When we first got married, we could only afford one vacation a year, and for a while there, we started to dread it because we would take the kids, of course, and it was anything but relaxing. After the stress of traveling with 4, 5, and sometimes all 6 kids, then getting to a resort or a cruise where we would still have to manage schedules, keep them entertained and fed, then try to squeeze in some fun time, it was more exhilarating for them than us. Most of our kids and my husband are extroverts, while my oldest son and I are introverts, so what is relaxing and rejuvenating for them is exhausting for us, and conversely, what we see as relaxing they view as dull. They wanted to be out around people partying and doing activities, and he and I brought a stack of work, books, and paperwork that we wanted nothing more than to be left alone to complete. Vacations have become this delicate dance of balancing and compromising to meet everyone’s needs. By the time we returned, they all had a great time because we consciously made sure of it, and we were more exhausted than when we left. Then we had to, of course, race back home to settle things down, unpack and reacclimate to our schedules and routines that we needed a vacation from. Does this sound familiar to anyone as we prepare to return to school? About five years ago, we figured out a vast difference between a family vacation, a couples vacation, and a family or couples retreat. We began incorporating all four to balance our professional, personal, and family lives and relationships. We will often follow a family vacation with a couples retreat and a family retreat with a couples vacation. This year we followed a family vacation to California and Alabama, which involved amusement parks, visiting family, plane trips, and road excursions with couples planning retreats to California that helped us as a Family Leadership unit to reconnect with each other and plan for the season ahead.
Couples Planning Retreats
We now strive to have two family vacations and two family retreats each year, usually one at the turn of each season. Couples retreats and couples vacations accompany these, respectively, so that we also get time together and balance out the family time with couples time; we tend to make our couples planning retreats after a family vacation, which gives us some time as we engage with the kids to look at what they need and how we need to support them. Our couples planning retreats are no less than six days, providing time for family leadership (1-2 days), Professional/Career Leadership reflection and goal setting (1-2 days), and Personal/Relational Leadership with some fun activities for just us with no work whatsoever (1-2 days). We find somewhere we want to go together and truly disconnect from the rest of the world to focus on ourselves and how we balance leading our family and businesses. Family Leadership Focus This retreat segment includes recalibrating all 5 Pillars of Courageous Family Leadership. We map out how we will approach personal (personality, health, and wellness activities), relational (internal and external relationships and conflict), financial (how to make money work for you), home (taking care of your home), and professional/career (skills to earn a living) leadership for each of our children, ourselves as individuals and us as a Family Leadership unit. Professional/Career Leadership While the businesses are not the focus of our retreat, I, Dr. Shelley am a recovering workaholic, so we must spend some time thinking and planning how we will ensure we do not backslide into an unhealthy balance between our personal, family, and professional lives. We set reasonable work-related goals to build the business and discuss how we will support each other to accomplish those as we balance family leadership. Personal/Relational Leadership This process is rounded out with relaxation time for us as a couple most of the time. We are having these conversations in between fun activities for just us as a couple. We make an effort to plan something with each other in mind, which always proves to be some of the best times of the retreat. There is something about knowing that someone planned an evening or an outing with you in mind that makes it even more special. That being said, how does a couples retreat differ from a couples vacation?
These are times that we do not do any work, planning, or honestly thinking whatsoever. Sometimes these include other couples or family members, but the goal of these getaways is to reconnect with one another and do the things that rejuvenate us. We usually do these after family retreats to unwind, provide time for the kids to be without us, and reflect on what we did together. We have been on several long weekend cruises, trips out of town to a concert, staying at an all-inclusive resort, or sometimes accompanied with extending a work trip or speaking engagement to do something just for us as a couple. Some friends of ours take this to a new level with what they have termed “Anything Goes” days, where they get in the car with nothing but a first aid kit and their Facebook. They announce their direction and take suggestions from their Facebook friends while getting clothes, bartering for necessities, and creating memories.
What about the kids?
Well, what about ‘em? Just kidding! This time is healthy for them as well. Our kids each have the most amazing godparents, and with the extensive age range, we also build time for them to be with one another. This summer, they were able to go on hikes, visit amusement parks, go on excursions or have lazy video game days with just each other. They also had time with extended family, which they always enjoyed.
What makes this Courageous Leadership?
Every individual and family unit is going to define for themselves what it means to be Courageous. We define Courageous Leadership as that which creates opportunities and eliminates barriers to our definitions of success. We define success in terms of the 5 Pillars of Courageous Family Leadership. Being intentional about developing ourselves and our families to achieve our purposes of success provides an opportunity and a space for people to thrive as their authentic selves. Playtime as a couple and as a family should be something everyone looks forward to and enjoys. Balancing that out with one another, business, and time with kids ensure we are all getting quality time together and apart.