Northwoods girls weekend

It’s booked — three nights at a vacation rental on the North Shore of Lake Superior for me and three of my great friends. Whoo-hoo!!!!

This will be our third-annual Northwoods “girls weekend” getaway. 

Why is this such a big deal?

Well, as a mother of four, I spent a long time in the thick of the baby years.

During that incredible but long chapter of my life, I felt defined by my role as a mother of a baby. I didn’t stray too far from the house. I spent a lot of time caring for the children, but not a lot of time caring for myself. I don’t have to tell you: It wasn’t easy. Sometimes I felt bogged down with the responsibility of it all.

Now ages 13, 11, 9 and 7, my children are becoming more independent. They have their groups of friends and are involved in all sorts of activities. We’re in a fun new stage of our life as a family. And I feel I have a little more time and freedom to nurture myself as an individual. 

I’m able to focus a bit more on my own physical, spiritual and mental well-being, which, in turn, helps me to project myself as the person — and the mother — I want to be.

Several years ago, I reached out to three of my friends to see if they would want to attend the popular YMCA Camp du Nord Women’s Ski and Snowshoe Retreat on the North Arm of Burntside Lake near Ely. 

They responded with a resounding, “Yes!” “Yes!” and “Yes!” 

We all registered and were soon together — all in one place at the same time, without husbands or kids, for the first time in years!

Although the camp where the retreat was held wasn’t far from my home, I felt a world away. Distancing myself from my day-to-day responsibilities — and distractions of work and home — gave me an opportunity to relax and reconnect with my dear friends.

At the retreat, we were catered to with great food, wine and full days of unstructured time. We had opportunities to participate in yoga classes, get massages, go for hikes, talk, laugh, read and sauna. It was an amazing experience!

We had so much fun that we decided to make our girls weekend an annual tradition.

The following year, we had intentions to do women’s winter retreat again, but it filled up before we were able to make our reservations. 

So we decided to try a ski weekend on the North Shore. We booked a vacation rental and planned on a day of downhill skiing at Lutsen Mountains and a day of cross-country skiing on the Sugarbush ski trails for our second-annual girls weekend. 

We lucked out with mild temperatures and a dumping of 10 inches of snow that made our ski day at Lutsen feel like we were in the mountains! Meanwhile, our cross-country ski trails were perfectly groomed, which made for an outstanding experience.

Although we might not be so lucky to get perfect conditions again, we all agreed we’d have fun together, no matter what we were doing!

I’ve come home from these weekends with my friends refreshed and recharged. 

If you’re in the thick of the baby years — or don’t have the finances or support to get away for a night or more — I encourage you to be creative and find ways to take a break closer to home. Maybe it’s dinner with friends or an afternoon or day trip. 

I think it’s important for our kids to see us having fun and doing something for ourselves.

Remember, if you’re a healthy and well-balanced individual, it can help you to be a better mother!

Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher who lives with her husband and four school-age children in Northeastern Minnesota.