FamilyLife Today®

The Minivan Years

with Olivia Bruner | May 4, 2009
Play Pause

Do you sometimes feel like motherhood has you stuck in a rut somewhere between carpool and laundry? Today author Olivia Bruner encourages mothers to get passionate about their role as moms, realizing that the time they have with their children is fleeting and precious.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Guest

  • Do you sometimes feel like motherhood has you stuck in a rut somewhere between carpool and laundry? Today author Olivia Bruner encourages mothers to get passionate about their role as moms, realizing that the time they have with their children is fleeting and precious.

Do you sometimes feel like motherhood has you stuck in a rut somewhere between carpool and laundry?

The Minivan Years

With Olivia Bruner
May 04, 2009
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: What is it that makes some families thrive while other families languish?  She decided she wanted to investigate the matter.

Olivia: When I was a young mom, I was constantly looking at parents with older children, and I would just look and find those families and see what is it about them that makes their family enjoyable?  What is it about them that makes their kids enjoy their parents?  They all decided we are going to enjoy these years.  We're going to get up, we're going to have fun with our children, we're going to enjoy the day.  If there is something that happens, we're going to get past it and have fun the next day.  We're not going to take ourselves too seriously, and they all, still, to this day, those families enjoy each other's company as adults.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, May 4th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  When you stop to consider just how important it is for your family to have fun together and has it been a while since you've had fun together as a family?  We'll talk about that today.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.  I think we're going to have a fun and encouraging time, especially for moms on today's program, but before we dive into that, Dennis, I know you wanted to kick things off today by bringing our listeners up to speed on some of what has been happening around here at FamilyLife.

Dennis: That's right, Bob.  If you'll recall, back last December, I came to our listeners, and I asked them for help financially.  And, as you know, many of them responded, and our year-end was a solid year-end that really did help.

And I'm back again wanting to report where we are now as a ministry.  We're down about $1 million in donations from where we were this time last year.

Bob: Yeah, this has been a tough season for us here in the last several months.

Dennis: And, honestly, as a listener, I want you to know I am really proud of our senior leadership team and some of the decisions they've made.  They've had some very tough choices to make, and they've made them.  We've reduced our staff by 14 percent, we've instituted pay cuts between 5 percent and 10 percent.  We operate, as a ministry, with no debt.  We've really never had any debt and I'm glad, in times like these, we don't have debt, and we're committed to that into the future.

Bob: One of the things we are very encouraged about right now is that we've had some friends of the ministry step forward and say during this challenging season, we'd like to help.  They have offered to match every donation we received during the month of May on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to a total of $356,000, and that's a great opportunity for us, as a ministry, and a great opportunity for our friends who would like to help us financially at this time to see your donation doubled as a result of this matching gift.

Dennis: And I know that there are some of you who are struggling just like we are, and you're having to make adjustments to your budget, too.  But what I am asking you to do is I am asking every person to do what they can do.  If you just step up and stand with us right now as a ministry, this is a really critical time for our ministry – not just for helping FamilyLife stand strong but for enabling us to continue to minister to families in this economic crisis.  This is a needed ministry today.

Bob: If you can help, we'd ask you to go to our website,, and make a donation of any amount.  Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, and, again, we're asking every one of you to just do what you can do, whatever that is – online at or by calling us toll-free at 1-800-FLTODAY.

Dennis: And, as a listener, I just have a very simple request – I need your help.  Will you stand with us?

Bob: Yes.  Now, we are going to provide some encouragement for moms today and, in fact, celebrate one of the things that I know is one of your favorite things to celebrate.  You're looking at me like, "What are you talking about?"

Dennis: Minivans?

Bob: No, no.

Dennis: Motherhood?

Bob: Motherhood!  That's where we are.

Olivia: Yay!


Dennis: Well, I just know the name of the book that our guest on today's program is written called "The Minivan Years," and it's all about motherhood.

Bob: And what was your take on the minivan years when you were in them?

Dennis: You know, we never had a minivan.

Olivia: Oh!

Dennis: We didn't.

Bob: Because you had more kids than would fit in a minivan, right?

Dennis: Thank you.  We had to go with a suburban because legally there were not enough seatbelts, at least in the minivans that were created …

Bob: There were no eight-passenger minivans back in your day.

Dennis: I don't think so.  And so we went right for the gas-guzzler right off the top, and actually had an Econoline Ford van to begin with, which is one of those …

Bob: One of those multi-passenger …

Dennis: Storage units for children.  Enough of this.  We do have a great mom with us – Olivia Bruner joins us on FamilyLife Today.  Olivia, welcome back.

