My daughter is about to head off for her first year of uni and my son has already started sixth form in another town. My nest is only half empty (or half full, depending on my mindset), but like many parents after months of lockdown, I am suddenly faced with hours of me-time.
This is both good and bad. Good in that I only have to make myself a cup of tea, that I don’t have to ask anyone to turn down the TV or feel like I’m failing as a parent because there is nothing to make them do - the mother-copter has landed.
Bad in that I am occasionally poleaxed by weird emotions.
The other day I suddenly burst into tears as I drove past their secondary school, where daughter also went to sixth form. I know this is normal. I’ve spoken to friends and read about people going through similar stages of grief and existential crises. I’ll just get some waterproof mascara and carry a box of tissues and large sunglasses with me everywhere I go.
One major positive -- and way to cope with the overwhelming feelings -- is that I have more time for taking care of myself. I can make my wellbeing a priority and take time to think about my own future. What do I want to do with the rest of my life? The best way for me to get into the habit of more regular self-care is to head to a spa; here are some of my favourites that I think will help me and other parents not just survive, but also thrive.
Book a spa day
Instead of standing in a strangely silent living room wondering what my point is, I can take a day off and treat myself to some well-earned spa-ing. I am really excited to try out the new Champneys Spa at Mottram Hall, a spa I’m particularly fond of anyway, so I can’t wait to see the revamped version with its new pool and outdoor hot tubs. It’s a bit of a drive from me, but Child 2 can cook his own tea without burning down the house. Mottram are currently doing deals for a spa day, and I rather fancy the Champneys Cocoon Wrap with a scrub, warming cocoon and a scalp and foot massage: it sounds so nurturing.
Treatments for emotional release
If you think weeping on your massage table is a bad thing, you might want to avoid reflexology or aromatherapy massages. I, however, believe it's cathartic to let go in a safe space. Most good spa therapists expect an emotional reaction to massage, especially as we may have become touch-deprived during social distancing. One woman who really understands the Power of Touch is Beata Aleksandrowicz. Her philosophy is to connect to emotions so therapists that have been though her training will be attuned to any emotional overwhelm. My go-to deep release is her Pure Massage at Dormy House.
Doing my online yoga class in a living room with teens and kittens has been a bit of a challenge. But I know that yoga has been one of my main LD saviours and I feel it will help me cope not just with empty nest and stress, but with ageing well and staying flexible. Bamford Haybarn in the Cotswolds are running outdoor walks and yoga classes with their resident yogi Akshai Narain, and indoor yoga at Bamford Brompton Cross in London. If you can’t make it to their delightfully chic Haybarn Spa for some real-time countryside r&r, they run online Virtual Vitality classes, too.
Practice self care
Spa retreats are a great way to kick off some serious self-care and healthy habits, and like most people, we haven’t had a holiday at all this year. Which is how I justify booking a three-night Discovery Retreat the Three Graces Spa at Grantley Hall. For £1,845 you get a deluxe room and meals, a body composition analysis and consultation, two personal training sessions, daily yoga and Pilates, a two hour shinrin-yoku walk and a mindfulness workshop – as well as access to the beautiful spa, ELITE gym and classes.
Learn something new
Having ferried kids to-and-from football, ballet, piano and swimming lessons, it feels oddly indulgent to book a class for myself, even though BK (before kids) learning was such a major part of my life. Studies show learning is good for ageing brains: it also fills your newly freed-up calendar and brings a fun element to fitness. I could book in a series of golf classes with a pro at Carden Park then reward myself with an afternoon at their spa and an Elemental Herbology treatment. Lucknam Park offers horse-riding and an impressive cookery school, while Saunton Sands holds surfing classes on their beautiful beach with a dip in the Source Wellness Spa after.