Family Vacation: When It’s Not So Restful

By Jessica Wolstenholm

There was a very defining moment in my motherhood journey when I realized life had indeed changed for me. If you haven’t come face to face with your selfish nature, just have a baby – you’ll be staring ugly in the face in no time!


Suddenly, my daily routines looked completely different. I am not sure why that hadn’t registered in my mind when I saw the plus sign, decorated the room, or packed my bag for the hospital, but it didn’t.  Soon after bringing our little one home, there were a series of things that ran through my head, many of which began with the phrase, “oh, I’ll never______ again?”


Reality set in as I encountered normal everyday tasks with a baby in tow. Sleep, showers, grocery shopping, potty breaks, and date nights all looked different and required extra effort and juggling. These were all things I happily encountered, but still the shedding of my selfish nature was a very real thing and often left me feeling inadequate and heavy-hearted.


Just as we started to settle into normal life after a new baby, we decided to tackle our first family vacation. Let’s just say it was less of a restful getaway and more of a “family adventure”. (I use the word “adventure” here with loads of sarcasm.)


In order to prove my point, I googled both words: vacation and adventure to paint a clear picture of the difference between them. Vacation is defined as an extended period of recreation, but adventure is notated as an unusual or exciting, typically hazardous experience or activity.


Yep. That is what we were headed into – an unusual, likely hazardous experience.


We had added a tiny human into our family, which resulted in nearly double the accessories for our trip. Packing the car became more like a game of Jenga. What once was a fun drive to our destination, complete with mix tapes and 90’s sing-a-longs, became a Chinese fire drill at every stop and lots of baby lullaby music. There were no peaceful poolside moments. My insecurities weighed heavy on me when I shoved my post baby body into a bathing suit. And to top it off, I was riddled with worry … certain that I’d never again sit at the beach and just read a book. Fear had settled in and I told my husband I would likely never take my eyes off of our kids, constantly fearful of them near the water. Something about birthing a baby makes you keenly aware of every hazard around you, it can be exhausting.


In the past, our vacations had been a time of rest and rejuvenation. We’d always come back tanned and relaxed. Now there were 6 am wake up calls on our days off. Vacation had been laden with worry, work, insecurity, and continued exhaustion. You can’t clock in and out of parenting. There are no “off” days. I was longing for rest in so many areas of life.


Fast forward, my kids are now 7 and 5. We just returned from our early summer vacation. It was positively one of the best ones we’ve ever taken.


What changed?


It wasn’t just that they’re a bit older now and more self-sufficient. My heart changed. I learned to enjoy the journey. God spoke to me about soaking up this time and sitting in peace, His perfect peace. He did some redefining of the word rest in my life through these verses.


“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”

Isaiah 26:3 NLT

“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 NLT


So, I set my heart on His words. I traded my expectations for reality and decided it was enough … far more than enough. I enjoyed the present. I resolved to turn the pages of my heart to a grateful place where I spent each day with my hands open. I decided to be peaceful on purpose and to relish in this season of adventure. And for the moments when it all tried to creep back in, I sat in the un-perfectness of it all and just invited Him in to fill it up and guess what, He did it!


I came to understand that the biblical concept of peace is not related to our circumstances, instead it’s tied to God’s presence. Peacefulness becomes about what we focus our hearts on and I had been fixated on the work of each day – I was overwhelmed by it, even on vacation. I was desperate to rest and searching for it in all the wrong places.


As fast as the world around us goes, we easily get caught up in the business of life, especially with the gift little person that solely depends on you. It’s so easy to be burdened by the expectation of perfection. God’s promises are real, and His words are life giving. He says the peace He gives us is a gift that the world can’t give. I’ve spent far too many of our vacations longing for the wrong type of rest. I’ve resolved to rest in Him. His assurances are that this world is not my home and that my forever rest is in Him. Until that time, I will be here soaking up these “adventures” with my kiddos, even if that means they are hazardous in nature.