When my big kids were babies, I couldn’t imagine being away from them. Here I was, one mom to so many little boys and it never occurred to me that I needed time away. I didn’t. Not at that point. The days were long, but they were also filled with naps and early bedtimes and despite lots of little children underfoot (in a good way!) I never had that urge to get time to myself.
Or so I thought. Because when our oldest turned five and had barely missed the age cutoff for kindergarten, we decided to enroll him in preschool. Just like that, off he went out of my home and my constant care and guidance. At that point we had five-year-old Ethan, along with three-year-old Elliott and one-year-old Charlie and newborn Augie. How in the world we survived those years only Jesus truly knows.
We enrolled Ethan and decided that Elliott could go for a day or two as well and suddenly I had a grip on just how intense my life in that season was. Getting a little breathing space shone the light on the stress. Was that a good thing? I think so.
Sometimes it’s hard to admit that we need “a break.” It might sound selfish, or mean. How could a mother possibly need distance from her children, those precious miracles, those incredible gifts from heaven above?
Well, since it’s summertime, I can better expound on that topic.
It’s not that I don’t love my children. They are wonderful. And the older they get, the better life gets. Paul and I marvel at the people they are becoming, the transformation from tiny babies to little people to bigger people who think and talk and reason and fill our days with laughter and life.
But there are times when you just need to catch your breath. That was me one recent afternoon. I had been at the beach with the kids myself that week, came home to a busy husband with a case in court the next week who needed a few more hours at the office. And the next thing I knew my coping skills were dangerously low. Loud noises made me jump. Behavioral infractions made me freak out.
I needed some time alone. Maybe to think and ponder, maybe to think about absolutely nothing. My mom had called the day before — she who is battling cancer but doing so much better (thank you Jesus!) and when I answered the phone and heard her ask “how are you?” my reply involved more than a few tears.
“You need to ease up,” was my mom’s tender and brilliant advice, “you are too hard on yourself.”
She had listened to me berate my skills as a mother, to fret over my fatigue and exhaustion.
“You just need a few hours alone, Rach.” My mom said it, and I obeyed.
Five minutes down the road, as I ambled towards who knows where to do who knows what, I felt the scales start to fall. It’s not the end of the world. My children are not the neediest in all the land. My home is not the thimble it was starting to seem. All shall be well. Be not afraid.
Sometimes, to appreciate all we have, we need to step back from it. We can tell ourselves to get over it, we can try to rally and think the good thoughts and fight the good fight. But sometimes, the best option for all parties involved is to step back and change the view. Not open ended. Just for a short while. This isn’t failure or weakness — it’s reality.
Motherhood is a tough business. There is no shame in admitting things are hard. Everyone feels this way. The best thing we can do in desperate moments is figure out how to reset, how to take a deep breath.
Ask any veteran parent — someone whose kids are grown and out of the house — and they will tell you with all the love in their heart that this too shall pass, but until it does take good care of yourself so you can do the same for those around you.
This originally appeared in The Southern Cross.