XOCHI BALFOUR’S HOLY MAMA DIARY,
Eighteen months into motherhood, I felt in every cell of my being that I needed to go away, to sunny climes and foreign shores, and return to my emotional and physical self in a number of ways. I also knew that with my boy still breastfeeding, he had to come with me, and so I discovered Holy Mama: retreats for mothers, children and occasionally fathers as well.
I am a Mama, and as such, I am Holy. So are you, and so are our mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and all the women who have birthed and raised their babes since the beginning of time. And we used to know this, and honour it as a community, but it seems we have forgotten. Navigating a year and a half of broken sleep, lower back pain and the ever-evolving demands of the tumbling initiation that motherhood is, left me feeling out of touch with that sacred self-care that is so vital if we are to parent well. All too often I meet mothers who give, give and then give some more when there’s nothing left to give, and we neglect to fill our own wells. It’s not even a forgetting but a constant prioritisation of our children. The atomic family, and raising the next generation outside of the tribal structure in which we thrived for so long, can leave us disconnected, disembodied and feeling mightily alone and overstretched as we hold things together for our little ones day in, day out.
So, to hand myself over to someone else’s structure, nourishment and care was an invitation I could not pass up. Holding space for other women as I do, the idea of fully giving myself over was even more enticing. I chose an Ibiza retreat (they also happen in Bali, Morocco and elsewhere), and one – by chance – in which Papas were welcome for the first time. I confess I thrive in sisterhood but it was also refreshing for my boy to have some masculine representation around.
The structure allows each parent childcare in the morning while they do yoga and eat brunch together. Afternoons are spent in free flow before early dinner and, on a couple of nights, an evening circle or workshop for the mamas.
The best parts of my experience were the heart-cantered childcare, and the exquisite vegetarian food. From the moment I pulled up in my crammed rental car, frazzled from the journey (the Ryanair party flight, and not one drop of fun), the warmth and genuine love emanating from the team was pure nectar for my tired soul. You cannot fake this sort of generosity, kindness and care. It took me by surprise, at once melting my dwindling facade of strength and stamina and allowing me at last to crumple and soften a little, resting in the knowledge that I would be held in support for the next five days. This is a priceless experience.
I always believe that the way to a mother’s heart is through her children. To see the love with which the carers looked after our little brood was truly inspiring. To be able to walk away and know that your child is in brilliant hands allows you to finally let that exhale out from deep within, let go of all that holding, and soak up three precious hours all for you with not a responsibility or demand in sight. It’s truly a gift. I even ate some meals in silence, and though conversation was always easy and flowing, no one minded a bit.
Accommodation is comfortable, with communal kitchens and fridges full of breakfast ingredients and every fruit, rice cake and milk variety you could ask for. Brunch and dinner were one colourful and filling delight after another and the collective sensory highlight of most of our days; the children’s food is creative and nutritious. Yoga is core-centered and great for the post-natal body. Each mama gets to enjoy a half-hour holistic treatment which is such a treat for tired backs and stiff shoulders with the weight of family life upon them. They also offer an extensive list of complementary therapies, from shamanic sessions to family constellation work and many types of bodywork. Our evening activities included a short sharing circle, and a dance workshop, and we closed the week with a reflective water blessing.
Holy Mama excels at allowing mothers to feel supported, nourished and relaxed. It is not a deep dive into healing, ceremony or the emotional landscape of motherhood, but it is not the place for that. It is simple, gentle, restorative and consistent, and on a journey where every day is so unknown and nothing stays the same, this is perhaps the best medicine of all for any parent, anywhere.
CONTACT: + 34 651 458 587; www.holymama.info
PRICE: From £1,200 for five nights/four days
NEAREST AIRPORT: Ibiza
TRANSFER TIME: 20 mins