I am alone, in a hotel room, 20 minutes from home, lying back in the crisp bed, feet propped up on billowing white pillows. A good book is in my hand. The large window beside me overlooks the Mississippi River as the sun slowly sets and people unwind for a southern Louisiana evening in downtown Baton Rouge.
I’ll probably order room service for dinner. I spent the afternoon at the coffee shop across the street, sipping on a deliciously caffeinated beverage carefully made to my liking. I ate a delicate snack filled with fruits, fancy lettuce, and expensive cheese while I journaled about what I want, where I am, and what makes me happy. It tickles me to imagine that the passers-by saw me as a high-class, middle-aged woman with all the free time in the world to hang out at bougie coffee shops on weekday afternoons. If they only knew.
I am a mom of seven children.
All but one of them are homeschooled–with me 24 hours a day, seven days a week. My days consist of the same grind that millions of moms across the country live in. I have food stuck to the floors, dirty clothes (and clean ones) piled up in corners, and a house filled with little humans who need me constantly. I can rarely finish a sentence, let alone a conversation, with an adult.
I am an introvert. To recharge, I need time alone, and I need it often. A couple of years ago, I decided to pack a bag and head out, alone, for the weekend. I went to a coastal town two hours away from home and rented a very affordable and adorable Airbnb cottage. It had been a desperate reaction to the reality that my life had become. I was tired, burned out, and just needed to think for a while.
In a sense, I felt like I was running away, but I instinctively knew this was necessary and right. Of course, while I was there, I felt tinges of guilt. But you know what? That guilt was a lie.
Because God made me who I am, complete with my introverted personality and my need to be a deep thinker.
This time away helped me reconnect with God through uninterrupted prayer, worship, and Bible study. I came home refreshed and renewed. I was like a new mom to my children. I promised myself that in the future, I would intentionally plan these respites ahead of time, before the desperation set in. And I have kept that promise to myself.
During these little get-aways, I remember who I am. Deeper than “mom,” deeper than “wife,” but who I am at a soul level. It’s during these times that I hear most clearly from God about where I am and where I am going. The value of that self-awareness cannot be measured.
As mothers, it is imperative that we prioritize time to ourselves and remember who we are and why we are here. Pauses like this are essential, both in little daily doses like an afternoon walk or a good long soak in a bubble bath, as well as longer spans of time planned twice a year or so.
We needn’t feel guilty for taking a break.
Rather, it can become a wise ritual that makes us more effective at the important role God has for us in this crucial phase of life.
Perhaps you can’t afford an overnight getaway. Maybe you don’t have the childcare help that you need. I get it. That doesn’t mean you can’t use what resources you do have at your fingertips. Maybe you could ask a mom friend to watch your children for a day and just stay home. Enjoy your quiet house, watch a movie, or read a book. Then return the favor for her next week. Perhaps you could plan a get-away for your spouse to take with the kids for a sleepover at the grandparents’ house while you stay home. Consider encouraging your spouse to take the same kind of respite, and maybe even go as far as to plan it for him.
Think outside the box and give yourself what your whole family needs–a refreshed and happy mom and wife. That’s not selfish or indulgent. It’s not a guilty pleasure. Rather, it’s being strategic and multiplying what gifts God has given you.