Zhiish and I have started leading restorative retreats together for women and thought it might be helpful to share some things we did (and do) to support our younger children when we are on weeklong and longer retreats/adventures.
We know the first time a mother takes time can be the hardest partly because she hasn’t experienced the benefits that ripple to her family and kids when she takes time. A week can seem long but really it isn’t at all and our kids are often involved in many things during their days. There is nothing you need to do aside from making sure they are in loving care but since Zhiish and I love delighting our children and connecting with them in different ways and making stuff here is a little list of some of the things we have done over the years.
Maybe one idea speaks to you or sparks something else - less is more and have fun with it!
Leaving them with a visual calendar. Especially nice for young children who don’t have a sense of time yet. It’s grounding to be able to see where they are and that mom’s return is right there just a little ways across the page. Even a wall calendar would work.
What I made and Zhiish did as well when she was away was like a homemade advent calendar with little surprises or wishes each day. A bag with little numbered items of notes or gifts works too. Simple items like a cool stone or healthy treat they like or money to take their dad/the caregiver to the smoothie shop. You know your fam best and it certainly doesn’t need to cost much and doesn’t need to be a gift everyday. Children just love the surprise don’t they? I alternated between my son and daughter for the gift/treat and then did 1 note for both to enjoy every 3rd day.
I knew that my kids were ok with me being away when the advent calendar format was so loved that they asked when I was going back to hike more of the Camino! OK I went overboard obviously with that one!!! When I did actually go back to finish the Camino 5 years later my daughter was 12 and I was gone for 10 days. I was soooo touched when this time she made me a ‘open one a day’ calendar package to send me on my way … I found it in my backpack on the plane …. it was so beautiful and sweet.
Something to have with them. Another idea is to have a little something like a string around their wrist and you have the same one to let them know that of course you are always there for them. If they are little story and imagination helps and you can put kisses in their pockets or let them know you will be sending hugs and kisses through the sun rays/moonbeams. Sky is the limit when you start thinking about connecting to a child’s imagination and it doesn’t cost a thing!
Contacting them from the retreat/adventure. Of course this is up to you but I would consider agreeing to not be in talking contact. Part of it is that it might be hard to connect due to location or time zones. There is always a way to contact you in the rare case of an emergency of course.
And then there’s physically getting away and for moms mentally getting away is where the rubber really hits the road. It can be hard at first but then you’ll get into a groove and a lot of contact can make it hard for you to BE at the retreat fully. There’s something priceless about periodically really unplugging from our roles and plugging into ourselves. Our kids thrive from us trusting this and that they and we’ll be more than ok.
Everyone Benefits.Taking time intentionally to connect with your Self and replenish allows you to bring more of you to your life and your relationships and your parenting (because you’ve nourished the connection with Her) but there are other gifts too.
For example, it teaches our children gratitude as they see how much we do for them (!) lol and it allows our partners to be the go-to for the week. I find it’s very common for mom to be the go-to for owies and upsets and the organizer and driver and shopper so this can be truly wonderful for the partner to experience this and parent their way building trust in their own parenting and in their unique relationship with the children. All. Good. Things.
Sharing your adventures on your return. Let them know you will take some pictures and share your adventures and possibly they could do the same with a little documenting of their adventures at home and school. Maybe you’ll look for a stone on the beach for them.
If they really want to tell you something when you are away they can write it down in a special book/place and share with you on your return.
Nourishing yourself nourishes the world. Our children love it when we are our best selves and we are joyful adults - after all they are headed there and want to know it’s something nice and fun and has its perks… adulthood that is! When we do something that we are excited about, stretches us or we prioritize our self-care in other ways that feed us we teach our children to take time for this too. That it is important. Our children will truly feel the goodness of this not by anything we say but by how we feel to them when we are back. That is what will teach them that taking time is a good thing. I believe chances are greater that when we model loving self-care that they will do this for themselves as adults too.
We hope something of this helps.
So excited for your soulventure! xo, Dr. Monika