11 Jan 2012

What a mother needs to keep running so that she doesn’t end up running away

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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  1. 1

    Yes! Keep saying these things out loud and on the internet. I see so many young moms who won’t allow themselves even the gift of an overnight women’s retreat. I used to feel guilty for needing them so much, especially during the years when I was home schooling my kids. Time alone to think, to read, to sleep, to talk to God–we all need it, especially when so many are depending on us.

  2. 2

    I couldn’t agree more. That time has been vital to me over the past 18 years of parenting. My husband came to realize it’s importance early on. There were days he’d walk in from work, come through the door, take a quick assessment of the four young kids hanging onto my jeans, house turned upside down, my hair looking like it was hit by lightning and hand me the keys and say, “See ya later.” Sometimes it was just a drive to the coffee shop and sometimes it was a weekend away. He realized, I’d come back not being a depleted mama and wife, but a refilled one.

    • 3
      thegypsymama says:

      Now that’s the definition of a good man.

      • 4

        Lisa-Jo. Really now, this is too weird…you’ve gotta read about my time away, last November, my first ‘Mommy Sabbatical.’ (yeah, I got the domain name & am working on developing it!!)
        God brought me to that same scripture – in Mark 6 – to ‘come away’ with Jesus, to a solitary place, for rest and renewal.
        I just took my second ‘Mommy Sabbatical’ a couple of weeks ago. And am learning how vital it is to do this, consistently, to be filled again with His Spirit – to be the Mommy I’m called to be!
        You absolutely ROCK for learning this now – while your kiddos are still young. What a gift to them, to your husband…to you & your Jesus!

  3. 5

    I took attachment parenting to the extreme and went YEARS without alone time. I lost a bit of myself in the process.

    Now, Wednesday nights are my time for just me. My husband takes my girls to a mid-week Bible study and I have from 5:00 to 10:00 all to myself. Peace and quiet…the ability to be able to complete a thought… I love it. I can recharge myself in those five hours a week and it is so very needed.

    By the time my girls come walking back in the door, I have refilled my cup of grace. <3

  4. 6

    What a brilliant post! Recharging is so important.

  5. 7

    Oh, yes! I remember the first time I got in the car to drive to book club after my first was born. My body felt electric – I couldn’t believe how excited I was to simply be in that car alone and driving to meet with other women. Earlier this fall I scheduled a “me” weekend, and thanks to generous friends had a quiet time “away” in their home, still in my town, but without any responsibilities. So, so good.

  6. 8

    “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.”

    Yes! This is perfect! We have four kids under six, and so many days feel a little short of oxygen. I love this life, but it is HARD on a Mama. I feel like big family mamas aren’t allowed to say that, because after all, we chose to have this many kids, and very often we want more, and so how can we complain?! But I don’t think it’s complaining. It’s more like acknowledging a fact.

    • 9

      Yes Shannon you are right! We have two kids now and want more but you do feel that you can’t acknowledge how hard it is after saying yes you want more. It’s tough but so full blessings. And it’s ok to be honest….anything worth doing takes effort.

  7. 10

    “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.”

    Laughing in recognition at this. Such a beautiful post about how we need space to think to do this mothering thing well. It’s not a sign of weakness to rest; it’s strength. (Rest is my One Word for 2012. Funny how it keeps cropping up in my consciousness, like through this post.) Space to see the me behind the routine, the meeting of demands, the sacrificial loving. Yes, yes, yes.

  8. 11


    Over the past 2 years, I started carving out time for me to do the things that I want to do and making sure I did them, even if I felt “guilty” about it. That little bit of selfishness has done wonders for me as a wife and mother.

  9. 12

    Um, hello, you forgot some luggage. That sounds so heavenly, I’m postively, absolutely sure your forgot to swing by Texas and pick me up. But that’s ok. You make a girl remember how we really do need these alone times. Thank you. Because we there is that “guilt” we feel for needing that space in the first place, but if Jesus did it, why do I think I don’t?