Olivia: Thank you, it's great to be here.

Dennis: Olivia and Kurt have joined us many times on FamilyLife Today.  They have four children.  Olivia is a former schoolteacher.  She's a speaker, an author.  She, along with Kurt, wrote …

Bob: The book, "Playstation Nation," right?

Dennis: Yeah, that's it.

Bob: Can I ask you about that before we get into this?

Olivia: Sure, mm-hm.

Bob: Is the phenomenon of the Playstation and the video games – back when you wrote that book a couple of years ago, it seemed like it was exploding.  Is it still the big issue that it was back then?

Olivia: Oh, yeah, it gets bigger every year.  The video game industry now, 2008, topped the movie industry as far as moneymaking.

Dennis: Olivia, you've written a new book called "The Minivan Years," and all of us smile when we start thinking of the time when we had to trade our four-door snazzy car that was kind of sleek and maybe was a little fast, maybe not real fast …

Bob: I had a Pontiac Fiero – do you remember those?

Dennis: Oooooooh, that was a two-door.

Bob: It was a two-door, two seater.  It was – well, there were kids, but they just didn't get in the Fiero.  But there comes a time when you say goodbye to those things.

Dennis: And you trade up – or trade down – depending on how you look at it, to a minivan.  But, you know, moms today are sometimes – well, some of them are trading – they're trading up or trading down, depending upon their view, of being a mom.

Olivia: Mm-hm, and it's coming from our culture.  Motherhood is uncool just like a minivan is.  And it's interesting – motherhood has a branding problem that, you know, we feel like we're trying to get out of our mother years and get out of that because that's the uncool stage.  And when we decided to write the book, there was a study that came out in 2007, where it showed that minivans were on the decline in sales.

And so the marketing people got together, and they're trying to figure out why aren't they selling, they're having to make less of them, Ford doesn't even make a minivan anymore because they weren't selling.  And so what the study said was, frankly, sliding doors are what give minivans open access but that's what makes them uncool.

The sliding door epitomizes the less exciting realities of minivan ownership compared to the proactive vibrant images of go-anywhere SUVs, or crossovers.  And this statement really got me – "Ultimately, it's a symbol of being stuck in the rut of having a family."

I thought that was sad.  Minivans aren't selling because no one wants to look like they're stuck in the rut of having a family, and I thought once you had a family, you get to have them the rest of your life.  I'd like to drive a minivan when I'm a grandparent because as long as it's still with my grandkids, I'm fine with it.

And so the reason they're not selling is people want to get out of the mother stages.  Mothers are thinking, "Okay, I'll do this mother stage for four or five years, and then I'd like to be done."

Bob: Do they want to be out of it just because it's as exhausting as it is?

Olivia: I think so, but I think it's because our culture says that's not a great stage to be in.  That's not any fun.  You have to work, you know, it's all about the kids – it should be about you.  And so it creates – a mother has, then, this feeling of "Okay, which one do I follow?  This instinct that God has given me where it really is about mothering.  It's about mothering the rest of my life."  Mothering is the core issue of who we are once we become a mother.  And so it's really about that, and the other all fits into it.

Whether you're a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, your number-one job is your children.

Dennis: It has to be.

Olivia: It has to be.

Dennis: If God's given you children, He didn't give those children to a daycare center.

Olivia: Exactly.

Dennis: He gave them to parents who need to raise them.  It doesn't mean that we don't need to have babysitters from time to time and help take care of them.

But what about you?  Are there those moments when you've thought about turning in your motherhood badge?

Olivia: Turn in my minivan?

Dennis: And your minivan?

Olivia: No, because I think it's a choice.  I think, as moms, we have to get up every morning and choose to have joy; choose to infuse joy into our children and into our home.  You know, that old saying, "If Mom ain't happy, nobody is happy."  Well, that is true.  We are the lifegivers of our home, and so, yeah, there are moments that I feel like this is so much work.  I'm always having to give to someone else and what about me?  But I decided I don't want to look back and say, "Wow, where did the time go?"  I want to enjoy even the hectic moments.

The mothering years are hectic because they are often unplanned.  They just come.  But they are joyful because every single memory is precious, and you don't want to lose any of them.  And, actually, the way our book came out was I have four memory books for my kids where I just write down at the end of the night before I go to bed, I'll pick one up.  And if something sweet happened that day or hectic or hard, maybe some conflict between me and one of my kids, I write down the memory so that I'll remember it later.

