a mom doesn’t go on vacation

becca-garber-fog-sicily-mom-post

a completely unrelated photo of me and my babies from a foggy morning in Sicily

It’s a quiet mid-afternoon on Friday.  I’m sitting outside on my parents’ deck with Elliott; Gil is lying on a blanket at our feet gazing up at the trees; Lena is napping upstairs.

I love being “home” in Virginia.  My mom takes amazing care of us and I always feel so pampered while I’m here.  I wake up in the morning to a pot of hot coffee (that I didn’t brew myself!) and a big smile… and arms that are eager to hug my little ones and take them away from me so I can rest.

I’m learning anew how important rest is for a mother.  After this past weekend — still jet lagged after running around at UVA Reunions — I felt so burned out.  I think part of it was the realization that I, as a mother, was not really on vacation.  Elliott was all smiles and un-knotting muscles; he had left work behind him and was free!  But I was looking at the upcoming month in Virginia and realizing that it looked discouragingly… familiar.

My work does not end just because it’s the summer or because I’m home in Virginia or because Elliott isn’t going to work every day.  My work continues: waking up around 6:30 when the first baby is up, putting them down for naps throughout the day, providing activities for both of them (tea parties, walks, playgrounds, books, rolling over, etc.), getting three nutritious meals on the table for Lena, administering discipline with compassionate listening, putting them to bed, waking up to comfort them in the night, and so on and so forth.

My mom and Elliott help with everyone one of these tasks.  However, the ultimate responsibility for all of these things rests on me.  I need to make sure my children are rested, fed, bathed, nurtured.  I am the caretaker of my family, a weighty and wonderful and never-ceasing responsibility.

It’s somewhat overwhelming to look at this work of mine as never ending.  (Now, of course there will be different stages to this work. Babies are not the same as middle school children, and middle school children are not the same as college graduates.  But still.)  For the rest of my life, I’ll be a mom.  I’ll always feel a sense of responsibility to care for my children, to meet their needs before my own, to love them no matter our age or stage in life.  I’ll never be “free” of this.  Illustrations like “motherhood is a marathon” fall short because in some ways the marathon will never be over.  I won’t stop running — caring — until the day I die.

And the prospect of that is somewhat terrifying.  I have been thinking about it a lot this week, seeking perspective and clarity.  The truth is I must learn to find rest and solace in the midst of this work.  Resigning is not an option.  Two babies and a wonderful husband are counting on me.  They need me.  Right now.

So what do I do?  While I don’t have a single, brilliant solution, I have noticed a few things that have helped me lately.   They seem so small in the face of the enormity and beauty of this task.   But they have helped me to show more grace to my family.  And grace is what gets us all through the day, through the marathon, and Home.

Here they are:

  • Setting goals.  At the start of the day I often say, “[X] is the one thing I want to get accomplished today.”  It might be sweeping the floors, finishing a book, writing a long-overdue email to a friend or sibling, doing three loads of laundry from start to finish, or even making one particularly dreaded phone call.  (I hate the phone.)  Having annual goals helps me too… although I’ve been slacking on my 2013 goals lately.  Maybe in the second half of this year…?
  • Asking for help.  So simple, so hard.  I’m getting better about it since Gil was born.  (I need it more since Gil was born; two is so much harder than one.)  Also it is absolutely key to ask my husband for help graciously and before I am too desperate.  Can I get an “amen”?
  • Getting enough sleep.   I can manage on about 6 hours a night for about 2 weeks and then I fall apart.  I’m terrible about putting myself to bed on time, though, and unfortunately so is Elliott!  Any tips?
  • Drinking enough water.  At home I have this cupand carry it around the house with me.  I need to get back into that habit while in Virginia.
  • Reading books, essays, or even blogs that affirm this work of motherhood and caring.  My favorite book on the topic is Andi Ashworth’s Real Love for Real Life.  Two other books I want to read about caregiving are this oneand this one.  Do you have any other recommendations?
  • Finally, prayer and Bible study.  Why does this often become so optional to me when it should be my biggest priority??  After reading through the Bible twice since we got married, Elliott and I are mixing things up a bit by reading a book about grace.  It’s provoked some great discussion and it’s been good to read together.

