It’s a Trip, Not a Vacation

We're taking a trip. When we first dreamed up the idea of driving to Florida, I said we were "going on vacation," but I've since been corrected. My family is going on a vacation. I'm taking a trip. I'm driving down the East Coast by myself — with eight children. And then I'm driving home again. My friend Mary Ellen Barrett, the mother of seven young children, of whom the youngest are twin babies, set me straight on the difference between trips and vacations for mothers:

>A vacation is when you sit on the beach or at the pool and attractive people bring you pretty drinks with umbrellas in them. You get to dress nicely for dinner and eat with utensils.

>A trip is when you have a carload of children, a dump truck's worth of snacks, many blankies, loveys, binkies and bottles, and you cart all of this to a different location where you spend several days keeping track of it all.

>On a trip, children have great fun trying to stretch the limits of their independence (they get lost), they try new things (they jump into the deep end of the pool without an adult close by), they get to stay up past their bedtime (overtired and cranky) and they are outdoors all day (sunburn and bug bites).

>On a trip, Mom does everything she does at home but less conveniently in unfamiliar surroundings

>On a trip, Mom lives in stark terror of losing the 2-year-old at the beach while trying to dig the crying 5-year-old out of the hole his brother buried him in.

>On a trip, Mom is exhausted enough for bed at 5 p.m., but the children, who were too busy having fun to eat lunch, are starving and need to eat NOW.

>On a trip, the fancy dinner has you shouting into a clown's mouth and scooping ketchup off the car seat and smearing it on someone's fries.

>Trips provide wonderful memories of childhood for children and hives for Mom.

We haven't even left yet, and I have hives. Literally. Trips have the potential to bring out the worst in families. Family vacations have a real knack for pointing out relationship issues that exist daily but are more obvious on a trip. If Mom does all the work at home, she'll do it all on a trip, only the Mom who is doing it all at home and just staying above water will probably begin to drown when she must do the same thing outside of her carefully crafted environment.

If Mom struggles to be patient, there is a very good chance that her patience will be sorely tested when the 6-year-old who just went potty 20 minutes ago insists he needs to stop at the nearest rest station. And she will likely blow when she passes said rest station and he proves to her he needed to stop.

So what's a trip for a weary mother? A chance to listen to books on tape for over 24 hours. A chance to chat with my co-pilot, who happens to be leaving home for college in a few short weeks. A chance to learn how to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. A chance to grow in virtue. A chance to storm heaven and beg for an infusion of grace.

And when we get back, maybe I will sneak off for a two-hour vacation.

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  • Guest

    I've watched documentaries about that Dugger family (who now have 17 kids) going on trips, and it is absolutely exhausting just to watch.  I don't know why they bother.  I would just stay home.

  • Guest

    The answer can be found in Ms. Foss's last paragraph…

    A chance to chat with a child leaving for college in two weeks, a chance to learn how to enjoy the journey, and most definitely a chance to grow in virtue!!

    When I let go of the thought of how much work is involved in taking a trip, I invariably enjoy myself.  Sure, it's work, but the rewards are well worth it.

  • Guest

    In theory I agree with you, but I can't imagine doing it with 17 kids. 

  • Guest

    I laughed and laughed while reading. Truly, the 'joys of motherhood.'

    Those are the things we have to do and as the even older women say

    … do them and enjoy the time with the children because before you know it… they'll be grown and gone.

  • Guest

    "I'm driving down the East Coast by myself — with eight children."


    Where is your children's father? seems like many of these duties should be shared.  more so then a mother is responsible for fullfilling her childrends needs a husband is responsible for fullfilling his wifes needs so she is able to fullfill the childrens needs joyfully and with minimum stress.

  • Guest

    To Spice: they really will…..take it from Grandma.

    To Claire: Honey, you can't imagine doing it with 17 kids because you don't have any,yet!  Each one seems overwhelming until you "get the hang of it".  They don't all come at once, praise be!  You have time to grow into them.

    And, finally, to Elizabeth: I'll be praying for you!  Wink

  • Guest

    I, too, drove to Florida this spring with 8  kids in tow and no husband to share the love!  Despite being in my 1st trimester, and losing a kid or two in Disney briefly, we enjoyed MANY blessings of our week together!

    I just cried as I watched my just turned 5 year old daughter waving at all the princess in the Magic Kingdom parade!  To her they WERE real princesses.  What a joy for me to share in that moment!

    Frankly,  I felt not one moment of stress in 7 days!  It was all pure blessing.  Thanks be to God!

  • Guest

    Dear Elkabriker: Your response brought me to tears.  How I miss those days of wonder!  Even the grandkids are past that stage, now.

    So, I have to ask you one of those chicken-and-egg questions: Is the reason God has blessed you with 11 children because you have such a steady personality?  Or, do you have such a steady personality because God has blessed you with 11 children?

    God bless you, girl!

  • Guest

    Cooky, Well technically I do already have a few kids (one in Heaven and two that I'm carrying), but you're right that the reality of caring for them has not yet sunk in.  Next year around this time we will hopefully go on our first vacation to the Cape with the twins, and it should be interesting;  no more hours of reading magazines on the beach!

  • Guest


    Your response brought me to tears!

    The reason I have 11 kids is God's pure mercy!  I never deserved or merited such gifts asHe gave me when He entrusted me with 11 souls.

    They (my children) have created my maternity.  I can never repay them for what they have given me:  multiple opportunities to grow in holiness.

    PS I'm sure you've been a beautiful example to women over the years.  Years ago God spoke into my heart a truth:  I would never regret the child I had.  Holy mothers have given witness to that fact; starting with the Blessed Mother.

  • Guest

    Claire, I meant ones that you had to care for day-in and day-out.  I also have 2 in Heaven–they are MUCH easier to take care of!!!  Wink

    Elkabriker, I admire you…and your wisdom.  That only comes from a relationship with God.  He has already blessed your children in their mother.

    Btw, I've added you both (and your gestating little ones) to my prayer-list.  May God grant you a happy and healthy pregnancy, a safe and easy delivery, and may these new lives become all that God created them to be.