Woodmere native Lyss Stern and Camp Tyler Hill Owner and Director Wendy Siegel created an escape for mothers called Moms Time Out (MTO). MTO is a retreat that gives mothers the chance to get away from their daily parental responsibilities for a weekend and refresh their mental health.
In July 2020, Stern took her daughter, now 8, to Camp Tyler Hill in Tyler Hill, Pennsylvania — owned by Siegel and her husband, Andy — where Stern spent her summers growing up. When she arrived, Stern said, she had an “aha moment.”
At the time, people were feeling the stress and fear of the unknown as the coronavirus pandemic ramped up. A national survey in the Journal of Women’s Health, published in 2021, found “alarmingly high rates of mental health problems” in women early in the pandemic.
“I said to Wendy, we just need a weekend up here alone — just the moms,” Stern recalled. “Like, I need a mom timeout. Can we make something happen?”
“I just was like, there’s no way you’re going to get moms to break away from their families for a weekend — it’ll never happen,” Siegel recounted. “Lyss kept saying, ‘If we build it, they will come.’ We kind of put our heads together, and she convinced me, and we created a really cool itinerary for moms.”
Though that itinerary has grown since the first retreat in September 2020, Moms Time Out consists of yoga, meditation, acupuncture, tie-dying, campfires, paddleboarding, cooking and baking classes, wine drinking, arts and crafts, hiking, tennis, golf and themed panels over the course of a three-day getaway. What it doesn’t involve is cooking or cleaning — DivaMoms’ staff has that covered.
While taking Covid precautions, nearly 40 mothers stay at the MTO retreats at a time. Although they have driven themselves to the past three retreats — a two-hour trip from Long Island — DivaMoms would like to provide luxury buses for MTO retreats in the future.
Hewlett native Ashley Cohen, who now lives in Woodbury, went on the first retreat in 2020. She spent time with “interesting women where you can unwind, sleep [and] take care of yourself,” Cohen wrote in a text, “It was medicine for my soul!”
Rikki Engelson, who’s originally from Woodmere but now lives in Manhattan, will attend her first retreat this weekend. “As a working mother of two kids,” Engelson wrote in a text, “the only time out I get for myself is sitting in my bathroom” — where, she added, her kids sometimes follow her.
“I can not wait for a weekend to sleep past 6 am, relax and form a new community of moms,” Engelson wrote. “Camp was one of my happiest places as a kid and I can’t wait to go back there and recreate new memories.”
“Our whole thing is like, why should the kids have all the fun?” Stern said. “Moms literally need to let their hair down — just breathe and be. This weekend is made for the moms to do whatever it is that they want to do. It’s their time, their 48 hours to recharge those completely burned out batteries.”
Texting and social media were the main ways parents interacted with their friends at the height of the pandemic, Stern said, so the retreat is a great place to reconnect offline.
“The sad reality is that moms are so busy caring for everyone else, they neglect themselves,” she stated in a news release. “We are expected to be caregivers and nurturers, but it’s taking a toll on our mental and physical health.”
The 220-acre Tyler Hill campus has a nine-hole golf course, 12 tennis courts, two lakes and a pool. Mothers can take advantage of everything on the itinerary, or just relax by a lake. “It just gives them that break and peace of mind that every mom needs,” Siegel said, “particularly right now.”
“And I should say that the gift bags keep getting better and better every time,” Stern said, as mothers return home from the retreats with giant complimentary gift baskets valued at $100 or more.
There are three main retreat packages for a two-night stay at the camp. The first includes lodging at the newly renovated Inn at Tyler Hill, with hotel-like amenities, for $1,000.
The second package is $850, and offers newly renovated private rooms with queen beds and bathrooms at the camp’s Wayne Hall — like the Inn but without the extra amenities. The third package, costing $700, includes an air-conditioned cabin with twin beds and a communal bathroom.
What’s next on the to-do list for Stern and Siegel? Putting together a dads’ timeout sometime this fall. "Stay tuned," the pair said.