Looking to connect meaningfully with your child while also getting some much-needed R&R? A mama recounts her transformative experience with FrontYard Family Retreats in Bali
The start of the year had been harried – amidst work projects and planning multiple ambitious family trips, my husband and I had also decided it might be time to plan baby number two.
I needed a break, one where I could focus on me, without worrying about how everyone else’s ‘holiday’ was.
Second child planning also scared me – would I have the capacity to love another child as much as I love my 4-year-old daughter? It awakened a strong yearning to steal away with my daughter and spend quality, one-on-one time with her.
Enter FrontYard Family Retreats by Holidays with Intention. How would this work?’ I wondered when a friend sent me the link. I’d never been one for retreats, and it sounded slightly like a hippie cult. Plus — a holiday with complete strangers?
The promise was six nights of rest and relaxation in a chic Bali villa, with daily childcare led by Montessori teachers and yoga for the parents. Best of all, they would also plan ALL the healthy meals for both children and adults, and take care of airport transfers. All we had to do was get ourselves to Bali.
After my initial hesitation, I decided to be open and allow my daughter and myself the opportunity. My hope was that the experience of a mother-daughter trip on a retreat like this would ultimately benefit us.
Arriving at Ngurah Rai International Airport, I met with three other mums, Delphine, toting her 16-month-old boy; Amandine, with 7-year-old daughter; and Marissa, with 4-year-old Emilio. A diverse group representing Singapore, Malaysia, Belgium, France and even Holland, we had all introduced ourselves virtually on a WhatsApp group a couple days earlier, so this was technically our second meeting. A minder soon found us, and before we knew it, we were piled into a minibus and on our way to the villa. (NB: For the time being they are unable to provide car seats so be sure to bring your own, or a proper travel restraint.)
Set in the sleepy beachside town of Sanur, the estate is only 20 minutes from the airport, great when you have fidgety kids needing to expend all the pent up energy from the flight.
The kids tore off as soon as we arrived at the compound, looking for our rooms, checking out the pool, and making friends with those who had arrived earlier.
The three main villas housed a total of 11 spacious bedrooms, each with bathrooms en suite. We were thoughtfully separated based on the sleeping times of our children.
The grounds consist of a central pool, outdoor dining area, bale, and lots of lawn space for kids to play (and for parents to practice their yoga poses for Instagram photos…guilty!). An 8-foot high wall surrounds the estate, providing security and privacy to those within. There was also a private chef, villa manager and daily housekeeping provided. It’s worth noting that guests don’t always stay at the same villa, although the photos above are indicative of the standard you can expect.
There were 12 kids on our retreat, ranging from 8 months up to 8 years old, and co-founder and Montessori teacher Ping Ong-Coates designed a daily age-appropriate creative learning programme for the kids, assisted by Montessori colleague Tracey Khalil-Cherbonnier and two nannies.
We parents had already come up with a daily pick-up and drop-off rota. Every morning, the ‘school’ bus would come at 8:15am, and two parents would accompany the kids to play school – located in a villa just 600 meters away.
Their activities ranged from painting to nature walks, music, storytelling, sensory play, easy science experiments, even their own meditative circles. Home at 12:30pm, they would sweep through the estate, brimming with excitement over the day’s activities and what ‘Miss Ping’ and ‘Miss Tracey’ had taught them that day.
With the kids fed and off to playschool, the estate would be a ‘child-free’ zone for the next 4 hours.
We began this time with yoga and light meditation, led by Bali-based yoga teacher and intuitive energy healer Anshu Singh. There were 10 adults, some with zero experience in yoga, while others were fully fledged yoga teachers, but Anshu managed to unite us in a daily practice designed to help us relax and just breathe better. Our session would end by 11am, leaving us with free time to do whatever we pleased.
Some days, I indulged in a massage al fresco (priced at IDR200, 000/S$20 per hour) or read my book by the pool, and other days we went to a beach café for brunch. Lunch was served by noon, so that the adults could choose to have their meal (in peace) before the kids came home.
We had two evening workshops facilitated by singer-songwriter and personal development mentor Melissa Indot. The first workshop was Serenity Vibration Healing, and the second, Intuitive Music Programming. In both, the adults sat together in a circle, while Melissa led us in a sequence designed to examine and reconnect with ourselves.
There was meditation, sharing, music, tears and even dancing – and while I worried it might be too confronting and uncomfortable, I came away lighter, with a deeper connection to the ladies (and one man) who sat with me.
On these evenings, the younger kids had earlier bedtimes, while the older ones enjoyed Movie Night – the only instances that screen-time was ‘allowed’ – truth be told the kids were having too much fun to think about watching TV.
Our afternoons were free to spend as we pleased with our children and we naturally broke off into groups governed by interest or the ages of our kids.
We explored the beaches and shops of Sanur, went to the Turtle Conservation & Education Centre to adopt and release hatchlings, and ventured further afield to frolic at the Teganan Waterfalls. By evening, we would gather back at the villa, unwinding (more) over nourishing, sumptuous dinners.
We even headed out to Seminyak one evening, watching the sunset and drinking sundowners at the very hip La Plancha, while the kids played in the waves and danced on the beach.
Working in hospitality and marketing, I found myself slipping into that old habit of examining every aspect of the programme – Did it cover all the kids needs? Mine? Was it enough? Was it adequately delivering its USP of a conscious, reframed retreat? With no daily afternoon ‘agenda’ I felt off-kilter, but as the days went by, I found myself going with the flow, slipping easily into events that were (for once) not planned by me. Realisation of my letting go shocked me, but it meant that I had relaxed. The questions, at first so loud in my head, faded away as I awoke each day, more rested and refreshed than the last.
On day 7 it was time for the Closing Circle. As we gathered into the room, the kids sensed the goodbye and started to act up. No one would sit still, and the room erupted into discordance. Melissa and Ping glanced at each other, trying to figure out a way to calm the chaos. I can’t remember what song it was, but I know Melissa opened her mouth and sang, and immediately, the mood switched.
When I think back, it feels like she sang H’oponopono, because it surely had that effect. Even my friend – beautiful, collected Charmaine – along with my daughter and I all found ourselves struggling for composure as we began to cry.
It took me a while to pull myself together enough to share my summary of our experience, and even now, trying to figure out exactly why I was even crying, I know it was because I had unwittingly engaged and built these new relationships, I had relaxed and recharged so fully, and watched my child blossom into the same.
Together, we had been given this gift of time and space to just relax and be by Holidays with Intention.We would go again in a heartbeat, and this time, take papa with us.
Holidays with Intention’s next Family Retreat is happening in Bali from September 8th – 14th. The price for 6 nights’ accommodation, daily meals, daily Montessori-based children’s programme, daily yoga, two workshops and return airport transfers is SGD 3,800 for 1 adult and 1 child. Holidays with Intention also conducts annual Tweens, Teens, Women’s Only and custom group retreats.
Read more: Top 10 Retreats in Asia for a Girls’ Trip
Lead image via Getty