Cara McIlroy On Her First Retreat & Why Mums Need ‘Me’ Time Too

Cara McIlroy On Her First Retreat & Why Mums Need ‘Me’ Time Too

We’re all guilty of being a little too busy, a little too stressed, and not making enough time for ourselves – and nobody more so than the mums. Between balancing work, home and kids, mums around the world have their work cut out juggling those three jobs, never mind squeezing in that elusive ‘me’ time, which is a battle that supermodel, presenter, blogger, and entrepreneur Cara McIlroy is all too familiar with. The co-founder of Genie Juicery and mum of two catches up with CompareRetreats.com after her recent solo-trip to Chōsen Experiences, and chats about her first retreat experience and the importance of ‘me’ time for mums.

cara mcilroy hong kong model mum mother's day mum retreats women's retreats me-time
Cara McIlroy | Image courtesy of Cara McIlroy

What was your first healthy holiday experience? In the past, I’ve always done the more backpacker-style trip, or travelled with my husband, so Chōsen Experiences in Bali was my first retreat-style holiday.

Why did you choose Chōsen Experiences for your retreat? It seemed like the right fit for what I needed at the time. I’d heard so much really positive feedback from other people, about how they felt when they arrived compared to when they’d left.

cara mcilroy hong kong model mum mother's day mum retreats women's retreats me-time chosen experiences
Sweating it out in Bali with Chōsen on her first wellness retreat | Image courtesy of Chōsen Experiences

What did you gain from the experience at Chōsen? I learnt so much: it was very much a soul-searching trip. This was my first alone trip in a long time, and my first trip to a retreat, so it was really life-changing. I came back a different person. You come back knowing what it is you really love and what your passions are.

“Health has become an even bigger part of my life than it was before, because I know I have to take care of myself to take care of my kids.”

Why do you think it’s important for mums to go on retreats? When you take yourself out of your usual environment and go somewhere as immersive as Chōsen, you have an opportunity to be present, be still, and learn things about yourself. You can’t do that at home because you’re in a routine, but when you put yourself in a new situation, especially when it’s closed off from the world like Chōsen Experiences is, you can really listen to your needs and wants: it’s not always what you think it is when you’re in your day-to-day life. A retreat gives you time to evaluate the things that you treasure most, which is so important for mums. We don’t really have time to be still or present in normal lives, which can be overwhelming and stressful. Retreats like this aren’t just about resetting, it’s having a chance to relearn what is important to you. I think it’s necessary for your mental wellbeing, your health, everything.

cara mcilroy hong kong model mum mother's day mum retreats women's retreats me-time
Mum, model and entrepreneur is a careful balancing act | Image courtesy of Cara McIlroy

Is there still a stigma attached to parents – especially mums – leaving their children for travel? I think there is still a stigma. I always get, “Oh, you’re leaving them, you’re travelling for work,” but at the same time, there are so many mums working out there that I’m not alone. I think as a mother you need to find a community who supports what you do. So if you’re a stay-at-home mum, you need a community of stay-at-home mums so that they can relate to your experience, and vice-versa. The mums who I go to for support are mums in a similar situation to myself because you need an affirming, encouraging environment.

“Retreats aren’t just about resetting, it’s having a chance to relearn what is important to you.”

How do you make ‘me’ time? It’s very hard to have ‘me’ time… at all. In the past ‘me’ time has been when I go to work. This year I’ve been really making an effort though. Chōsen Experiences was definitely ‘me’ time, and I spent some time volunteering at an elephant orphanage sanctuary in Thailand: I came back such a better person for it. But honestly it’s hard to fit it in, and there’s always the mummy-guilt. You worry that if you spend time on yourself, it should be spent on your children and that you’ll miss out on things because they grow so fast.

cara mcilroy hong kong model mum mother's day mum retreats women's retreats me-time chosen experiences
Making ‘me’ time at Chōsen in Bali | Image courtesy of Chōsen Experiences

How has motherhood changed your identity, personality, values or ambitions? It’s made me re-evaluate what is important to me. Before, I would work so hard, juggling every job: I wanted to be better in my career and make money, but now my focus is being happy and healthy. Actually, health has become an even bigger part of my life than it was before, because I know I have to take care of myself to take care of my kids. I want to have the energy to enjoy life with them, and I want to be a good example, so I try to not bring home my work stress and to focus on the things I’m passionate about. They make you reconsider what your values and beliefs are, too. My husband and I aren’t religious, but when we were having kids, we did question for a moment if we should be raising them a certain way. Our values focus on being a good person, being kind, and being empathetic, which we want to pass on.

cara mcilroy hong kong model mum mother's day mum retreats women's retreats me-time
Cara and her family are Hong Kong-based | Image courtesy of Cara McIlroy

 

What’s on your travel bucket list for 2018? I’m planning a six-week trip to New Zealand with my family; then I want to go back to Australia because I’ve just bought a place there; and Bali, which I already managed to tick off!

What new projects are you working on in 2018? I have a lot of projects on the line – I’m working on one just now. This year though, I’m trying to focus on more ‘me’ time, because it’s been a long time and it’s much, much needed.

Keep up with Cara’s adventures on Instagram @catwalkstocradles.

Rebecca Cairns

Editor & CCO

Hong Kong-based writer and editor Rebecca Cairns helped develop Compare Retreats from concept to creation as founding editor and has formerly written on travel and wellness with Hong Kong Tatler and The Culture Trip. Her editorial work has taken her all around the world and she is a qualified NASM personal trainer and an avid runner. When she's not travelling, she's planning her next trip, taking hikes to the beach or scribbling away in boutique coffee shops. You can follow her travels on Instagram @jetsetcreate.

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