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Time for Mama, Time for You

Kick back, put up your feet, and recharge your battery with special-ed moms at the Happy Mama Conference and Retreat.

When my son, Ricochet, was diagnosed with ADHD in late 2008, I hit the web looking for advice and insight from moms who faced the same challenges. I didn’t know it then, but getting support from people running the same parenting race is the most successful way to be an effective caregiver to special needs children.

Special parenthood is tough, and we need the support of others who understand us to survive it with our sanity intact. While meeting and engaging in online communities was a great source of instant support, I longed for a way to gather in person with moms who are on a similar journey. Talking with other moms online revealed the same desire to meet each other in person.

I grew close to a couple of online moms of kids with ADHD, and I began to talk about coordinating a meet-up. And the Happy Mama Conference & Retreat was born in 2012. We felt strongly about including moms of children with all types of neurobehavioral disorders, so mama self-care became the theme of our annual event. After all, most moms put themselves last, especially when they must give extra time to a child with special needs. The oxygen mask theory applies even for us: We must put the oxygen mask on ourselves first to be able to give the best care to others. With this in mind, we developed the retreat.

The top three goals of Happy Mama are:

  • Give moms of children with neurobehavioral disorders a chance to relax and feel at peace.
  • Educate moms about the importance of self-care for their own wellbeing, and the wellbeing of the entire family.
  • Give moms the opportunity to pamper themselves. Each year the moms feel refreshed and emotionally recharged at the end of the weekend. They travel home taking comfort in the fact that they are not alone.

Run by Adrienne Ehlert Bashista, founder of the nonprofit Families Affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and me, Happy Mama Retreat’s mission is to help moms of neurobehavioral special needs children gain community with other mothers who share their questions, concerns, worries, and fears.

We will have people speaking about self-care for moms and advocacy for children with special needs. There will be good food and opportunities to relax and be pampered. Everyone will be encouraged to be honest about the challenges of raising their special needs child(ren). Our goal is to restore some happiness to moms who give 110 percent to their children, because it’s required.

I have made some life-long friends at the Happy Mama Retreat. This is the weekend that I don’t have to worry about Ricochet and I get to focus on me. This is the weekend I am allowed to nap or have a massage on a Saturday afternoon and I surround myself with 50 or more other moms who know what it’s like to walk in my shoes. I leave excited about caring for myself and pumped up to work on meeting my own personal goals.

I was so inspired at Happy Mama that I came home after the 2013 retreat and started writing the book I’d talked and dreamed about, but never made the time to write. It was published June 1, 2014. Without the educational and emotional support from the moms, I wouldn’t have made my own dream a priority.

This year, the Happy Mama Conference & Retreat is being held July May 5-7 in Asheville, North Carolina. Get full details about the conference at

k forward to meeting you there.