When my twins were 13 weeks old we drove to France, from Yorkshire, for a holiday with extended family (reasons for which I wouldn’t have changed for the world, despite the challenges of the trip). We had two over-night stops in the UK before we even hit the Channel, one of which was memorably at Watford Gap services!
It was on the way back from this trip, still in the haze of sleep deprivation and constant breast feeding, that I made a resolution to myself. In order to keep my sanity in tact and for the sake of myself, and my children, I promised that I would make time for me, just for me, before I drowned under the constant-ness of being a full time mother to two tiny humans. I’d come to the realisation (albeit earlier than most) that a holiday with very young children was actually not really a holiday at all.
As soon as I returned back to home soil I set up a fund, just for me, saving £30 a month (the equivalent of £1 a day or a weekly Costa habit), to spend on time for myself to relax, re-group, un-wind and rediscover myself! The best way for me to achieve this was to book into a really nice Spa for a couple of nights once a year. And so my annual Spa trip was born.
Whilst I relish my annual trip away for the benefits of the fine spa facilities, treatments, food and services on offer, there is one thing that separates the spa break apart from any other holiday or trip I go on. And that’s the space and time I have all to myself.
I go to regenerate myself in body and mind, to completely switch off from day to day life and remember who I am again. It’s about taking that time out (albeit in beautiful, especially designed spaces) for yourself just to relax, please yourself and spend quality time with some of your favourite people.
I always go on the trip with my Mum and sometimes one or both of my sisters come too, which is perfect for so many reasons. These are the people I feel like I can totally switch off with, the people who share that precious time with me and who are looking for the same experience as me.
They are the people who understand that you might want to spend hours chatting about everything and nothing. The people who understand when it’s time to stop talking and rest quietly instead. The people who know when to share a glass of wine or time to pick up your book. The people who will let you lie in in the morning and go to bed early at night. The people who understand you might want to spend half an hour in bathroom taking a shower and putting body lotion on. The people who know you only want a quick swim and then a long lie down on a lounger with a trashy magazine. The people who make no demands on you the people you can just be with.
We’ve been in sun and snow, but usually go in the Autumn or Winter, it’s a time of year when there are no holidays on the horizon, the nights are dark and the weather cold. There’s nothing nicer than curling up on a warm sofa watching the rain slowly patter down with a mug of hot chocolate and having nothing else to do than just chill. The very thing you can NEVER do at home with small children.
It’s how I imagine ‘going on retreat’ would be, or what heading off on yoga break to ‘find yourself’ might be like or how the wealthy chose to ‘convalesce’ in the 1920’s or what a glamorous celeb ‘rehab’ clinic might offer . Only with less of the structure, clichés and seriousness around it and under the guise of a girlie trip away.
It’s a place that restores your mental health as well as your physical well being. It gives you time to take perspective on your life. More often than not I arrived ‘stressed’, tired, a little emotional, fed-up with the day to day-ness of life, worrying about something or another. Then I relax, unwind, chat to my mum and sister/s, put the world to rights, lie down a bit, sleep a little, laugh often, eat well, chat some more, have a massage, read a book, snooze, think a little, swim, sit and take stock and bit by bit I can feel myself starting to think like a ‘normal’ ‘rational person again. I look at my life from a new angle and just before I’m ready to leave I realise how lucky I am, what an amazing life I have and that all those ‘worries’ I had on the way in will not get me down any longer. I’m bolstered and re-charged and, while the issues I came with have not always disappeared, I’m faced with a fresh enthusiasm and have equipped myself with the mental tools to tackle them.
It may seem totally indulgent to some that I take that time for myself. When I first started saving for my Spa break I used to feel a little selfish. That the money saved could have gone towards a family break. That my husband was having to organise child care and I was abandoning my children for a couple of days. But I soon came to realise that I was a much better mother, wife and person for having taken that time out to pause for thought. It always restores my mind, body and spirit and I come home feeling happy, fortunate, rested and ready to face whatever lies ahead. It’s so important to stop and take stock of your life, two days out of 365 is no time at all. As mothers I think we are notoriously bad at taking care of ourselves and we should make more of an effort to do that in a world when being caregivers is so undervalued. I believe that Spa breaks, or just time away for you, in any guise, should be prescribed as an annual treatment with the birth of your first child to help you become a better parent and person.
When I return home my children are always so pleased to see me and I’m sure they appreciate me just a little more, as does my husband and I’m over the moon to see them all again. As for my Spa break, it holds a special place in my heart. It helps make me a little more me and I wouldn’t give up my
sanity saving fund for (pretty much) anything.
*My Spa break is always taken at Ragdale Hall near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire. A two night mid-week break comes in at £325 per person including all meals, inclusive treatments and use of facilities. It ticks all my boxes for a place to chill out and just be.
**This post has been written with no benefit or promotional ties at all from Ragdale Hall, I have no contacts etc there and these views are entirely my own.