Last week I had no idea if a “Mamas’ Retreat” could work in 45 minutes, let alone in the middle of BritMums Live. But I had a go...!
So here’s the story of our Mama Me-Time session at BritMums Live, along with some speedy suggestions for hosting a mini Mama Me-time retreat of your own. Because you absolutely deserve it.
I was pretty terrified in the lead up to my Mama Me-Time session. In the hour before, I took myself off into a quiet corner of the conservatory (with a pudding for company, obviously…) and looked over my notes. Even though I’d hosted some amazing Mamas’ Retreats already this year, I’d never attempted to host one so short, and so I sat there questioning myself…
Does anyone but me really need this kind of support? Would it work amongst the buzz and bling tiaras of Brit Mums Live? Is making a Do Not Disturb Mummy sign with other mothers really anyone else’s idea of a fun way to spend their time? Would anyone really take a sign home and hang it on their door and be reminded to make some time for themselves…?
But I breathed through the questions, and reminded myself that if my session allowed even just one mother to take some time out for themselves, right then and even better, beyond, it would be more than worth facing my fears.
While being terrified didn’t stop me having a go, it made me feel sick as I stepped into the light and started to speak. That fear made me question myself as the mood in the room changed and calmed and quietened – a feeling so different to the other sessions at BritMums Live. But I breathed on and continued to hold the space, and I handed out my stickers and I smiled and I breathed some more.
And I’m so pleased that I did.
Because I discovered that actually 45 minutes is plenty of time. You can have a mini retreat in just a few considered breaths.
In a matter of minutes you can create a space to focus on yourself, to rest and reconnect. With a few minutes more, you can connect to those around you and support each other to make more time for ourselves.
So thank you so much to all the mothers who took time out from the BritMums Live hubbub to come along and play, with absolutely no idea of what we’d be doing. Thank you for breathing together and free writing, and smiling and crying. Thank you for sharing your stories and your Do Not Disturb signs. (some fab pics below…). Thank you to Jen and Susanna for encouraging me to try something different.
And an extra special thank you to the lovely Rachael of Mothering Mushroom for sharing a beautiful poem that she had recited to me earlier in the day. Her words were another beautiful way to remind us that we all have something to offer, simply by being ourselves. And goodness me, she was brave too – from friendly chat to starring in a BritMums Live workshop in a matter of hours! She recited her words not once, but twice, and I am so grateful for all that it added to the session.
Because despite all the amazing things we do every day – despite blog and social media “success” or otherwise, families we love, challenges we face, campaigns that change the world, we all need reminders to believe in ourselves. We need reminders that we are deeply worthy of the nurturing love we show to others.
And so I feel very lucky to have seen the impact of a few moments of breathing and some quiet free writing in a room of buzzing mum bloggers – the shift in energy, the quiet and the emotion that surfaced.
I loved seeing the conversations and connections that happened as we talked about what nurtures us, what stops us doing that and how we could do it more.
I loved seeing the laughter and smiles as we stuck monster stickers and glow in the dark stars and random Hawaiian ukuleles on to Do Not Disturb signs and shared what we love to do. The things we do not for anyone else, not for higher page stats or to make more money, not because we need to be any better or brighter or braver than we are right now, in this moment – but simply because it nurtures us.
And because we deserve to be nurtured.
BritMums Live is a buzzy emotional and inspiring conference. There is so much to do, so many people to meet and hug, so many conversations to be had, so much to learn, so much more than it’s possible to fit into two short days.
I loved catching up with old friends, making new ones, meeting twitter friends and learning from incredibly useful sessions. I loved the thrill of waiting to see if we would win an award and delighting at others’ successes (especially Team Honk!).
I found I flitted more than delving deep, and despite a heartfelt weep in memory of my dear friend Loz, and some longer chats with friends, I felt I missed out on more connected conversations in favour of trying to do a little bit of everything.
All that excitement, learning and social activity can also be overwhelming, scary and exhausting. A bit like parenting.
Sometimes we need the quiet. Sometimes we are so focused on supporting everyone around us that we forget to support ourselves. To remember that it’s OK to stop. And rest. And nurture ourselves. It’s not just OK, it’s vital.
So... if you couldn't make our Mama Me-Time retreat and you need that time for you too, here are some speedy Mamas’ Retreats for you to try, based on our BritMums Live session. Enjoy!
A 3 minute Mamas’ Retreat – calm, and connect to your body
Would you like to try right now?
Read this section then take a pause and place your feet on the floor. Close your eyes. Start to shift your attention to the breath coming in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Breath by breath, soften your shoulders, your jaw, your belly, anywhere else that you feel you are holding tension – just let the tension go with every out-breath.
Feel the breath filling your chest, and releasing. Feel it coming deep down into your stomach. Or rolling up and down your spine like a waterfall as you breathe in and out. Feel the breath in your body.
And remember that at the very centre of all that is going on around you is YOU.
Stay aware of that centre as you open your eyes and continue with your day.
A 15 minute Mamas’ Retreat – your body and your mind
Put a pen and paper nearby. Breathe as above.
After five minutes of breathing, stop and start writing. Write anything, don’t judge it, don’t analyse it, just write it – whatever comes into your head. Even if it’s “I have no idea what to write” over and over again, just put the pen to the page and see what comes out.
Write for five minutes. Stop. You don’t need to read what you write ever again. Of course you can if you want to. But equally, you can just crumple it up and throw it in the bin – it’s just another way of connecting to you and that inner voice you often don't have time to hear.
After 5 minutes of free writing, take 5 minutes more to write your answer to these questions:
- What nurtures you? (Try to list at least 3 things)
- How often do you do these things?
- What stops you doing these things?
- What one step could you take today to bring more of these things into your life?
Breathe on, and take that step.
A 30 minute Mamas’ Retreat – body, mind, making a me-time reminder
After you’ve done the 15 minute Mamas’ Retreat above, take the next 15 minutes to make your very own Do Not Disturb sign to remind you to take that time out for you...
Making is another great way to reconnect to YOU. And to connect to the joy of simple creating for pleasure.
Plus, a Do Not Disturb sign is the perfect reminder for you and everyone around you that sometimes you need to take time out too.
You can find out how to make your very own sign over here (it's easy, no expert skills required!).
And share it in the gallery when you’re done to inspire other mamas to take time out too!
A 45 minute Mamas’ Retreat – just add friends
Do all of the above with a mama friend! You can use your extra 15 minutes to share your answers to the questions above with each other.
As you talk and make together, help each other to think of a step you could take to make more mama me-time. Support each other to follow through.
We’re much more likely to make a change when we tell someone else we’ll do it.
And if we write it down on a great big Do Not Disturb sign…
At the session, I offered to give away three copies of our DIY Mamas’ Retreat Kits (everything you need to host your own slightly longer retreat for your mama friends at home!).
You get one entry for sharing your Do Not Disturb sign with #somum #britmumslive on twitter, and two more for managing to upload your picture to our gallery here.
I’ll be giving away the prizes this Saturday, so feel free to share and upload your own in the meantime!