If showering three times a week is the epitome of luxury, it’s time to invest in self-care, says Brenda. Will it be a mom retreat or mommy mindfulness? In any case, plenty of choice.
While one half of my twins (just 4) calls for admiration from a climbing frame and the other half wants to show a roll on the trampoline, my eldest (6) plopped down next to me on the bench in the playground, sulking. If we can go to a big boy playground, because this is boring. The playground he means is on the other side of the village.
The energy must come from my toes, which could use a lick of fresh nail polish now that I look at it. I actually look like a faded flower at all, I notice. The worst tropical years are behind me, but I still barely get to myself. After the summer holidays, my entire trio will go to school, but I can’t wait that long: the battery urgently needs to be recharged. But yes: when? And how? Life rumbles on, with me in last place.
For my own well-being, I consciously continued to work when I became a mother. Combining my writing tasks with raising the children suits me fine. It’s busy, that’s for sure. So busy in fact that I can rarely refuel. That soy cappuccino at my computer may feel like hard-earned time for myself, but working is of course not the same as relaxing.
“I often only notice how great the need for relaxation is in a steaming herbal bath”
My favorite body pump lesson also seems to be a present to myself every week. But: is that really it? Is that the highest achievable in the life of a mother of three? A day in the sauna on my own will sporadically still work. How great the need for relaxation actually is, I often only notice when I blissfully lower my buttocks into a steaming herbal bath. The oh-what-wonderful tears usually sting my eyes right away, but I push back because crying naked around a bunch of strangers feels a little uncomfortable.
Like many other moms, my #selfcare is just downright sad. If I manage to shower three times a week, my self-care meter turns bright green. It doesn’t get any better. I often work through some mail in the evening, plus two laundry baskets of clothes. Then, hanging against my tired husband, I stare at Netflix for another half hour and dive back into bed in time. I invariably resolve to get up earlier for a quiet, healthy breakfast, but end up squeezing in a banana at the peak of the morning rush hour.
“In 2022 you are no longer a degenerate mother when you think of yourself”
In short: my self-care needs an update. Time to really invest in that, I decide. And that is possible in 2022, because you are no longer a degenerate mother when you think of yourself. You can safely go without the children, short or long. Fortunately, ignoring yourself one hundred percent for your offspring is less and less the norm. Like with that oxygen mask on the plane: take good care of yourself first, so that you can take good care of your children.
Maybe that’s why you are inundated via social media with advertisements for momretreats, momcoaches, mommy pamper days and mommy mindfulness workshops. Google also manages to produce a list in a second with which the devastated mother of today (me) can move forward.
My gaze lingers on a mom retreat in my own country, at the weekend. That sounds like potentially achievable. Spending a few days on the beaches of Zeeland together with other mothers who come for renewed connection with themselves: quite tempting.
One day in a wooded area, I also notice sniffing aromatic oils, smearing paint on a canvas and letting your feelings run free during a long walk. Not quite my thing, but maybe that’s why it’s good. Like a kind of therapy where you find self-love by breaking out of your comfort zone. Or: ‘This mommy day in Friesland is a day not to worry, but to be cared for!’ I see pictures of women with sunny drinks in hand, lying in pastel-colored hammocks, gazing over vast meadows full of cows (which you can also cuddle afterwards; seems to be good for you).
All the mommy outings I come across seem like the ultimate self-care remedy, yet I feel a subtle knot growing in my stomach. That may also be partly due to girlfriend Isa (40), mother of Arne (2) and Bas (5).
Waist of time
She also longed for time for herself and found a suitable retreat. “A day of silence, organized by a coach and a doctor, that sounded like something to me.
The location was magical and included a fantastic lunch,” she says. “But during the introduction round, things already went wrong with the self-care enjoyment and the silence. It was supposed to take fifteen minutes, but turned out to be an hour and a half of posturing.” The yoga session afterwards was so short that Isa barely had time to get out of the downward facing dog. “The exercise we then had to do with the coach made me vomit. I am a psychologist myself and I only thought: I would do this so differently, this is just out of a book: simple, childish, exaggerated. I didn’t feel anything except stress.”