    • 13
      thegypsymama says:

      Hey Tammy, if you could fit in my carry on, you would have been welcome :) and yes, if Jesus needed downtime to retreat into conversation with the Father, I am certain we mamas do too.

  10. 14

    I love this! Me-time is something I wholeheartedly believe in. To all the new Moms: embrace it! Recharge! You’ll be amazed at what it does for your soul and your ability to be a better Mother. Make it a priority!

  11. 15

    I have always thought that parents should have time to themselves to remain happy and healthy for their children, but to hear you say this out loud, makes me truly believe in those “stolen” moments, days, nights, weekend, weeks, whatever is needed to recharge the inner battery. Your post is beautiful. Thank you.

  12. 16

    This post spoke to my heart. At times I feel guilty for taking some me-time, but then I remember {and remind the hubs too} that I’m a MUCH better mom when I have time to breathe and do things just for me. It doesn’t need to be something big, just driving to Target ALONE will be enough.

    By far my best most recent “me time” was decorating a Christmas tree alone at work. I was in a room all alone and I just listened to Christmas carols and let my heart go…honestly I think I even teared up a bit. Just to have that moment in time to reflect and “be”.

    Thank you for reminding me that it’s OK to find me again underneath all my other personas.

  13. 19

    We get so deeply ensconced in mothering that we often forget to step off the highway at a rest stop to recharge. It is so very important! Well said, great advice.

  14. 20

    I’ve always been really bad about going away from my children. I just miss them too much! But now they are 12 and 15. So I have some time during the day while they are at school to think a little more about me. Even if I’m doing errands and chores, I can breathe and think and recharge…usually. :)

    I pray you come home well rested up. :)

  15. 21

    I can picture you now, and totally relate. I’m from AR and went to college in Siloam Springs. That town, and my mini-van, are home to me. Enjoy your time in beautiful NWA!

  16. 23

    You must have been headed to John Brown. Nothing else is out there! My sister is attending there now.

    • 24
      thegypsymama says:

      Ha! Sometimes it seems like that – but DaySpring headquarters are here – believe it or not – and so it’s where all our (in)courage brainstorming takes place.

  17. 25

    How wonderful this was. I know there have been seasons where I have craved this kind of alone time and the felt overcome with guilt for having such a desire, but it IS what keeps me going, what makes me a better, more loving Mom. I am so much stronger now about asking for it, about taking it and not feeling guilty for having the need. And always, thankful for my husband who gives me the time, graciously, and generously. This was wonderful!

  18. 26

    This sounds SO wonderful!

  19. 27

    I need to tell you how this touched a spot on my heart today. I’m a tired mom. I’m grumpy and lazy and feel defeated at the first sound of baby in the next room, before the day even begins. All that said, I have SUCH a hard time getting away. I don’t do it. This false guilt creeps into me and says it’s wrong to want time alone. It’s selfish. It’s loading more work onto pastor husbands already heavy shoulders. What is that?! Why, when I know how refreshing it is and how needed it is… why don’t I? Anyway, without sounding too dramatic. This was post was encouraging and challenging and though not emotional – made me cry all the way through it. Somedays I don’t even remember who I am. Do I even have a thought beyond macaroni n’ cheese, caillou and remembering to buy baby wipes? I read recently in the book “Loving the Little years” by Rachel Jankovic to remember that my identity is in my family, my hubs and children. And I know their identity is not this monster mom picture that I display. Thanks for the challenge.

    • 28
      thegypsymama says:

      Mandi – you have the hardest job on earth – mama to young kids. Everyone needs a break – no one can work 24/7, 365 days a year. Even if it’s an hour to sit in your car on the phone with a friend – you’d be amazed how much it can revive the soul. Go ahead, quit the guilt and let your husband sub for you a short while. I promise you will be the better for it.

  20. 29

    Sjoe! Beautiful post!!! Your honesty is inspiring :)

  21. 30

    Well said. Well said.

