The Need for Margin
Over the summer I read a post written by the talented Jennifer King in which she discussed concepts presented in the book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, by Richard Swenson, M.D. Swenson’s premise is that we must build ‘margin’ in to our daily lives. We all need that cushion of time and relaxation to breathe and to focus on the important things.
In my comments on Jennifer’s post, I wrote,
“Perhaps this metaphor of the margins will be what I need. I have always done a fairly good job of maintaining free time but as my youngest gets older I feel myself slowly but surely filling up too much space on our calendar. The line from this that I hope most to remember is “To keep margin in my life, I know I’ll have to say no to things that are good.” It is the saying no to the things that are good that is so hard but so crucial.”
Tonight at soccer practice a group of stood in the dark, watching our seven year olds play under the lights. These babies who then had to go home, eat dinner, maybe do homework. We shared stories of older siblings overwhelmed by pressure and of conversations with our husbands about why. Why we work so hard to provide this life for our children. This life that is both blessed and full of unprecedented stress.
I hope that in writing this and reminding myself of the concept of margin, that I can redirect myself as the craziness of fall continues to spin…
When I was a child, my parents put me in NOTHING. Well, we did church activities. But that’s it. I had a wonderful childhood, and we certainly had a lot of margin. I started off putting my kids in everything, but I’m slowly scaling back. I’m not sure if either of my younger ones will do soccer after this year. I really love it, but if they don’t want to, if they don’t love it enough to say yes to it, then I’ve decided to let it go …
Same with winter basketball. My daughter doesn’t want to do it, so I’m going with her preference. Still up in the air about my son. He says basketball is his thing. At almost seven years old, who knows. We’ll see …
It’s so hard to know what’s right for them, isn’t it? I don’t want to deprive them but at the same time, I don’t want them to constantly be going from one this to the next…
I’m thinking about this already, and my daughter is only 3 1/2. She has preschool 3 mornings a week, gymnastics a fourth morning, and I decided that this was enough. Not sure what we’ll do next fall when her friends start soccer (the older kids are already playing on a team). I personally need a lot of “margin” and I suspect that my daughter will, too.
Jen, It really is tricky and I admire your ability to think with an open mind about it. When my girl’s were Baby Bookworm’s age, I remember saying that I would “never” over-schedule my children. Not sure when I will learn never to say never!
Important topic, Stacey! I try very hard to keep the activities low–as much for their sanity as ours. There is so much pressure for everyone!
Nina- It is so true. Too much pressure and I suppose it is up to us, in our own families, to make the decisions that make the most sense for us. Thanks for reading!
Surely something to wrestle with. Last night Liam was wiped out and we decided to give him a night off from football. It was a wonderful night, filled with lots of quality family time. Some people will argue what are you teaching him? That it’s ok to say no to commitments? I think we are teaching him to really take care of himself and listen in when it all gets to be too much.
Patty- I think you did absolutely the right thing! It’s like we say about mothering- we need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others. If these kids aren’t rested they won’t enjoy their activities.
Thank you for the lovely mention and link, Stacey! Yes, the activities kick in, for sure — especially as they get older. Now, with one soon to start driving, and high school in full swing, it’s become another level entirely. And, it makes me enjoy the margin times even more. Soaking it up. Hugs to you, Stacey! It’s the mindfulness that makes all the difference, I think. xo
Thank you for coming and reading Jennifer. You post has stayed with me and I will keep remembering it day by day.
I’m familiar with the concept of keeping margin in your life, but it’s such a great reminder every time I hear or read about it. I have a tendency to try to pack my days pretty full and “maximize efficiency” to get as much done as I can. Which is a pretty great plan until something out of the ordinary happens and everything falls apart because I can’t keep up with the crazy schedule I’ve created for myself. Thank you for this reminder! Finding margin is an on-going process!
I guess all we can do is reminder ourselves again and again! Thanks for reading!