Parenting in the Margin
I get it. Parenting is exhausting. There are simply not enough hours in the day or milligrams of caffeine to get everything done. So what are we to do? How do we balance our faith life, work, kids’ calendars, and sleep? How do we manage when something unexpected forces its way into our already packed-out Google calendar? Most of us are so overscheduled and so under-rested that when something unexpected happens in our life, something else has to give. Something has to get deleted to make room for the unexpected. Unfortunately, one of the first things that is often jettisoned is our faith life. Our church attendance, prayer time, Bible reading, or small group is often put on hold until life settles down. So what’s the fix? We reassess our priorities and include margin.
What is margin?
Margin is the space between our load and our limits… Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breaking freely and suffocating.
– Dr. Richard Swenson, Margin
Margin is that empty space on your calendar that you intentionally protect and LEAVE empty. It is your calendar’s equivalent of a safety net.
If you have no margin in your life, then you will not have the bandwidth to parent as well as you could. As a family, it might be time to sit down with the calendar and reevaluate your priorities and build in some rest and margin into your schedule.
Alexis and I don’t do this perfectly, but it’s something we strive for. Here are a few tips that have helped us over the years. First, literally, write out broad categories in order of importance. Wrestle and pray over this list. Let this list help you make decisions that vie for your time and your kid’s time. Here is ours for reference. Use it as a starting point for your family if that helps.
FAITH – FAMILY – WORK – REST – EXTRAS
Second, learn to say “NO” to good things. That might mean your child doesn’t compete on multiple teams in multiple sports. It could mean your child only focuses on one extracurricular at a time. Or, it could mean setting a healthier work balance in your life. It might mean saying no to serving in ANOTHER ministry. It could mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. (If “no” is too hard for some of you, maybe try “not right now.”)
For what it is worth, I believe that margin is a biblical principle worth emulating. Next time you are reading through the Gospels take note of all the times Jesus’ schedule was interrupted. Count up how often people came to Jesus in a time of need and he stopped what he was doing and served them. Jesus had enough margin in his life to prioritize serving others. And you will even see him prioritizing alone time, prayer time, and taking a nap on a boat. Let’s strive this week to reassess our priorities and build margin into our calendars so we can better parent our kids and serve the Kingdom.