Because I didn't want to look back and only remember the antibiotic pills and the throwing up all over me – I wanted to remember all the joys of motherhood.

Dennis: If you could just keep one memory of being a mom …

Olivia: Yes, if I could just keep one memory?

Dennis: One memory – what memory would you keep and why?

Olivia: Okay, I am going to tell you a funny one.  It's not a serious one.  There are a lot of serious memories so, instead, I'm going to go to the funny one that really was the bottom line of why I wanted to write this book.

We were in the car and, Kurt, my husband, just likes to have fun, so he'll make up a game.  So we made up this game where he would ask the kids, "Okay, who is the funniest?  Who is the cutest?  Who is the prettiest?"  And one day Kurt said, "Who is the smartest?"  And the great part was Shawn, our eight-year-old at the time immediately said, "Mom is."  I was, like, "Yeah, all right."  I mean, "Good for you."  And I mean immediately, and I turned to look at Kurt, and he looked hurt.  He was, like, "Oh, my word, why so quickly?"

So he turned back to Shawn and said, "Shawn, you know, I think Mom's smart.  That's one of the reasons I married her.  I love the fact that she went to school, and she's a teacher, but why did you say she was the smartest so fast?"  and he said right up and said, "Because she always knows when I have to go to the bathroom."


And I just – I thought, "You know what?  What he's saying to me is it doesn't really matter where Dad went to school.  I don't really care that Dad works at Focus on the Family, I don't care that he wrote book, I don't care about Mom's degree, what I care is that you know about my needs."

Bob: You've sat with enough young moms, though, who are up to their elbows in diapers and who are exhausted from all of this, and they look at you, and they just say, "I was not made for this.  This isn't me.  I don't know what I was thinking, I don't know what I got myself into, I want out."  And you say, "Well, you know, suck it up and get tough."  Is that what you tell them?

Olivia: It's one of the things I tell them.  It's just like I used to have women ask me "I don't really feel like I want to hug my husband when he walks in the door."  I said, "I don't care, you walk over there, you hug him, anyway."  You know, there is part of doing it, which begins to make you feel it. 

So if you don't feel like doing it, and you get up in the morning, and you get on your knees, and you ask God to help you do it and give you joy in it, in the doing it you will receive joy.  And so sometimes it is just all about that. 

I do really recommend, when you have a lot of little children, a lot of times you think, "Well, you know, I am so exhausted, I'm just going to get up when the first one comes and wakes me up," or the baby cries or whatever.  And as soon as you feel like you're getting a good night's sleep, I recommend to young moms that they get up a half an hour before their child.  Just set your alarm, pull yourself out of bed so you can get on your knees just for a few minutes and say, "Lord, help me with this day."  Have a cup of tea, relax, read, don't feel like you have to have this big old Bible study, but read a few Psalms to encourage you, to get you going for the day.

But, really, if it's not natural for you, then getting on your knees and asking the Lord to help it be natural and, again, you will get it by giving it.

Dennis: And, honestly, Olivia, in raising children today to do that, it is going to demand enormous self-sacrifice.

Olivia: It is, it is, mm-hm, exactly.

Dennis: And I think that's what doesn't play well in this culture.  We want it to be easy.

Olivia: Yes.

Dennis: We want it to look like a 30-minute show on TV.

Olivia: I had a mentor mom who used to say to me, "When are you going cry, Olivia?"  When I would be so tired, it would be midnight, I'm still doing laundry and getting things ready for the next day.  She said, "You can cry now because you're exhausted, or you can cry when you're 60 because you're looking back and wishing that you would have enjoyed your day and done exactly what you're doing now."

Dennis: You know, Olivia, as you were going through that list of all the things moms do, I just remember looking back as a young father with a bed surrounded by children.  It was 6:30 or earlier in the morning, and Barbara didn't want to get up, I didn't want to get up.  This is all about discipline.

Olivia: It is, it's all about laying down your life and making a choice, when you see those little eyes.  Are you going to love on them and welcome the day that God has given you, or are you going to resent the fact that you have these children here in front of you?

Really, if you have a job that's outside of the home, and you get up in the morning, and you think, "Okay, it's time to go to work."  You get your shower, you get your time together, and then you go, and you get your paycheck.  With kids, really, parenting is the only real full-time job.  You know, you say, "I have a full-time job outside of the home."  No, actually, the only full-time job is parenting because it literally is 24/7.

