Sunday, October 24, 2010


I was astonished to see how many people said things like "I wish!", "I could never pull that off", "Lucky you!", and "I just can't get away from my job/husband/kids" when I mentioned I was retreating. I am not lucky, or rich, or selfish. I just decided I needed to do this, for my own well-being. How are women to replenish the well from which we draw the love, patience, faith, energy, endurance, and humor that mothering and marriage require of us, if we don't occasionally step out of it for a rest?

The word "retreat" implies a change in direction, a halt-and-withdraw military tactic. It implies giving up, a changing of our minds in the face of insurmountable conflict or challenge. Its more negative connotation is that it is a shirking of responsibilities or commitments at the last moment. I am reminded of the comment I received on Friday's post, where a reader said she could never do this, "especially leaving a sick child behind"...(for the record: Violet was on Day 3 of a gastro bug when I left and was feeling fine)...

Is it any wonder that mothers are burnt out...worn out, worn thin, barely hanging on by a thread? As Joan Anderson wrote in her book "A Weekend to Change Your Life", it is absolutely PITIFUL that we cannot find twenty-four hours for ourselves, in a year that contains eighty-seven HUNDRED hours!

It is precisely through caring so diligently for my children, my spouse, my home, and my career that I have arrived at a point in my life where it's do or die~ or maybe less dramatically, do or wilt and wither. Through the long postpartum months of caring for Margot, her subsequent surgery and recovery, my determined (then desperate) attempts to breastfeed her, never leaving her side, never taking a break, while also caring for two other young children, I depleted myself.

You don't need money. You don't need to go to a spa. You don't even need to go away for a weekend, although I highly recommend it. Ask around. Find out who has a cottage/cabin that they'd be willing to lend for a day/weekend. Do something in return, for rent: have the chimney cleaned, replenish the firewood, offer to cut their creative. This is something that will replenish you. Your only tasks should be:

keeping warm

finding water

avoiding technology

feeding yourself simply

and just sitting quietly, uninterrupted, with your thoughts.

I dare you to look at your calendar right now and pick a weekend sometime in the next few months to go away, to rest and restore yourself. I double dare you. 

Stay tuned for a week's worth of retreat-related reflections.


  1. I'm so glad you were able to do this for yourself. As you have said, it's so important for mothers and women to take time for themselves.

    As far as my date....I am planning on going to a local(ish) fiber retreat in February. It's a long way off, but I am fine with waiting.

    (P.S. The first weekend I went away after my daughter was born, she had been up all night with a flu bug. A friend of mine just spent her first night away from her 8 month old and her daughter was up all night with a flu bug, too. Maybe coincidence, but maybe our girls knew when we are leaving for a short time. In any case, I think it's important for our husbands/partners to experience being fathers without us around, as we are often mothers without our husbands around. It's important for the adults to trust each other and for our children to see both parents as able to handle whatever comes up.)

  2. For the past two years, hubby has treated me to a Mother's Day night away in a bed and breakfast, by myself, while he stays home with the kids. It's a time to sleep and just enjoy the silence and have a shower without someone pounding on the enclosure door.

    The house is usually a disaster when I come home, and the kids have eaten nothing but crap, but it's so worthwhile. If I can manage it, this year, I'd like to send them away for a night while I have the house (and my sewing room) all to myself. Delightful!

  3. Glad you had this opportunity. Although mine wasn't a retreat, I was at Fiber Expo selling, I was away from my family and had "me" time each evening and throughout the show. I came home to a family who missed me, a clean house and barn, and a better attitude about being a mom.

    Glad you had your time.

  4. It was I who said " especially leaving a sick child behind" and I had not meant to offend or suggest that you were being a bad mum because you were leaving...only that "I" could not do it and I was actually giving you kudos for doing so.

    My children are 14 and 10 and I have never felt burnt out or the need to get away and re-charge but I would never put down anyone that does.We're all different. My husband and I go away for our anniversary every year and that's always for me going by myself it just hasn't been a desire yet. Maybe one day I will give it a try.

