When You Need a Break from Mothering

…but it’s not going to happen.


There are times as mothers where we will feel like we need a break, but it’s not possible or easy to get that break. How can we handle those moments or seasons as Christian women? It’s something I’ve been reflecting on this year since I’ve been spending much more time around my kids.

When my husband and I were considering whether to homeschool, we wrote out a list of all the benefits and potential drawbacks (like a pros and cons list). One of the biggest drawbacks for me was the thought of having less alone time due to my kids being around constantly. (Ironically, it was also one of the biggest appeals of homeschooling!)

While many of the other concerns I had were able to be dealt with in some way, the fact of the matter is, when you’re homeschooling, you really do have less time alone!

Maybe you’re feeling this struggle being in lockdown with your whole family, or maybe you’ve got young kids and at this stage of life, they’re just naturally around you all the time. 

What can you do when it all starts to feel overwhelming and you’re longing for a break?

The simple answer is to plan to have a break! Go for a walk on your own, catch up with a friend, or see a movie. 

But these things are not always possible, for a multitude of reasons. And more to the point, I believe that if we’re constantly longing for a break from our normal lives, something is wrong, either in our attitude or in the choices we’ve made about our circumstances (or both!). And sometimes, through no fault of our own, life is just hard and we long for a break from the pain of the everyday.

So let’s talk about how to handle this feeling of needing a break, as Christian women, especially when a break isn’t really possible. 

Practical

First of all, is there anything you can change practically to give you more of a break? Or another way to look at this – what can you change so that you don’t feel like you need a break all the time?

Real Rest vs. Fake Rest

A lot of us might think of our time scrolling through social media and watching videos as “rest” but in reality, this only adds to our burden and feeling of overwhelm. 

That’s because we’re usually doing the scrolling and watching on stolen time. We think “I need a break”, and because we can’t physically go away from our children, we pull out the phone for a “mental break” before getting back to our tasks. 

And the result is that instead of a task taking 10 minutes, it takes 30 minutes (if it even gets finished…), because of how distracted we are. We think we’re having a break, but we’re actually adding to our load. 

I think a good way to deal with this problem is to spend focused time working. (Yes, even if that means interruptions from the kids because these “interruptions” are part of our responsibilities, too). And then planning for times of real, genuinely restful activities in the schedule. 

Some things I like to do for rest:

  • Having a bath after the kids go to bed
  • Going for a walk alone
  • Taking the kids to a nature reserve and letting them play
  • Getting out the watercolour paints
  • Reading a book with a cup of tea

Think about what you like to do that is actually restful. Ditch the fake rest of social media “breaks”, and plan for real breaks during your day and week. 

Made for Rest

Another practical (but also spiritual) issue to consider is, are you taking a day of rest each Sunday? Or are you working through the whole week as though each day is the same? 

In Genesis 2:1-3 we learn that God rested from His work on the seventh day, and He called that day holy. He instructed His people not to go about their usual work on the Sabbath, but to rest in God’s provision. And in the New Testament, Jesus reinforces this, saying that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”. 

The point of resting each Sunday is not to meet a legal obligation, but to embrace our design and our destiny. God, in whose image we are made, rested on the seventh day. We – as creatures made in God’s image – are not above God, as though we have no need for rest. And as people who belong to Jesus, our destiny is to enter His eternal rest where we will worship Him forever. 

What are some practical ways to have a weekly Sabbath rest as a mum? After all, when the bulk of your work is caring for young children, each day really can look the same! So what can you do to set apart Sundays as a holy day to the Lord?

Here are some ideas (I’d love it if you share yours below!):

  • Have simple meals, and prepare them the day before if possible. (Heated up leftovers, tinned soup and fresh bread, toasted sandwiches are all good options!)
  • Don’t clean or do more housework than necessary. Sure, clean the wee off the bathroom floor, but don’t make this your day to change all the bedsheets or vacuum the floors.
  • Listen to a playlist of Psalms to keep your mind fixed on the Lord.
  • Spend time relaxing as a family. Go for a walk together. Make a cup of tea and sit outside in the sun to drink it.

Time to recuperate

Another thing I personally like to do is plan for longer breaks on my own that are less frequent. I go away for a few nights alone or with some friends each January to spend time relaxing and planning for the year ahead. 