Dennis: It is.

Olivia: And so you wake up in the morning, and you make that choice and say "Hey, I feel joyful because of this gift that God has given me."

Bob: So do you get Kurt to write you a paycheck every couple of weeks just to …?

Olivia: Yes.  I tell him all the money is mine, anyway.  I'm the one who spends it all.

Dennis: You know, you write about this being a secret formula.

Olivia: I do.

Dennis: Share that formula with them.

Olivia: Well, when I was a young mom, I was constantly looking at families that were not perfect.  I couldn't find any of those; but families that seemed to enjoy each other's company, their kids were older – older families – parents with older children.  And I would just look and find those families and see what is it about them that makes their family enjoyable?  What is it about them that makes their kids enjoy their parents and actually not resent them and rebel and not want to be around them? 

So I did some interviewing, and I sat down with five or six families that I really respected, and I just asked a lot of questions, and they all had different methods of doing things.  They all had different methods of spending time with their children or teaching their faith.  Some worked outside the home, some worked in the home.  It was not the same everywhere.

But there was one secret formula, it was a thread that went through all the families, and that was fun and laughter.  They all decided we are going to enjoy these years.  We're going to get up, we're going to have fun with our children, we're going to enjoy the day.  If there is something that happens, we're going to get past it and have fun the next day.  We're not going to take ourselves too seriously, and they all, still, to this day, those families enjoy each other's company as adults.

Again, it's not over.  It's not like the mom is done being a mom.  She's still a mom.  Now she's a grandma and a mom.  And so it lasts throughout your life.

Bob: You mention these women you talk to, and you talked about having a mentor mom.  How important has that been for you as you've been a mom?

Olivia: It's been huge.  It's been an encouragement, it's been a challenge and accountability but, you know, I had to go looking for that.  I had to make myself accountable to someone and say, "Hey, would you help me out in this area and maybe be a bit vulnerable to them?"  And it was a mom who, again, had the same attitude of, you know, we're not going to do this "I'm going to get through the day as a mother."  We are going to enjoy your day as a mother and be the very best mom you can be.

Bob: How did you pick out the woman you wanted to be your mentor mom?

Olivia: You know, it kind of – God just kind of brought it.  It was someone I had prayed for, and the Lord just kind of brought someone along that I got along with, and she got along with me, and we began to spend time together.  It wasn't a forced thing at all, it just happened.

Bob: Somebody who is listening who lives out in the country, and there are no moms around.  Maybe they've seen a mom at church or somebody, and they think, "Well, she seems like she's got it together."  Do you just go up and say, "Can we have lunch, and can I talk to you?"

Olivia: Certainly, that would work.  That's a good start, that's a good start, and you never know who is going to be someone that will be willing to do that, but if you don't step out and try, you're not going to know.

Dennis: And if you don't know a woman like that, ask your pastor of your church …

Olivia: Yes, that's a great idea.

Dennis: … of your church and say, "Who would you recommend would be a mom who is a lap or two ahead of me in the race of life who could come alongside me?"  Because, frankly, I think, Olivia, what you have done is one of the smartest things a young mom can do in starting out her family, is to connect with someone who has been there, done that, and can encourage you and continue to build into your life.

The last chapter in your book is about a loss that you and Kurt endured, and I think, many times, when we come to the subject of motherhood, we think about all the fun and games that are associated.  Obviously, there are those times of illness and the tough times and loss of sleep, et cetera, but there are times when our heart feels like it's breaking in half and then is going to break in half again, and it's when we lose a child.  You and Kurt lost a boy named Todd.

Olivia: Yes, we did.  I was about 20 weeks pregnant and started having some issues where I was spotting, and so Kurt and I went to have the ultrasound and it's that feeling of dread when the ultrasound tech is not looking at you.  She won't say anything to you and really never answered our questions.  We knew.  We didn't see a heartbeat, but she didn't say anything to us and said, "Okay, we're done, and now you need to go see your doctor."  And when we went to see the doctor, the first thing she said is "I'm sorry for the loss of your baby."

So we realized our baby had died, and he was five months along, and so when you're that far along, the doctor explained to us that we would need to deliver this little baby.  And so we went into the hospital and delivered a little boy and named him Todd and had a little service for him.  But, you know, even that, in my mother time, we had two older boys at the time, and I'll never forget them coming into the hospital.  They were sad.  This was their brother, and, as a mom, having my own deep sadness at that point, but realizing, as a mom, this is something we can do together.  I can do this with my children.  We can grieve together and include them in on the process because they needed to grieve with me.

