By Meredith Flory
A Mother’s Rest is a certified 501c3 that operates out of Maryland, planning retreats for “extra needs” families across the United States, and these events have ties to our area. Founder Andrea Faris Roberts explains that A Mother’s Rest is a “health initiative” for the caretakers of children that require extra care; this might be special needs children, children with long term illnesses, or children that have experienced trauma or behavioral issues, like many in foster situations. As a mother of teenage son with Down Syndrome, ADHD, and SPD, she recognized that her and other parents acting as caregivers were facing burnout, and that while there were many conferences and events for these families to learn and develop community, there was nothing that was providing a simple chance to catch up on sleep and respite for caregivers, inspiring her to start A Mother’s Rest (AMR) using her previous professional experience in marketing and charitable organizations..
Sleep deprivation can cause emotional and physical health issues, and many caregivers are awake frequently to care for the health needs of others in their families, and do not have many opportunities for relaxation. AMR organizes retreats at Bed and Breakfasts and Inns across the country where caregivers – parents, teachers, and other family members – can “remove from their caregiving situation” with others that understand, and seek rest in an “intimate setting.” There are no mandatory schedules, so that caregivers can rest and relax in the way that feeds their soul the most, even if that means simply sleeping in each day of the retreat.
Many of these families are living on one income, and budgeting for healthcare expenses as well, so A Mother’s Rest seeks to make each retreat affordable through corporate sponsorships. “Porch Partners” are the network of Inns and B&Bs willing to work with AMR to schedule retreats at discounted rates. However, AMR also needs corporate sponsors as well, willing to help cover the cost of each retreat to keep expenses low for families. AMR hopes to expand into grants for private caregivers as parents leave their child or spouse in need of care at home, and to expand into more events serving a variety of caregiving populations, such as a fledgling partnership with the military to care for spouses of disabled veterans.
The Jekyll Island Club Hotel is one of AMR’s “porch partners” and the organization has a Couples Retreat planned at this location for October 2019. Couples interested in attending, as well as businesses interested in sponsoring, can find more information at www.amothersrest.org. People may also purchase gift cards to events for a family member or friend that they believe would benefit; an excellent Mother’s or Father’s Day present if you haven’t been sure how to help a loved one in this situation. The organization’s Twitter handle and Facebook page is @amothersrest and they often use #sleep to lead conversations on the need for rest and self-care. In addition to parent retreats, they also host Mommy & Me retreats where a mother can bring non-disabled siblings to allow rest and time for the focus to be on their other child, as it can sometimes be difficult to discuss that child’s needs and find one-on-one quality time. Mother’s can also bring a friend or family member to these retreats that they need to spend time with.
AMR hopes to “eliminate the sense of shame, guilt, and anxiety” that many caregivers face when expressing a need for respite, and also to expand the definition of caregiver to those with family members that may have an extra need spouse or child, but do not think of themselves as caregivers. Roberts shared that many of these caregivers are not even aware that a total break is possible, and these retreats can energize and nourish them in a way that they can go back to their families refreshed and hopeful. She shared the story of one participant who was encouraged to attend a retreat through AMR as she was caring for her husband in the end stages of Alzheimer’s. Dealing with his aggression and anger after many years of a happy and caring marriage, she had not realized how much caregiving impacted her own health. Roberts remembers that as she walked in she became emotional and so grateful for this chance at rest, changing her countenance. To other caregivers Roberts shares that she understands how much it takes to “give yourself this gift” of rest.
This article appears in the June/July 2019 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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