Sabbath Rest with Small Children

Noon: Rest by Vincent van Gogh
Ever since my first child was born, I have struggled with what it means to have true Sabbath rest. Before kids, my husband and I would reserve one day a week for extra time in the word and prayer, extra time with each other, extra sleep, and rest from our work.

Then along came our daughter and suddenly I had a new job that came with 7 twenty-four hour shifts each week. It has been and continues to be a learning process to figure out how to find time to truly rest, as well as to fulfill all my responsibilities as a mother that don’t have the option of being put on hold. Here are a few ideas that we’ve come up with in our family for keeping a Sabbath day restful and truly refreshing. It would be great to hear your ideas too! In our schedule, Saturday is generally our Sabbath day, so I’ll probably refer to that.

-“My soul finds rest in God alone…” Ps. 62:1 Whether or not our days are physically restful, our souls are always able to find rest. Try to find special ways to focus on God on your own and with your family. Perhaps have a special time reading and talking about a Bible story, take time to pray for each other, take some time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation in nature or in art, or do something that your family loves doing and thank God for the blessing of one another and for giving you things that you love doing together…

-Prepare beforehand. In old testament times, there was much preparation prior to the sabbath in order that the Sabbath day itself was protected and free from work. I know that meal prep and clean-up takes a large amount of time each day, so here are some ideas to reduce that time on your day of rest:   prepare food the day before, plan to eat left overs, have easy meals reserved that don’t take much time to prepare or clean up, freeze a meal earlier in the week to have on your day of rest, have necessary groceries on hand, etc. Another thing that I like to do is have my major house cleaning day the day before so I can enjoy a clean home  and not be tempted to spend my extra rest time doing house work.

-Don’t get sucked into unnecessary tasks. Often times I do various tasks just because they come to mind and I am afraid that I will forget about them if I don’t just get them done right then.  A way to avoid your rest time being slowly etched away is to keep a small piece of paper where you can write down these tasks as they come to mind. Then you won’t forget them and won’t have to spend your precious moments of rest on things that you can easily do later.

-Think about Sunday on Friday (or whatever days this works out to be for you). Since I usually prepare for the next day the night before, it makes sense for me to take a couple of minutes preparing for Sunday on Friday night. Make sure clothes are clean for church, set aside stuff for the diaper bag, etc.

-Use paper plates/cups. I don’t do this much since we don’t have recycling here, but on occasion it is nice to have a meal with easy clean up. As all moms know, even an extra 10-15 minutes of rest is a huge blessing!

-Have different standards for the Sabbath. For example, I like to make my bed each morning and clean up the house before nap time each day. On Saturdays I just close the door to our room and don’t worry about making the bed or straightening up. I also generally don’t take much time to tidy up the house when the kids are napping since this is the longest stretch of physical rest that I can get during the day. Sometimes this idea doesn’t work for me though, because I find that if things are too messy, it is harder for me to rest comfortably.

-Take turns getting some time away. My husband and I usually take turns getting a little bit of alone time out of the house on our day of rest. I usually just go to a nearby cafe to read for a little bit, but it feels so refreshing! With little kids who are always needing me, getting a little time out does wonders for helping me rest. I am sure the day will come when our kids are older that we can all just have a restful day at home, but with little kids, “rest” has a different meaning. We do spend much of the day enjoying just being together though.

-Spend time with people, or spend time alone. I am sure we are all familiar with whether or not we are introverts or extroverts. I am an extrovert and am very refreshed by spending time with people. I love good, deep conversations and talking about what God is doing in my life and hearing what He is doing in the lives of others on my day of rest. My husband on the other hand is an introvert, and in order for him to rest well, he prefers to spend time alone or just with our family on his day of rest. I think it is helpful to know yourself and your family with regards to this and make sure that everyone has a chance to feel rested.

In all of the extra opportunities for rest that we can create with a little bit of planning, the important part of course is keeping our focus on God and finding our rest in Him, through the word, prayer, praise, and having our hearts focused on Him. I know that no matter how physically restful a day turns out to be, my soul will not be rested apart from Him. It encourages me to know that the flip side of this is also true.  Even though there are many days , even sabbath days, that are physically and emotionally exhausting, God does provide rest for us in supernatural ways apart from our circumstances.

(art used with permission from


7 Responses to “Sabbath Rest with Small Children”

  1. 1 jami March 6, 2009 at 1:01 am

    Yes, this is a huge challenge. Thanks for sharing your ideas on how to make this day more restful. Is it hard to have your rest day on Saturday with that being a day that many others are available to do things?

  2. 2 alatvala March 6, 2009 at 4:18 am

    I love all of your thoughts and questions, Jami! For us Saturday actually works best since we work with college students and a lot of our students go back to their home towns on the weekends. In our schedule we find that more people are available on week nights than weekends, but this might be more unique to our specific situation. We’ve taken our Sabbath days on other days of the week for sure (I don’t think the day matters, but rather the principle of resting from our work), but lately that has just worked out best for us on Saturdays. What day to you guys usually take for your Sabbath?

  3. 3 jami March 6, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Mondays are our days of rest. We’ve learned that, culturally, if we call it a rest day here, then people will want to spend the day with us. But if we call it a “family day” then people respect that time for us to be at home and rest. It’s just a matter of semantics, but it makes a big difference!

  4. 4 Kim W. March 6, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    I loved this post, Ashley! My soul is in much need of a Sabbath, yet, for weeks, sadly, I’ve felt that I don’t know where to begin, so this was really helpful for me to actually start thinking about how to make it actually happen. 🙂

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  6. 6 SoSpression October 25, 2014 at 3:46 pm

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