Generation Cedar

busy mom wearing apron, holding baby and laptop

We have basically been in survival mode since the storm. And though I’ve tried to give myself room for an extended period of said mode, there comes a point where I want to do more than survive…I want to thrive!

So as I am working through some practical “back-to-basics” in our lives to help me refocus and regain some of our family routine and rhythm, I thought it may be a helpful reminder to others as well.

Creating and Maintaining Margins.

Margin is the space you leave around life’s events. It is limiting yours and your family’s activities and it is ultimately learning the important practice of saying “no”.

I believe every family’s and every mother’s “margin size” is different; but I believe most of us leave too little space. In my life, margin is one of the most fundamental necessities. Why? Because everything else is contingent on the margin in my life. Margin is really just protecting your time so the important things get done. And for me, it’s keeping my day free enough that I have time for waiting on a three-year-old to get her shoes on, rather than allowing the “tyranny of the urgent” (a marginless life) to turn me into a frustrated, barking mom.

For a busy mom with several small children, just a few extra things can greatly minimize her margins. Consider your season in life and give it an honest evaluation. How much are you home? If you find yourself running somewhere every day, your margins may be too small.

Some basic questions to help you assess your life-margins:

  1. Do you feel rushed due to appointments, deadlines or schedules?
  2. Does your husband have clean underwear?
  3. Do you have time for spontaneous walks? Picnics? Conversations? Reading?
  4. Do you have time to sit in the mornings, perhaps reading God’s Word or thinking through your day?
  5. Do you often feel tense or easily irritated?
  6. Do you say “Hurry up” a lot?
  7. Do you cook most meals or order out?

We have become increasingly busy people. But there is a limit to what we can do and still have a thriving home, be thriving wives and mothers and friends. Ask the Lord to help you create healthy margins and then protect them fiercely!

Part 2:  Housework Again?

Part 3:  When Technology Hurts

Part 4:  Children Are More Than an Organizational Problem

Part 5: I Can’t Get it All Done!”

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19 Responses

  1. wow! this is a great post! without realizing what it was called, I gave myself a greater margin beginning this past summer. I got tired of being a barking Mom and not enjoying my children. Now my DH has clean underwear; I have free time to take walks and have picnics and read books outside with my little ones; we have home cooked meals 6 days a week; I have a school schedule that works for us – I no longer compete with anybody. Yes, I have increased the margins around our lives… we are doing so much better. We even had time for a little vacation.. check out what where we were yesterday. 🙂

    thank you for encouraging your fellow Moms! 🙂


  2. I LOVE having my margins in place. They’re rather large but they = closest thing to sanity our family can get. Fab post Kelly!

  3. I loved the one about the “clean underwear” was on the computer one day and my husband comes walking in-in a towel and t-shirt and says..”um..I’m doing laundry cause I have no underwear” guess that can apply to computer time also!! being real here..good post..

  4. Yep, I never had a name for it either, but I’ve been consciously doing this for years. Believe it or not, my biggest time robber used to be the church I attended. Some churches now a days are so good at keeping their people busy with (often times), mostly meaningless activities that not only keep us apart from our loved ones, but really don’t seem to be doing much for the kingdom of God or anyone else. I think we all want to show that we’re servants of God but there comes a time when you have to ask WHO should I be serving first? Would it really please God that I serve my pastor more than my husband? My children’s church more than my own children? The season’s of our lives WILL change and free us up to do different things at different times. It’s all about our current priorities 😉

  5. I’m so thankful to say, “this used to be me….”. My life has slowed down so much in the last year, and I have your blog and encouragement to thank! This post really sums up what I’ve gleaned from you in the past – focus on what is important to God. The rest is extra. We’ve cut a lot of extras, and we have more time, more patience, more fun together!

    We went through a 4 month renovation on our house — I’m sure nothing like what you are experiencing — but we lived in a one bedroom apartment with 4 kids, 3 cats and our dog! It was a good time to hit re-set on a lot of our activities and commitments. I’m so glad to be in our house now, but am thankful for the simplicity of our ‘apartment days’!

    I hope you can find your rhythm again! Nothing beats those spontaneous walks and picnics! I pray you’ll be able to take a long stroll today…. 🙂 Blessings!

  6. I prefer butter over margarine. OH, You said margin. lol!
    Yes to all. I have been learning to relax. For some, that is natural. For me + husband + 10 kids at home + homeschooling; not so natural. I need to simplify and scale down outside activities, computer time, etc. And God has helped me learn that even more during a recent miscarriage. Sitting still for a time can be very insightful. Observing and listening to my family has been awesome. I’m praising God for all He teaches me when my busy stops and I just ‘be still and know He is God.’

  7. I often use the “My husband had no clean underwear” reason for pulling out of one busy HS group when my daughter was little and I was busy proving how great HSing was to the doubters…

    This just reminds me to submit my schedule to the Lord and cut what he says to cut.

    I am encouraged by your post. It reminds me to stick with what I know, as well encourage me to go beyond what I currently believe. Thanks!

  8. Very Good Points! I like the example you gave of waiting on a three year old to put on shoes. Isn’t it true that time constraints really can affect our attitude? I think it is good for children also to have time for nothing. No books, no movies, no games, etc. When they have quiet time just to think, they come up with all sorts of ideas and questions that are prompted by a sincere desire to learn that goes a little beyond learning to “figure out the lesson” or “accomplish a task.”

    Margin, as you call it, helps us to grow! Yeah, great post.

  9. Wow! I love it when I read a blog post that seems as though it is specifically written for me!

    I was just thinking to myself, I really don’t have time for potty training my 3 year old daughter right now, the schedule just seems too tight! It is TIME to potty train her though! Today was the day that we started and I decided to do minimal schooling today to try to accomplish that goal, but I felt guilty for not sticking to the schedule.

    My husband and I were just talking last night about dropping our homeschool co-op next year because of the extra stress it causes.

    Margin seems to be a topic the Lord is laying in front of me. Time for some adjustments.

  10. Kelly, this is so important. I decided long ago that, I may not be able to give my children everything, but I can offer them myself! Therefore I opted out of outside activities and demands long ago–this gives me lots of the margin I need.

    I also instituted afternoon quiet time 25 years ago, and now the whole house gets quiet every day for a couple of hours–the older children read, etc., the younger ones nap, I get some time with the Lord and rest.

    Good job addressing this important issueF

  11. wonderful blog, very articulate. I like it very much. I come acoss the website by Bing search engine. I may read your site monthly and forward it to my classmates. Please keep it fresh. Keep on the good work. A colleage student

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