If we are to truly normalise rest, we have to stop shaming mothers for spending time apart from their children.
True rest is not hiding in the bathroom for 5 minutes peace.
True rest enables you to return to those you love feeling restored.
True rest allows you to return to yourself.
Don't hate me, but by the time you read this, I will have been on a mini retreat.
It's something I've done ever since Clem was quite small.
It always enables me to return as a restored, revitalised - and dare I say as someone who believes in 'good enough' - improved version of myself.
I've seen some powerful comments recently on normalising rest. Particularly after this year and a half of the additional stresses of a global pandemic.
But why is it that mothers in particular need permission to do this?
It’s partly because a capitalist society equates worth with productivity.
It’s also a deeper sense of internalised shame we are conditioned to feel for abandoning the nest. For not living up to the perfect mother myth.
When C was nearly 2 years old, I went on the first of my retreats from motherhood. A week long yoga holiday in Andalusia, Spain.
One thing I recall (apart from the amazing food, scenery, sunshine, swimming, yoga, time alone to read and reflect) was judgement from several women I met.
I wasn’t imagining it.
There was a palpable sense of shock that I could have left my little one at home and come away for a whole week
They were also very surprised that I didn’t call or text my partner to keep tabs on things.
I’m aware of the privileged position I was in to be able to do this. A partner at home. Both self employed, so flexible in how we work. Enough money to afford such a luxury. Perhaps that sparked some of the criticism.
But I remember thinking that if my parter was away, leaving me with the baby, they would not have commented at all.
We are so attached to the idea that the mother is responsible for all the mothering.
We perpetuate this ourselves, going into overdrive to ensure caregiving is seamless while we are absent.
Not allowing our partners to do things their own way.
I’ll admit I did a fair bit to facilitate this trip. I pumped so we could nurse when I returned. I organised clothes, food and other practicalities beforehand. I lined up support in case it was necessary.
But I did not leave lists of instructions. And, importantly, I did not worry. I knew they’d be having a very happy time without me.
I savoured my time alone and was hugely restored by it. I felt a visceral yearning to see C on my return.
We were securely attached, but after feeling touched out, I needed the separation to feel it. She was fine. I was the one who was sobbing.
So yes, let's normalise rest. But let's also normalise caregiving by others.
A society that truly supports and enables mothers to return to themselves, even for a short while.
Time away enables me to come back to myself because it gives me time to reflect of who I am without my daughter.
We pondered these questions of identity as a mum in the last circle I ran this month.
So you may not be able to go on a week's retreat but you can create a little pocket of time in your day to connect with yourself.
You will find a link to the workbook and guided meditation I have created to help on this page.