After the well-kept lunch, the mothers went out on the moor with a buddy. “We had to tell each other about ourselves or something else for twenty minutes, without the other being allowed to respond. I had no idea what to do with this; I thought it was pointless and a waste of my time. Back in the group we had to share what we had learned from the day. I was so done with it that I left home with an excuse about the kids. Waste of my time and money.”
The transformation into a happy person
It’s exactly what gnaws at me a bit. So people make good money from mothers by organizing such days. Give a tired mom a weekend full of mommy vegetable juice, mommy meditation, mommy walks and a mommy makeover and kaboom: the transformation into a happy person has been successful.
If I have to believe the providers of these gifts to myself, after participating you are again a bubbling vessel full of patience and compassion. Have you been reborn as a mother and have you found your own self again. You know, the one I who could achieve a deep sleep at night and slept in all weekend. Personally, I’d rather not meet this conscious self again until fifteen years from now, if it actually matches reality (read: when the kids have left the house).
“I don’t even want to think about going away for a weekend without children and then talking to other mothers about parenting issues and… children”
With a slanted eye on the prices of the mommy relaxation activities, the doubt strikes me even more seriously. It may cost something, that resurrection. For two days and one overnight stay you will easily pay 550 euros. So I’m really nervous about that. And if I’m being honest, I don’t even think about going away for a weekend without kids and then talking to other moms about parenting issues and… kids.
If you’re just sinking your teeth into a healthy spelled smoked tofu sandwich, your neighbor would like some advice on how to keep her son’s annoying boyfriend out of the door. Whereupon the other mothers go the extra mile and get bogged down in a game of Greatest Horror Playdates. No, it’s not going to be a mom retreat for me, I’m guessing.
Also read – ‘I went on holiday without a husband and toddler for a few days to have time for myself’ >
Marleen (40), mother of Olivia (7), is doing better in my opinion. She goes to an organized wellness weekend every year. Some mothers go together, others alone. “I consciously don’t go with a girlfriend, just to be alone for a while and not have to discuss anything with anyone,” says Marleen. “Feeling that freedom is so nice. Only the yoga classes are fixed; other than that you can do whatever you want.”
She fills her days with sweating in the sauna, getting a massage, taking naps or reading. “It really feels like a Zen bubble. There is often a dinner together, but I usually stay on my own. As soon as I’m chatting with such a group, I quickly notice: this costs me energy, I didn’t come here for that. Being alone is wonderful! I am always charged when I come back.”
Long term effect
Sounds divine indeed to me, wellness all by yourself for three whole days. Presumably enough time to fill a full bubble bath with my tears of pleasure and relaxation. Still, I can’t help but think: how soon after something like that will you be in near-burnout position again? Are you a few hundred euros lighter, have you just smelled the luxury of endless me-time, you can settle down on the supermarket floor next to your screaming toddler two weeks later.
In my search through all the possibilities, I see that the creators of the various charging programs have also thought about the long-term effects. For example, at most momretreats you will receive tips for home, such as relaxation exercises or a short sleep exercise that is equivalent to – yes – four hours of sleep! But even better, I read everywhere, is to come back regularly and relive the retreat, course, workshop or relaxation day. With a tenner discount, because you are a regular customer.
Infinite long sleeps, contemplation, eating organic concentrates, meditating and inspirational walks in silence: it does many a mother good when I read all the reviews. Back home with an empty head to keep all the balls in the air in peace; the predicted result also seems worth every penny to me. Still, I haven’t booked anything for this summer yet. Somehow it just feels too good to be true.
“Somewhere it just feels too good to be true”
For now, I promised myself a pampering day at home. Soon, after the summer holidays, on my twins’ first day of school. After taking them to school with their big brother, I take a long shower. With today’s energy prices, that is also quite an investment. I then put on a house suit and treat myself to Netflix, just in daylight. Self-care at its best, if you ask me. I’m sure I’ll run out of energy for a mom retreat by then, given the current status of my battery. #selfcare is not quite that simple.
This article can be found in Kek Mama 07-2022.
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