I think I talk about self care a lot and it is something I am still learning about but one thing I do know for sure is vital for mothers to take time for themselves not just every now and again but regularly.
The gentle parenting approach can be particularly depleting (yet of course similarly rewarding but I will talk about that another day). You give and give and give, trying so hard to be patient, to respond to our children kindly and respectfully to meet all their needs with love and peace and to always listen. This doesn't leave much space for letting off steam ourselves, or leave us with much time to talk about our own needs (hello facebook). This is self care.
Self care can come in many different forms and is different for every mother. For myself and a group of local mums last weekend, self care came in the form of a one day gentle parenting retreat. (I think most of those who attended would agree with me when I say we could have done with more than one day, but the blessing of young babies who still very much need us bodily, a weekend away will have to wait a few years).
The retreat was held at the Renewal Centre in Swallowfield. The Renewal Centre was originally set up to help alcoholics and runs support groups for alcoholics and the children of alcoholics. The building itself is a converted barn and is completely beautiful. It is a very calming, relaxing space where you feel cocooned and safe.
We began the day with a little meet and greet as there were several mums there who didn't know everyone I handed out some hand made affirmations to get us all in a positive mood, then we moved through to the studio to begin the first of the two workshops.
The first workshop was a art workshop which I ran. I tutored the mums through creating beautifully covered journals in which they might celebrate their creativity and express their feelings as mothers. It was a really relaxing and laid back workshop (perhaps a little too laid back as I over ran a little bit!!) and the end results were a collection of incredibly beautiful and unique parenting journals. I tried really hard this year to be less "teachery" having come from a background of secondary school teaching it was a challenge for me to let the mums get on with their project without feeling like I needed to go round and critique each guests book. I think I did better this year but there are still aspects I can work on such as being more attentive to each person there, checking they were able to keep up with the process.
If I could change anything about the workshop it would have been to write out a list of each step of the process we were about to do. I thought that I knew well enough in my mind the order of each step but because I hadn't written it down I missed a couple of bits and had to back track which interrupted the flow of the session. I also would have liked to have done a complete run through of the activity to the clock so I would have known more accurately how long it would have taken. I had done the project a couple of times at home, but in bits over a few evenings and weekends, it would have given me better insight into how it would run if I had been able to do so fully in advance. However I felt like the mums could empathise with how difficult finding the time to do this sort of thing would be, and would hopefully forgive me for that and forgive the slightly scatty nature of some parts of the workshop.
This year I provided the lunch so the mums could relax and focus on themselves even more than last year (where we brought packed lunches). I thought is was a really great lunch which was entirely vegan and delicious.
After lunch we moved upstairs to the loft for a mindfulness and self care workshop run by Tricia Wilkie She helped us to understand about how our brains work in stressful situations and how we can cope better using mindfulness techniques. We did a few guided meditations and discussed the importance of self care and how to introduce self care into our lives. Unfortunately we over ran a little and had to wrap the session up a little more briskly than I would have liked, but all in all it was a very successful session and Tricia was very knowledgeable and tuned into what we as a group needed to discuss and hear about, allowing us time to discuss and go off track when we needed to.
I was utterly exhausted after the retreat (ironic I know) and my body followed this up with a cold which I have suffered with for the last week (I think I had been running on adrenaline on the lead up to the retreat and when this dipped my body just shut down). Now I am feeling much better and so ready to talk about and start implementing more self care into my life, as well as daily meditations, even if just for a couple of minutes.
I am definitely going to be running another retreat at around the same time of year next year. I have learnt a lot now I have run two such retreats and I am confident they are going to get better and better. I am also keen to run an additional retreat in the summer with a focus on art and craft for the whole day. I am have really enjoyed teaching art to mums (so different to teenagers) I love how different all the journals were compared to mine, they took creativity to the next level, beyond anything I could have imagined.
I found the planning and executing of the retreat incredibly stressful, I so badly wanted it to run smoothly and for people to feel they had value for money and for them to enjoy the day and feel the rest and relaxation promised. I think the level of stress I experienced far outweighed what was necessary for such a situation, therefore I m really going to work on managing my stress better (using mindfulness and meditation) so that next time I run a retreat I will be able to feel replenished after as well. Having said that it was a really great way to challenge myself, to push myself and was an incredible learning experience so totally totally worth it.
So I really just want to say thank you so much to all the wonderful mums who came to the retreat last weekend and gave so much of themselves to make the day really special. It wouldn't have happend without you ladies, thank you so much.