And a few times throughout the year, I go out for a few hours on my own just to spend some time in nature or at a cafe. 

These longer breaks give me something to look forward to throughout the year. I find the space and quiet is so important to be able to clear my thoughts and focus. When it’s time to come back to my place in the family, I feel refreshed to do so, and with greater conviction and passion for my role. 

I enjoy the time alone not because I wish I was alone all the time, but because I know I have my kids and husband to come back to.

Attitude

Next, think about how your attitude and approach can impact on the times you need a break, and how you deal with it.

Introvert Problems

As an introvert, I find it draining to be around people, actively engaged in conversation. But where I find myself longing for alone time, I can imagine extroverted mums might be longing for time away with friends and adult conversation. 

But while we should take these things into account when planning our week, we need to remember that personality doesn’t erase responsibility. We have work to do as mothers – whether introverted or extroverted – for the benefit of our children and in obedience to the Lord. 

Moreover, the purpose of sanctification is to conform us more into the image of Jesus, not of ourselves. We don’t become sanctified by pursuing the purest version of ourselves, but by pursuing Christlikeness. 

Lay it Down

Motherhood brings with it many opportunities to lay down our own desires and needs for the good of others. The doctrine of social media will tell you that this is bad (very bad!) and as a mother you should put yourself first, and never lay aside your own desires to others. The lie goes that mothers already put themselves last most of the time, and they should actually be more selfish. But I know my own heart (and spoken to enough other women to know I’m not alone in this), and the truth is that my tendency is to pursue my own comfort and ease above everyone else. I daily need to put to death my sin of selfishness, and maybe you do, too.

The Bible teaches us that we should emulate Jesus as he laid down his life for others, giving up his own comfort and pleasure and glory for the good of His people.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:3-8

When we’re feeling desperate for a break, we can remember that we do not suffer more than our Lord did. And even in all His suffering and pain, He didn’t give in. His love for us drove Him to endure the worst punishment of all. And in His strength, we can endure, too.

Striving under the law

Another reason you might be feeling constantly overwhelmed is if you’re striving under the burden of trying to earn God’s favour. Are you trying to do everything right because you think then your children will grow up to be Christians? Are you trying to keep the law out of a desire to look good in front of others?

Jesus said:
“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 

The weight of trying to keep God’s law and earn your way to heaven is incredibly heavy. But trusting in Jesus for your salvation and acceptance is incredibly light and freeing. 

Examine your heart – have you taken on the burden of trying to keep the law in your own strength? Are you feeling overwhelmed all the time because you can’t live up to it?

Rest in Jesus. He has already obeyed perfectly on your behalf. Every day you live now is a day in freedom. You are free to serve, but you are not measured by it.

When Circumstances Won’t Change

What can we do when we’re longing for a break, but life circumstances make that not possible?

There are many reasons why taking a break might not be practical… whether you’re a single mum, or your husband has a chronic illness, or you have a child with special needs…

Life isn’t a magical story that we get to write, with ourselves as the hero. We’re not the author, God is. We’re not in control, God is. And we don’t live in a perfect world, but one marred by sin, groaning for redemption and healing. 

Above all, we need to remember that this is not our final resting place – this is not our home.

All our earthly struggles and pain and longing for a break points us to the deeper spiritual reality. When you’re longing for relief from a trial or everyday life is the trial, remember that rest is coming. Jesus is preparing a place for you in heaven. God has written eternity in our hearts.

So rest in Jesus for your salvation. Enjoy God’s gift of resting one day every week. Praise God and cultivate a thankful heart. Take time for breaks where you can. 

And when you can’t get a break in the here and now, remember that your heavenly rest is coming. 

One comment

  1. Stephanie says:

    Thanks Jess! I read of a couple who start their weekly day off of rest, from teatime on Sat. night to teatime on Sunday. I’ve been finding this helpful, along with your ideas of limited cooking and restful activities. When Monday morning comes I find I’m overall more refreshed and ready to face a new week. I also like to tuck away and spend time with God, especially first thing in the morning, (but this doesn’t always happen). Just this morning my devotion was on this very topic and the writer commented that “These are times when you should ‘settle accounts with God,” receive from Him, pray and worship Him.”

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