Give Me a Break, Please

Effective moms know how and when to take a break.

I take advantage of my mini-van. With only the destination in mind, I buckle myself into the driver’s seat, expecting the seven-and-a-half-year-old Dodge to do what it’s made to do: get me there.

When I turn on the wipers, I expect them to swipe away any obstruction from the windshield. When I turn the knob for the lights, I expect the beams to illumine the road. When a wiper blade is not performing well, a bulb is burnt out, or a fuse refuses to work, I pay attention and do what’s necessary so the van is ready to go once again.

As a mom, I can relate to this analogy. As I go about my day, it’s expected that I’m always ready to go—go take the kids to lessons, go take them to appointments, go get the groceries, go run the errands, go clean the house. I’m always on the go, and I don’t mind.

But there are times I need a break. I want to enjoy coffee with a friend, have an uninterrupted conversation, read a book, enjoy silence, or date my husband.

Most days, the inside of my van is in desperate need of attention—the dashboard layered in dust, the floorboards sprinkled with dirt, a dropped French fry, yesterday’s disposable coffee container, a straw wrapper. I ignore these obvious needs, focused more on its one purpose—and it had better deliver!

Occasionally, the poor van needs to be decluttered and cleaned.  Like my vehicle, slight messes can be ignored, but eventually, the inside desperately needs attention. At times, a small break to the local car wash or detailer is necessary.

My husband and I know the value of routine maintenance, but there are times when the van is broken, in need of serious repair, and a longer break required.

Life may slow down as my mini-van is restored, but a short time in the repair shop restores its purpose.

As moms, we’re on the go, attending to the daily needs of our families. But we also lead and guide our kid’s next steps to their next grade and into their next phase of life. Through every step, grade, and phase, we need breaks. Broken moms can’t effectively lead and guide their children.

Jesus took breaks. He modeled how when He wore skin. He had close friends who invited Him into their homes to eat and rest. Intentionally, He spent time alone. Regularly, He prayed, talking and listening to His Father. Yes, the Son of God knew the value of taking breaks.

Some moms are in survival mode. Jesus says we don’t have to settle there. He says we can thrive. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Taking breaks moves us from survive to thrive—suitably, refreshed and restored—abundant and full living, as Jesus intends.

Jesus took breaks. He modeled how when He wore skin. He had close friends who invited Him into their homes to eat and rest. Intentionally, He spent time alone. Regularly, He prayed, talking and listening to His Father. Yes, the Son of God knew the value of taking breaks.

Ellen Harbin

Susannah Wesley, an active mom in the 1600s, took breaks. She was a wife and homeschool mother of 19 children (though a few died in infancy). Incredibly organized, she used spreadsheets before spreadsheets were known. She carved out one hour every week to spend one-on-one time with each child. She also managed and executed their academic and spiritual education.

Sir Maytag, Miss Whirlpool, or Mr. Coffee weren’t her assistants. She didn’t have a mini-van. The Wesley’s experienced deep debt, a house fire, a crippled child, nine infant deaths, and cruelties from neighbors. Through it all, Susannah managed her home well. Though Starbucks wasn’t in her local market, Susannah took breaks.

Under her apron.

When Mrs. Wesley’s children saw their mother with her apron pulled over her head, they knew she was taking a break. They knew she was not to be disturbed. Susannah prayed, thought, pondered, and napped under the apron. She couldn’t stay long, but she valued her time under the apron. I imagine her emerging from each break refreshed and restored to lead and guide her family. As moms, we need to be physically restored and spiritually renewed.

It took a broken place in my life, a crisis, to appreciate the value of taking breaks. In 2009, Kevin and I decided to adopt through foster care, increasing our family of six to eight. For months we prepared—home study, classes, paperwork, and meetings. By October, we were ready for our case worker to search and match us with children in need of a forever family. In November, I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of uterine cancer.

Throughout the next ten months, God taught me the value of taking breaks. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation repaired my physical body. Emotionally exhausted and mentally weary, I desperately needed to be restored. Many days within those ten months, others cooked our meals, cleaned our house, did our laundry, bought our groceries, chauffeured our kids, and accompanied me to appointments.

Spiritually, God knew exactly what I needed. He didn’t cause the cancer, but God used it to restore and refresh my faith journey.

Most of us don’t live in crisis mode. Yet, being renewed, restored, and refreshed should be commonplace and this requires moms take breaks.

How and when to take a break:

  • Be intentional. Take the time, plan, and set it in motion.
  • Practice. Like the Nike slogan, just do it.
  • Quality over quantity. Focus on the break more than how long you’ll be away.
  • Give yourself permission to give yourself a break. It’s acceptable to focus on you to be a more productive you.
  • Facts, not feelings. Fact is, take breaks because you need them before you feel like you need one.

Ellen Harbin

Ellen Harbin is a Bible teacher for 20 years. Ellen and Kevin, a pastor, have been married 29 years and live in southeast Michigan. They have six children - four biological and two through adoption, plus three daughters-in-law. Ellen likes laughing, reading, deep conversations, spontaneity, and spending quality time with friends. Being a follower of Jesus is the absolute best decision she has ever made. Ellen is the founder of the STAND women’s conference and author Crisis and STAND Unashamed.

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