your day-to-day finances simpler. It also makes it psychologically easier to deal with the overall cost of a big ticket item.
2. Check to see if there are early bird specials or discounts available
Most retreats offer early bird specials or discounts. If none are advertised, it is always worth getting in touch to find out if anything is on offer.
3. Put a little aside, regularly
Try and squirrel away a little bit of money each week to help pay for your retreat. Perhaps put aside your coffee money a couple of times a week. Even $5 or $10 a week adds up over time, particularly if the retreat is some months in the future.
4. Try and see the value for money
Most retreats offer inclusive prices, with accommodation, food and all activities included for the one set price. If you were going away for the weekend and paying for these things separately, you would most likely spend much more in total. Paying for everything upfront means that you can leave your wallet at home and just turn up and enjoy your weekend.
5. Value yourself and your wellbeing
Self talk is extremely important. If you decide that you are important and that you deserve to invest in yourself and your happiness, all the criticism, negativity and guilt about spending money on yourself and taking time away from your family will just fall away.
I hope that mums will see that you can’t put a price on your wellbeing and that going on an annual mothers’ retreat is not only worthwhile, but essential. As author Paulo Coelho correctly states:
Have you considered going on a mothers’ retreat but not taken action yet?
Chat with your partner or family about the concept of you going on a mothers’ retreat in the future. You might be surprised at how encouraging they are for you to go. Then you can start discussing the logistics with them, regarding timing, costs and who will care for your children.
About Vikki Friedman
Vikki Friedman is the founder of METreat – Retreats for Mums.
She is a mum of 3 crazy boys aged 13, 11 and 8, a cat and a dog, and lives in Elwood, Melbourne.