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How do you pace yourself in the midst of this great, vacation-less work of motherhood?

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10 Responses to a mom doesn’t go on vacation

  1. Elisabeth June 14, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

    Dear, sweet Becca:

    You nailed it on the head! It is so true that moms don’t really have vacations. No matter how attentive our husband is, nor how doting our moms are, the buck stops here. But I do hope that you still get some much-needed rest while in the US. May God bless you and your little ones (and Elliott!) as you learn the new rhythm of holidays. And do take some short breaks along the way – a spa afternoon or a book reading morning while someone takes the kids or whatever may bless your heart.

    With love from another mom!
    Elisabeth

    • Becca June 25, 2013 at 2:44 am #

      Thanks for this encouragement, Elisabeth! I have had a couple of quiet hours to myself while others care for the children and they have been SO precious. I have high hopes for after Gil eats more than just my milk. That — and the fact that he refused a bottle from the beginning — really tie me down right now. But it’s a brief stage, I tell myself that often!

  2. Christina June 14, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

    About 4 years ago when I was exhausted and seeing no end in sight, Nathan suggested I go to a hotel for a night by myself. My tired, stressed, introverted self leapt for joy at the idea, and away I went for TWO nights. Now I do it once a year every year. Best thing ever. As an introvert, having two whole days and nights completely alone is like the balm of Gilead. But by the time I get home, I can’t wait to see Z and Eden, and going away for two nights and leaving the kids with Nathan makes me realize (again) what a fantastic husband I have. Everybody wins.

    • Becca June 25, 2013 at 2:43 am #

      I LOVE this idea, Christina. When I read your comment I was staying at the Garber parents’ house. Mom Garber remembered that she also had been given a chance to do that a couple of times in the days of young children and she also treasured every moment. We’ll see after Gil is weaned…!

  3. Rachel June 15, 2013 at 5:44 am #

    Our friend Tiffany talks about vacations for moms as “taking our show on the road”, and she’s so right! It’s hard, but it DOES get easier. Just yesterday I took both kids (and two extras) to a movie and, except for one bathroom break, our daughter sat relatively still right next to me through the whole thing. About halfway through, I noticed it and reveled in it for the rest of the movie.

    For now, though, try to invest in a hobby that you love that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with anyone else in your family. I am incredibly fascinated by and love teaching – learning about how to do it better, learning about how my kids learn, organizing our school year – but I’ve noticed that it’s *still* for someone else and burns me out. I’m trying to make it a point to do something just for me for a few minutes each day. Sometimes that’s a few extra minutes in the hot shower, a run, reading a fun book (I’m going through all of the Ann of Green Gables books on my Kindle and reading the Julia Child book).

    You could go get a pedicure and say it’s for me! I miss pedicures! :)

    • Becca June 25, 2013 at 2:42 am #

      Rachel, I am going to get a pedicure while I’m here! I had resolved to do that; I’m just waiting for a time that my sister can go with me. It’ll be for you! I love your advice and am so grateful for your wisdom.

  4. Pai June 15, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    Poppy predicts that wonderful fog infused photo will become a favorite. You will look back and shake your head in wonder at God’s gracious goodness to you in this time. Seasons come and seasons go and our Father will give you grace for each. Momma and I often wonder how we got through some of those long days but each is a poignant reminder of precious gifts given. Oh how He loves the Garbers! Pai

    • Becca June 25, 2013 at 2:41 am #

      Sometimes I think we are in a second “Swamp” in life… this one with little kids! But there is so much more joy and purpose in this Swamp compared to the post-college/figuring-myself-out swamp.

  5. Tiffany June 17, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    Love this post! With a 17-month-old and another on the way, I haven’t found the secret to pacing myself yet. I have been trying to remind myself of how quickly it passes, and that helps me really treasure the time we have together–even when I’m exhausted at the end of the work day.

    • Becca June 25, 2013 at 2:40 am #

      I need to remember this too, especially as I’m enjoying time with family and my mom (and mother-in-law) are giving me such a great break and more of a chance to savor these days. It’s all so fleeting!

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