  22. 31

    This is just the post I needed to read. Thank you, so amazing!

  23. 32

    The fact that you laughed aloud in a parking lot makes me grin. It just makes me that much more certain I visit your blog because you seem like a kindred spirit. :)

    “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.” — Yes, yes, and yes!

    I just had a visit with a wonderful friend — my “other half” — and, among the hundred things we talked about, got to talk about the dreams we share… of writing, raising families, moving mountains. I think that to run, I need to remember to keep dreaming…

  24. 35

    This weekend? 12 lovely women running away. To my house. For a slumber party. We will scrapbook and cross stitch and laugh and sleep and eat and…………recharge. I can’t wait.

  25. 37

    I can always tell when I need some quiet or some room to breathe.

    It’s about the time the tasks I usually enjoy doing for my family become a chore. When cooking 3 meals a day becomes a burden or laundry day (which I normally look forward to) becomes a dread.

    That’s when I know I need a date with my husband or a date with a good book or an evening spent chatting it up with girlfriends.

    And my littles are there when I get back and their mama is better for it.

  26. 38

    You are my hero. Really big tears in my eyes right now, because 8 hours of sleep – is a gift. Last night my dear husband sent me downstairs to our guest room to sleep. Away from the crying needy toddler who still (at 2) does not sleep.

    Remembering me – what make me – me, getting alone, sleep, Jesus – these are the things that keep me running. Not in that order of course. :)

    Praying your trip is blessed. Praying your re-entry is filled with sweet hugs and smooth transitions.

  27. 39

    Thanks for sharing the heart of all of us weary moms!

  28. 40

    I just love you young mothers so much, you all are so ambitious and amazing in all that you do. I remember having little ones, and working and being a single mother of two and not having time to come up for air.

    Now that I’m a grandmother I don’t know how I did it. I am amazed at how much my daughter does!

    You women of God are amazing! As Gypsy Mama has said here, take time for yourself. You will be a better mother for it!

  29. 42

    My husband has MLK off, and daycare is open. So, I am taking the day off too, and we’re going to goof off all day, and maybe even go see a daytime movie – small thrills!
    Great post!

  30. 43

    My mom tells me a story about when I was a little girl, and my mom was a new and tired mommy. There was a fancy hotel in the shopping district near our house and my mom says she’d drive by that place some days and dream about checking herself in to one of their fancy rooms with a decadent bed and sleeping for days and days. Before I had children of my own, I didn’t *get* it. Why check in to a hotel like that just to sleep? Well. I totally get it now. And I wish you sweet dreams in your hotel room and joyful silence in the white, rented mini van. Soak it up, girlfriend!

  31. 44

    I like that you reminded us that God provides the rest for the weary. With 8 kids I seem to get more rest than when I only had four. God is good and ‘gently leads those with young’. God bless your day!

  32. 45

    Today is my ‘off’ day. But, since I’m a SAHM, I don’t have a super cool job trip that’s supplying it. It’s just that…the kids are at school, husband’s in NYC on a job today, and I have 8 {well, 6-1/2 now} hours…all.to.my.self.

    Ahhh…. {I feel my shoulders relaxing…}

    I have chocolate donuts, salad {have to be balanced, ya know}, three books and two movies. So…with that being said…bye, bye… ;)

  33. 47

    Oh, giving yourself permission to slip away and “remember” yourself is so necessary for a mother. Doing it without any guilt, like you so beautifully articulated here, is even better.

    Thank you for this post. I think it give mothers courage to remember that they’re people!

  34. 48

    This is the first time I have read your blog. Well done! I can totally relate to the whole mini van thing. So funny that it is your rental vehicle, as well. When I get in our van alone (it is a very rare occasion) I hardly know what to do with myself and all that glorious silence. I have 3 boys and I am just entering the season of life where I can grab a ‘free’ morning here and there. Right now it is only 2 and 1/2 hours on Wednesday mornings when they are all cared for by someone else but it is such a bright spot in my week. I also go away for a long weekend once a year to a women’s retreat. I used to think it was silly and frivolous to go away but the longer I am a mother I realize that it benefits everyone if I am apart from my family and re-charge. Great post.