  5. So glad you had a good time and have come home feeling rejuvenated!

  6. Good for you!!!
    I learned about the benefits of a retreat 6 years ago. I will be going Nov. 4-7....but although I will have as much time to myself as I want....I will be with my sister-in-law and 2 friends for a Quilting Retreat at a Christian retreat center. The only "work" I will have is to care for meals will be provided. A SMART husband knows how important this is....and also to make sure mommy doesn't come home to a MESS!!!!

  7. I'm so glad that you did this, Stephanie. The cabin looks wonderful. I would absolutely love to do something similar, but I'm positive I don't know anyone with a cabin. I don't really live in cabin country. :)

    The hubby and I did have a weekend without any kids though back in September, and it was divine. I adore my kids, but...everybody needs a break once in a while!

    You've inspired me. I think sometime over the next little while, I'm at least going to have an afternoon by myself. Moms need that.

    Laura @ Getting There

  8. Another idea is to check with good friends who may be going away for a weekend, or even for a day. Maybe you could use their house! I have offered our home to a friend for the daytime hours if she needs to have time to sit in a sunfilled room without her own home distractions. We work/are at school all day so it is empty but for the snoozing cats. Perfect for a few hours on your own...

    The first weekend I spent away totally alone was July 2009, and it may be soon time again. Not because I NEED it, but because if I do it now, then I may avoid needing it later! I was amazed at the insights I achieved, without even trying. The blessings of being STILL. And not talking to anyone. And feeding only myself. It was a gift to myself that brought me home so happy to see my children and husband, and so much better able to give of myself again.

    I am so happy that your weekend was good, Stephanie.

  9. Ok, you convinced me - I am going to attend this weekends Goddess Retreat - if only for a day.
    I have been pondering about it, hinting to my husband --- thank you, I am going.

    Namaste, Nicole

  10. What a great spot to inspire peace and simplicity!
    I hope it was all you wanted, and that you still feel the results today.

  11. Wow, that is my dream to go on a retreat completely ALONE! I have 2 children (age 3 &4) and have never been away from them. Not that I don't try but I have no one to even babysit. (we can't afford to hire one)

    I can't plan anything because 1. My youngest won't go to sleep unless I'm putting him to bed (or do anything else without me) and 2. My partner only watches them in absoluetly necessary situations.
    Story - I was pregnant with my 2nd and in the hospital on an IV but they were possibly sending me home around 3am, told my partner that and he said that since I was coming home at 3am I could give our then 1 year old her bottle! I stayed in the hospital until the morning!!!

    So I'm planning my weekend away in 2020 when my kids are old enough to look after themselves! LOL!!

  12. I went on my first 3-day silent retreat when I was just 5 weeks pregnant (didn't know I was pregnant at that point!) It was an incredible experience, and I was looking forward to doing it again. Babyhood has gotten in the way for the past little while, but I'm hoping when Aylen is just a little bit older I can do it again. Mothers invest so much into family life (Dads do too, but seem to have a shut-off button for the constant guilt, anxiety etc.) I'm excited to hear more about your time alone.

  13. The first time I was away from my kids I didn't know what to do with myself. What was this mysterious "free time"? I kept feeling like I needed to be listening for them and it felt odd to sit without having to get up 18 times while I had a cup of tea.

    I have yet to go anywhere all alone, but when I have been able to get away, it is with some of my absolute favourite women.

    My next retreat with these fabulous ladies is in 17 days... not that I'm counting or anything!

    Glad to hear you had the opportunity to do what your heart needed to replenish itself! Can't wait to do the same!

  14. You Rock! Thanks for inspiring us! I took off a few years ago from my family of three with my "first baby," an elderly black lab. We went to Lake Erie by ourselves, sat in the van as it rained and wrote poetry, snuggled in the blankets, hiked around wetlands, watercolored at the beach, ate supper by flashlight and slept in a grocery store parking lot until morning when we took a sunrise stroll around the lake. It was perfectly simple...who needs a cabin when you got a vehicle...although with the changing seasons in the North, some may. Great Blog!


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