A growing number of moms across the country are packing their bags, kissing their partners and kids goodbye, and going on retreat. Mom-specific and women-only retreats held all over the world are on the rise and gaining popularity with the baby burping, diaper-bag-toting, and bottle-and-breastfeeding masses. While many sign up for these unique getaways looking for nothing more than a little downtime, most find they have gained a whole lot more by the time they return home. Facilitators create mom retreats for a variety of reasons, but the desire to help women reconnect with themselves is a common thread among many. Shanti O’ Conner is the owner of Rooted & Open in Bend, Oregon and a co-founder of the Sacred Mothers Retreat held at Suttle Lake in Oregon. While working with women as a counselor, pranic healer, and reiki master, she noticed that for many, becoming a mom creates a loss of identity, which impacts their sense of joy and fulfillment. “I wanted to create a weekend where moms could have time and space to reconnect with themselves, their joys, and their passions,” says O’Conner, who is also a mother of two. Kelsey J Patel is a LA-based spiritual empowerment leader and healer. She offers a variety of wellness retreats including a biannual women’s wellness retreat that takes place on the weekend after Mother’s Day and again in November. She says a large number of moms attend the retreat in May as a gift to themselves after showing up for their partners and children on Mother’s Day. She believes every mother should go on retreat once a year and says, “Getting away for a trip with the girlfriends is amazing, but every mom needs a weekend where she doesn’t need to show up for any other human being than herself.” Retreats vary in location, content, and length. Weekend and week-long getaways are common and many include yoga, journaling, group reiki and healing circles, meditation, and hikes. Additionally, massage, acupuncture, aromatherapy, and cranial sacral specialists are often onsite to provide treatments for those in need. Attending a retreat means committing time to something other than the family – a difficult hurdle for most moms. But by and large, participants rave about the short and long-term benefits they have received from their experience and say their peers should take the leap and sign up too. The following are five reasons participants and facilitators say all moms should go on retreat.
1 | Make new friendships and improve the old
Retreats offer participants who are feeling isolated and alone the chance to strengthen existing relationships and forge new connections. Jade Worthington signed up for the Sacred Mother’s Retreat for an opportunity to connect with her friends. “I knew at least six or so of my friends were going and that definitely sweetened the deal,” she says. “As much as I knew I needed some me time, I also felt I needed some time to strengthen and grow my friendships and my support group outside of my home.” Ashley Johnson also attended the Sacred Mother’s retreat, but without any friend in tow. While she recognizes that this would be difficult for many, she says, “Most retreats are structured to put everyone into various groups from the start…new friendships are forged nearly immediately and attendees feel connected and supported right away.” Johnson also notes that the lineup of activities offered at the majority of retreats rarely allow for awkward alone time. Ann Rivera, life coach and co-founder of the Sacred Mother’s Retreat, thinks a weekend of self-discovery in the woods while connecting with other women can be the healing combination for a mom looking to take care of herself. “An afternoon lunch with a friend…just doesn't really cut it,” she explains. “At a women's retreat…moms find the strength and inspiration to continue forward on their motherhood journey with a new support system, a stronger sense of self and a renewed excitement for life.”
2 | Find a mentor. Be a mentor
A mother’s journey shifts and changes over the course of time. In the retreat environment, new moms often find mentors in older or more experienced peers. On the flip side, mothers and even grandmothers who are in attendance find purpose in their new leadership and support role. Patel says this dynamic occurs naturally in the retreat setting. She explains, “Older women are starting to question purpose and what they are going to do after their children leave the nest… and connect to how they are becoming a source of inspiration and leadership to other women. The younger moms get to bring that depth of fresh love to the experience.” Worthington admits that it was important for her to see and hear about the struggles other moms were experiencing. She says, “Some moms struggled with things similar to what I was dealing with, and some moms were dealing with feelings or events that…I could experience further along on my journey of motherhood.” The retreat left her with a new and renewed community of women she could turn to get the support she needs now and down the road.
3 | Release and let go
Retreat attendees are often able to find relief from stressors and fears during and after the event. When moms spend time away from the family surrounded by women in nature, they have the space to find their truth and intuition – which are two of the most important guides in life according to O’Conner. She says, “I wanted to create a space where moms could connect to and release the immense amount of fear and judgment they hold around being a woman and mom.” Johnson was able to let go of one of her longtime anxieties while walking around Suttle Lake during one of the retreat activities. “I carried a rock representing my fears of the future, and at a certain point, I was able to walk out on a large log, throw that rock out into the lake and release my crippling fears,” says Johnson. “It was such an emotional moment that I lost my balance on the log and nearly splashed into the lake!” Since returning home, Johnson has replaced the worries that plagued her with a mantra she developed while away. “This life-changing moment only happened because I made myself a priority by attending this retreat.”
4 | Experience transformation
A weekend at the beach with friends is a great way to get some rest, but a weekend on retreat is a chance for real change to take place. Audra Carmine and Jessica Garay are both moms and the co-owners of Love Hive Yoga Studio in Portland. They run an annual women’s yoga retreat in Mexico. Carmine says that at the Love Hive Yoga Retreat, both her and Garay use the practice of yoga asana to give participants the opportunity to wake up. “When you are in Mexico with a dozen other women, sharing stories, getting sweaty and truly allowing yourself to rest, a transformation is inevitable." Retreat participant Stacey Durden was feeling overwhelmed with life – and on a couple of occasions thought she was “losing it” – when she decided to sign up for the Sacred Mother’s retreat. She says, “I felt like I had lost a sense of who I was before becoming a mother and wife.” While she didn’t know what to expect when she went to the retreat, she hoped to get “unstuck” and to come home a different person from when she left. Durden didn’t regret her decision. She left with a set of goals that continue motivate her each day and has a mantra she recites when her patience is tried. “I have become a more patient, loving and fulfilled because of .” Garay believes that if a retreat is to live up to its potential and really increase the quality of participants’ lives, it must not exist in a vacuum. “Our hope is that women will take the retreat home with them in the form of good self-care rituals,” she explains." Our retreat ultimately invites our participants to increase the quality of their day-to-day lives through the practices of self-care, meditation and yoga.”
5 | Pause, refill, and reset
Retreats offer moms who feel overwhelmed, depleted, or lost, an opportunity to hit the pause button on life, replenish their energy reserves, and reset their focus before returning to their families. The success of Durden’s first retreat experience turned her into a fan of the process. She says, “If you're feeling overwhelmed and want to rediscover yourself, a retreat is perfect for you.” Facilitators agree that one of the reasons so many attendees are able to return home with a new approach to daily life is because of the chance they are given to truly hit the “pause button” and re-prioritize the different aspects of their lives so that their needs are met when they return home. “In short, most moms are struggling and because they do so much they are easily overlooked,” says O’Conner. "We need to remember that as mothers we cannot fill our families cup up when ours in only half full.”