I’m a mini van-driving mom. And I love it. Both being a mom and my sky blue mini van with enough room for another parent, my three kids, a couple of their friends and all the random collection of back packs, soccer balls, swords and snacks that inevitably make the journey with us.

This week I’m traveling for work. Alone. And I laughed out loud in a dark Arkansas parking lot when I saw the rental car I’d been given – a mini van.

Motherhood isn’t a sweater we can shrug out of when we feel like it. It’s a change in our DNA.

It’s what makes us want to comfort the mom with the crying toddler at 3,000 feet, what makes us smile at the dad wearing a baby through airport security, what makes us tingle all over at the anticipation of 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

I open my white mini van on a dark and rainy night in Razorback country and I’m smiling so hard to myself at this secret the mini van and I are sharing. There’s the seat where Zoe’s chair would normally go and Jackson would be over my right shoulder and Micah all the way in back yelling directions, questions and instructions I can barely hear from way up front.

But tonight the car is crazy quiet. And I get to choose what’s on the radio and no one will ask me, “are we there yet?” I’ve already slept three hours on the plane, unhindered by embarrassment – another fringe benefit of motherhood – sprawled across three seats with my cheek resting on my computer bag. The deep exhausted sleep is totally worth the strange imprint I’m sure I woke up with.

I miss my kids. But I find there’s something inside of me that’s been lacking oxygen and suddenly I can breathe and I take deep gulps of being alone in that big, beautiful mini van.

It’s dark and raining and there’s nothing ideal about the driving conditions except my heart that is looking around with fresh eyes, remembering the me that lives inside this mother’s DNA.

There is a good man stewarding those kids we made so I am not afraid to say my tight, monkey hug good byes to them and drive an Arkansas mini van down this rainy road with prayers of gratitude for stolen moments alone.

I don’t know a mother who isn’t better for time alone.

Time without a hundred hands all held out waiting, asking, holding, poking, clinging. Time without someone constantly in your me-space. Time where you get to cut only your own food and don’t have to be strategic about planning bathroom breaks and outings aren’t scheduled around someone else’s nap schedule.

Some days you don’t realize how over-stimulated you are until you’re in a car alone listening to the rhythmic thud of wipers across the wind screen and you can almost cry from the beauty of it.

Alone is essential to a tired mom because it’s really time to spend listening to herself – her own thoughts and prayers and desperate ideas for creativity and plans and a future longer than next week’s school recitation of “Chicken Soup and Rice.”

I may be driving toward Siloam Springs, AR for work, but I am headed toward time spent apart from my everyday crush of the urgent, the predictable and the routine.

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

I turn off the freeway and find a drive through chicken place. There’s a hotel room waiting for me and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep ahead. A shower without someone knocking on the bathroom door and a bed that won’t have two extra people in it when I wake up.

I am not running away from this mothering DNA of mine, I am simply remembering what it needs to keep running.

And you?

When last did you have time to remember yourself- what do you need to keep running?

{Related posts for additional encouragement}
Why motherhood shouldn’t be graded on a curve
When sleep deprivation is a good thing
Sometimes the only Monday morning list I can manage
The best ways *not* to help a new mom

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