Being a parent isn’t a role we walk away from.
Taking a break for a few days is something we all dream of and yet few of us ever do it.
Every family has it’s unique dynamic, yet many parents feel they should never take time off and leave their partner and children, even if just for a couple of days.
I believe that can be a mistake.
My eldest son has Autism and needs a lot of help and support fitting into our world. My second son is a firecracker with the energy of a tornado and hates being or doing anything alone.
They are polar opposites, and both need mountains of my attention, energy, and time. When they were little, I thought, this is it—not until they go to university or get a job will I have another moment of freedom!
Scary, but that was the reality I’d decided for myself.
13 years ago we moved from Taiwan to Granada, Spain. We were building our own house, I was building an online business, my husband was running his own architectural business and our second son had just been born.
Life was good, but I needed a break. After the international move and all we had taken on, I felt like I was drowning and desperately wanted space to pause.
I’d been practicing yoga since I was a teenager and, at that point, was taking it more seriously, practicing everyday and going to regular classes in Granada with my fiery Spanish Iyengar teacher. I was finding greater depth and support from yoga teachings and loved learning and deepening my pose practice.
A friend then told me about an amazing boutique yoga retreat center which held week long residential retreats all year round.
KaliYoga was less than an hour away from me up in the beautiful Alpujarran mountains.
So near, and yet, it felt so unavailable to me. I didn’t feel I was one of those people who went on a yoga retreat. How could I leave my family? How could I be so self-indulgent? How could I justify spending that money on myself?
But I started day dreaming about it, and found myself practically drooling over their website everyday. And I started thinking more about the reality of going.
Charlie, my husband, travelled for work and to see family and friends. If he could leave us for a while, surely I could too? And I’d recently made some money which would cover costs.
There were obstacles in the way—practical as well as emotional. But I overcame them, and I’m so glad I did because that retreat changed my life.
The realization that I was to teach yoga came to me there. I knew I wanted to make my hobby into my vocation. Positive life-changing decisions and realizations, large and small, come to many people on retreats. When you have time to step back from life’s regular routine, amazing things can happen.
So if you’re scratching at your front door but feel a retreat is only for you in another life, read on:
Sometimes we think the daily routines we have set up for ourselves are the only way that things can work. Ask yourself, which of these routines absolutely have to be maintained and which could slacken.
Would it really matter if your kids didn’t eat great nutritious food for a few days?
Their clothes aren’t ironed and spotless?
The house gets messy and isn’t cleaned?
They don’t brush their teeth everyday?
They don’t get all their homework done?
They miss an after-school activity or two?
If you think getting your daughter to her drama class is stopping you from going on retreat, please think again.
People love to help out. People love to feel needed.
Perhaps other parents could help getting your kids to school. Let neighbours and teachers know you’re going so they can keep an eye out. Arrange an hour or two of childcare on afternoons your partner’s busy.
If you have a regular babysitter or can get a friend’s recommendation of one, maybe they could step in.
This is a great time to build a rescue net with your friends and neighbors so you can all help each other out in the future.
If money’s an issue, cut back on anything that isn’t truly necessary for a few months. Save a little every day and put it in a dedicated place. Could you find a way to generate a little more income for a while?
Look locally. You don’t have to get on a plane to go on a fantastic retreat. Shorter weekend or one day retreats are also options.
Make sure there are no extra family appointments scheduled—the dentist, doctor, hair cuts, and so on for when you’re away. Eliminate any extras in the weekly routine.
No visits from grandparents or aunties, unless they are in the “genuinely great at helping out” family member category.
If your partner is like mine, not a practical parent, more about fun and banter—make a simple, non-daunting timetable of bed times, wake-up times, school bus times, meal times, even meal possibilities, and talk it through together.
Look for backup plans wherever needed.
Check your partner knows how to use the clothes and dishwasher. (Yes, I needed to.)
Go through each day with your partner with a pretty fine, but not too nit-picky, comb.
Schedule a pre-ordered supermarket delivery mid-week that you’re away. This is a great habit to have in your life, retreat or no retreat.
Put emergency contact numbers on the fridge, next to the timetable.
If a clean house is your thing, could you pay a cleaner to come in?
Double or triple the quantities of food you cook a couple of weeks up until you go and freeze what you don’t eat in portions sizes. Pasta sauces, soups, and one-pot wonders work well. Label and date them.
Let your partner gripe a bit—just a bit though—you’re not abandoning anyone.
Brace yourself. If he or she is anything like mine, their inner martyr might show it’s ugly head once in a while, especially in any stressful domestic moments that lead up to you leaving.
Expect the occasional, “Lets hope this doesn’t happen when you’re off on your holiday,”or “Well, things are going to change when you’re gone.” (I loved that one.)
It will be good for your partner to be in charge for a while—if only to see what is truly involved. He might even cast a fresh eye on how things work and have some good ideas for changes or upgrades in routines. He may be willing to participate more in domestic stuff upon your return.
My kids have fun and bond with my husband when I’m away. The routine changes a bit, things get forgotten, but every one survives.
A few years later, just back from a teacher training course, my little boy told me, “When you go away we have pillow fights, fun bedtimes with loud music, and ice cream everyday. But I love it too when you come home.”
Lisa, one of my students, has just come back from a four-day mediation retreat: “I was really hesitant about going, unsure about leaving my family and responsibilities, but if I’d known then what I do now, I would have run at it with open arms. That retreat has given me back my sense of self, my calmness, my wonder at the world and all it’s creations. The peace I felt, being surrounded with gorgeous, like-minded people, has stayed with me and has made me more present in my life. Next time I won’t hesitate, I will leap!”
10 reasons to go on a Yoga retreat:
1. The food is fabulous, plentiful, and healthy. You don’t have to plan it, shop for it, or cook it.
2. You don’t have to think about anyone else’s needs but your own.
3. You will be in a beautiful environment. Retreats are usually held in a peaceful, calm, and quiet location.
4. You can banter with like-minded people, joke and share ideas.
5. You will very likely make life-long friends. When you have time and space to really be with people, good strong connections are made quickly. Likewise, you may want to spend a lot of time alone and make a life long friend with yourself.
6. You have time to sort out your thoughts, reflect on your life, and prioritise.
7. Nap. Daydream. Read. Walk. Have a massage. Get a few full nights of sleep.
8. No emails. No devices, or restricted access to them. This is really necessary to truly disconnect.
9. Practise loads of great yoga with a teacher you love—and perhaps kick start a regular meditation practice.
10. Relax knowing other capable people are running things.
Author: Sarah Barguirdjian
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Lieselle Davidson