It was a very, very sad time in our life but, again, every point of mothering can help us to point our children to God.  And so I took that time – and our oldest son, actually, that was a time where he had never thought about death before, and he kept coming – afterwards, he would come in our room at night, every night, and he wanted to talk about God and what is death and soon after that is when he trusted Christ.  Because it just got him thinking, "Anyone can die.  A baby can die inside Mommy.  It doesn't have to be an older person," and it just got him on the subject.

And so it was something that was redemptive in our home, and we still – we named him Todd, and we talk about him, and we look forward to seeing him in heaven.

Dennis: Hm.  You know, what you've talked about today is how motherhood is a calling; how it's a responsibility; and how it's a privilege.  And it's a calling to fulfill a responsibility to embrace and then a privilege to be enjoyed.  And I just appreciate you being willing to not only share about the good times but as you've just shared the loss of a son, and how, even in that, there is a privilege in giving life to a little boy who, even though you didn't get a chance to enjoy him, you did enter into something that God intended for your family that ultimately resulted in one of your children coming to faith in Christ.  And that's really what motherhood is all about – is the full gamut of emotions, but it's faithfully fulfilling what God has called you to do – being responsible and then just enjoying them.  You know, just picking them up and gathering them into your lap and hugging and kissing them even in the midst of the toughness of life and thank God for the privilege of partnering with Him to raise the next generation.

Bob: And if what you're doing is hard, and you're tired, and you don't like it some days, just remember the words of Olivia and suck it up, right?


Olivia: Amen, and don't listen to the culture who tells you you're not doing anything important, because you are doing the most important job that you could ever do, and it is the one that when you're 50 and looking back and 60 and looking back, that you will think that meant something, that meant something.

Dennis: No doubt about it, there is no higher calling.

Olivia: Mm-hm, amen.

Dennis: Than being a mother or, for that matter, a father.

Bob: And, of course, this Sunday is Mother's Day and not Father's Day so we'll focus on the moms as we have today and let me encourage our listeners, if you know a mom who is in what we've talked about today as the minivan years, you might want to get them a copy of the book that Olivia has written called "The Minivan Years," that really focuses in on how you have fun in this season of life and how you do make it a priority and how important that is not just for your family today but for your family into the future.

We've got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  Go online at  You will find information there about Olivia's book, "The Minivan Years," and you'll find information there about a resource that Olivia created along with her husband, Kurt, that is called "Just Add Family."  And this is a collection of ready-to-do fun activities for you, as a family.  Activities that have a purpose, activities that get you engaged in spiritual conversation and help you teach spiritual principles.

There is more information about the "Just Add Family" resource on our website,   You can also call for more information or to order a copy of either Olivia's book or the "Just Add Family" resource – call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  Or, again, go online at and have either or both of these resources sent to you.

Now, as we wrap things up here today, let me remind you of what Dennis mentioned at the beginning of today's program.  We have had some friends of the ministry step forward in the last several weeks with a very generous offer.  They have agreed that they will match every donation that we receive during the month of May on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to a total of $356,000 and, as Dennis said, this is a particularly important time for this matching gift to be available to us because so far this year we are about $1 million down from where we were at the same time last year in donations.  And we've had to respond to that by making some adjustments in our staff, by reducing salaries and doing the same things a lot of people are having to do to tighten our budget.

So we are hoping to take full advantage of this matching gift opportunity, and we are hoping we can hear from you this month.  If you can make a donation of any amount, your donation is going to be doubled, and you'll be making it possible for us to take full advantage of this special matching gift.

You can donate online at, or you can donate by calling 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we just want to say thanks in advance for standing with us and for supporting the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  We appreciate your partnership and your financial support.

Now, tomorrow we are going to hear from a panel of women who got together recently to talk about being a woman, motherhood, pursuing a relationship with God, loving your husband well.  Barbara Rainey was a part of that panel along with Karen Loritts and Mary Cassian, Carolyn McCully, and Holly Elliff.  And I hope you can tune in tomorrow as we hear them interact.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.  

We are so happy to provide these transcripts to you.  However, there is a cost to transcribe, create, and produce them for our website.  If you’ve benefited from the broadcast transcripts, would you consider donating today to help defray the costs? 

Copyright © FamilyLife.  All rights reserved.