Mary Elise Rees knows what it feels like to be tired. Rees, mother of a toddler, works in finance by day. On nights and weekends she is an event designer for her business, Mary Elise Rees Event Design. “After surviving the first year of motherhood as a first time mom I felt like I needed to create an event that focused on providing something special for mothers who so often put everyone else’s needs before their own,” she said. Rees created Mom Camp NY and its inaugural two-day summer retreat is scheduled to start on Friday, July 27, 2018 at Wiawaka Holiday House in Lake George.
The mission of the camp is straightforward: to give moms 48 hours of child-free time with opportunities to bond with other women and catch up on some sleep. “For Mom Camp I took inspiration from summer camp but upgraded it for adults!” Rees said. “I really tried to think of things that moms maybe miss from having more time to themselves and tried to provide opportunities for campers to indulge in those things…even if it is something as simple as getting to drink your coffee while it is still hot or take an uninterrupted nap!” Rees knows from personal experience that personal time without interruption is restorative. She has created a schedule filled with restorative activities, including craft workshops during the camp’s second day that she thinks moms will enjoy. “I wanted to provide a few fun workshops, like the floral crown workshop, where moms could learn something new and make something for themselves,” she said. Rees stresses that participation in all the activities during Mom Camp NY is optional. The weekend revolves around mom. She can do whatever she wants during her time from practicing gentle yoga, to reading a book, to taking a swim. Naps are highly encouraged. “As moms I feel that we are constantly being bombarded by pressure to exist and create a perfect Pinterest or Instagram life,” Rees said. “I wanted to create a retreat for moms that didn’t micromanage every hour but instead gave permission to choose rest, permission to choose what they desire or need in that moment.”
Motherhood is hard. “After talking with other mothers and taking in my own experience as a new mom it seems in our culture that even with the most supportive of partners and despite our quest for gender equality, women are still expected to shoulder the majority of the child rearing and domestic labor,” she said. Women are often juggling full-time jobs, running the household, and raising children. “While Mom Camp was created to specifically give new moms (after the first year) a break I really hope we have a diverse group of campers so that new and more veteran moms can befriend one another,” she said. “Camp is also open to expecting mothers, whether it is their first, second, or third. It is just as beneficial for expecting moms to join us at camp to take time to reflect and rest before the new baby comes,” Rees said. “Our yoga instructor is trained in both prenatal and postpartum yoga so she can provide instruction to all levels and pregnant mothers can expect delicious mocktails at our camp happy hour.”
It is fitting that the Wiawaka Holiday House in Lake George is home to Mom Camp NY. Rees planned a wedding there once and she knew it would be the perfect setting for moms to enjoy a weekend away. Wiawaka was founded by women in 1903. It is the oldest and longest continuously operating retreat for women in America. “Knowing Wiawaka’s history it seemed like a perfect fit for Mom Camp,” Rees said. “Mom Camp will be continuing Wiawaka’s tradition of fostering a space for women to come together.” She also makes it a priority to support women-run small businesses throughout the Mom Camp NY operation. She cites the camp’s yoga instructor, Sami Gowan, a mother of two, and the partnership with entrepreneur and mother, Faye Jones, of Upstate Crate Co.
Rees knows it’s not easy for moms to leave home for two days and spend money on themselves to participate in the camp. She hopes she can encourage the wavering mom to come. “I think the biggest hurdle is convincing moms to spend money on their own well-being. If a mom is on the fence about coming to Mom Camp, I would say to focus on how if you are your best self and invest in yourself you are then investing in your children,” she said. “We put our children’s needs first, but they are watching and taking it all in so if our children see us valuing ourselves and valuing our wellness they will learn that women are deserving. They will learn that our identity is more than just being a mother, that we are strong and complex.”
At the end of the two-day camp Rees is confident the friendships and bonds formed between women will be reinvigorating, especially for young moms as they navigate motherhood. “The hope is that campers walk away feeling a little more rested than when they arrived (paid down some of that sleep debt), made some new friends, and maybe learned a new craft,” she said. It’s really all about a mom rediscovering herself and knowing she is a mom and so much more.
As Mom Camp NY grows in popularity there is the hope that Rees will add more dates to the calendar including a fall retreat for the moms too busy to participate during the summer, and a couples camp for parents to reconnect.
For more information about Mom Camp NY visit the camp’s website: https://www.momcampny.com/
(Photos credited to PJN Photography)
Emily Marcason-Tolmie, a Saratoga native, is a writer, researcher, wife and mother. Emily and her husband, Ryan, are the parents to two wonderful little boys, ages 4 and 1.