  35. 49

    I think you are so right. In this culture, we don’t even realize how over-stimulated we are. I’m happy that you got to experience some much-needed alone time! :)

  36. 50

    Yea and amen, Lisa-Jo. The fact that it took WORK to get you away from the demands of motherhood for a few hours is a sign of our times, I do believe. I’m guessing, however, that the ‘work’ felt like vacation most of the time. I was so blessed to live near both sets of grandparents – my husband’s folks were 5 minutes away and my amazing MIL was always up for keeping the kids for an hour or two so I could run errands or sit in the silence (although it took a while for me to realize it truly was okay to do that last thing – I was too long a busy-bee). And my folks? Well, two times in our marriage, they came into our home for two weeks, running our kids hither and yon and managing their busy elementary and middle school lives while my husband and I took long trips together. Heaven. I also joined a baby sitting co-op to get help with my 3 under 4. It is absolutely essential for health, sanity and spiritual connection to have some time alone somewhere. It took me til my kids were about 6, 8, 10 to give myself full permission for an overnight and I wish I’d done so earlier. Thanks for saying this so beautifully. And keep on saying it, won’t you??

  37. 51

    Welcome to Razorback Country!

    Yes, this week has been very rainy, in Arkansas. We didn’t get to see much of the beautiful full moon, this week.

    Glad you’ve enjoyed our state. Sounds like you acquired some much-needed alone time.


  38. 52

    Amen, for sure, to that! I can completely relate to feeling like you’re lacking oxygen…and then you get a chance to breathe…I’m taking a deep breath with you right now. I love that your take on the mini van too! yay!

  39. 53

    Your pics are tooooo sweet!! / Your post, well is too TRUE! thank you for sharing fellow gypsy :)

  40. 54

    So glad I found your blog! Great post, I am the mommy to 10 children, alone time is gold…but more than that its fuel in my tank! Our mommy tanks all need refueling…..thanks for the reminder!

  41. 55

    You have a lovely way of communicating… God has definitely gift you! Thank you for your sharing. I am past the mini mom years…. grandma to 16 beautiful ones now…. God has blessed that is for sure…… Keep up the good work! :)

  42. 56

    im so glad i found this today. beating myself up for mistreating the kids on a special day because, apparently, i put way too much on myself and my hormones fell apart! i related so much to your crying at the beauty of the rhythm of the windshield wipers, and it was needed for me to be reminded that i really do need time away…i always feel guilty for needing it so often…for me it’s at least a few times a week, to get away alone and run. and i also like to have a day to myself for husband and i, which i rarely get. but with four small children, i think these things are important.

    reading my bible, running, getting alone, these things re-charge me.

  43. 57

    I recently found your site through a friend of mine and all I can say is YOU ARE AWESOME! Thank you for voicing so much of what I’ve been feeling in these short 5 months of new motherhood I’ve been experiencing. My daughter is the greatest gift I’ve been given, but it has been an exhausting road so far and difficult to navigate at times, so I can tell you that I already appreciate reading your thoughts and plan to read much more. Thank you for encouraging this new mommy!


  1. […] read a post over at The Gypsy Mama that reminded me of how important getting back to ourselves really is. As Lisa-Jo said in her post, […]

  2. […] What A Mother Needs To Keep Running So That She Doesn’t End Up Running Away @ The Gypsy Mama – *Also* had me crying.  Gosh, would someone pass the tissues already?? […]

  3. […] after my own heart as she finds the joys in daily details of Motherhood. She shared recently about the joy of driving alone in a Minivan. For the record, I hope I will never, ever drive a Minivan (no offense to those who […]

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