Working Mom Challenge: Margin

Working mom challenge Remember when you had your first baby? Do you remember the most ANNOYING bit of advice that the church ladies gave you? I’m going to guess that it was this: “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” I’m certain that they meant well, but my first baby did not sleep. Ever. Like, not even in the hospital. I spent much of his first year trying to find him interesting things to look at. He did eventually learn to sleep–sometime between his 18th and 20th birthdays, and he now can successfully sleep through any home project that is going on, such as vacuuming, laundry, or lawn mowing.

This advice was well-meaning. And perhaps, if that kid had slept, I MIGHT have taken it. But probably not. I was young, and I had a lot less need of what I need so much now in my 40s. Margin.

Margin and balance are the self-care elements that I crave so much more now that I work full-time. While I still want to do all the things, I know that if I try, I will end up burnt out and resentful.

So, as I get busier at work, I learn to at least try to say no more outside of work. My busiest time at work is in the fall, when the kids also seem to be busiest with school and sports. There are class parties, and cross country team trips, and PTO fundraisers. Meanwhile I am super nose-down all day at work trying to make three major events to run smoothly. In the fall, I am the mom who sends napkins for the class party. And I no longer feel guilty about it. To me, it is the working mom equivalent of sleeping when the baby sleeps.

This time of year is much more routine and “regular” at work. This is when I can say yes to more things. This is when I can  send a cute snack to school for the Twins’ birthday (they are going to be SEVEN on Saturday!!!!!) Tune in later this week for my working Mom cute Snack Tutorial!  This time of year I can consider helping out with sporting events.

Saturday I had a rare, unscheduled weekend day. IT WAS FABULOUS! I did really sexy, exciting things–like do all of the laundry, vacuum the living room, and clean the kitchen. But I also had the joy of reading for hours with the girls, binge watching Little House on the Prairie, and crocheting (another) hat.

I encourage you to leave an unscheduled weekend day for yourself every few months–resist the temptation to add something in. You might have to (gasp) say no to someone to get such a day, but I assure you, it will leave you refreshed and renewed!

I’m doing a few other things to insure some margin in my day to day life. My freshman is on the swim team this year (which makes me indescribably happy!) and has 6 am practices 4 or 5 days a week. I am NOT a morning person, but I crave alone time. So, I have begun spending an hour each morning after dropping him off in a “morning make”. I brew my pot of coffee, turn on the news, and crochet for a solid, quiet, blessed hour!!!By the time I have to wake the other kids, I am caffeinated, un-stressed (crochet is SO zen for me), and ready to face the day. As a side benefit, I am then tired enough to get to bed at a decent hour at night! I do NOT check texts or social media during this time. As a matter of fact, I don’t log in to anything until I am at work and even then, not until after I do my daily reading.

Adopting one laundry day a week has given me some space in my week as well. Laundry day may be busy–but I only have to fold and put away clothes one day a week! Somehow that reduces my stress the rest of the week. I no longer feel like I have laundry looming over me. Now, this did take getting all of my laundry caught up at once–blizzard to the rescue!!!

I’m also sticking to my plan of meeting up with girlfriends for lunch regularly. As much as I crave alone-time, I also crave time with friends!

Chime in! How do you create margin in your working mom life?

Margin, Do You Have It?


One of the toughest challenges of being a working mom is trying to fit everything in. We feel this (unspoken) need to make sure that the home is being run just as well or better than it was when we were there full-time. We want to make sure that the schools realize that we “have it all together” and that we are not dropping any homework or volunteering balls. We want to prove to our husbands that we are superwomen.

Or, maybe that is just me.

But I suspect that it is you as well.

As an extroverted introvert I need quite a bit of margin.

You know, white space.

Time alone with nothing to do.

A blank spot on the calendar.

Do you have it?

Way back in my MOPS days, one of our speaker explained margin plainly. She explained that every mom needs some breathing room. Some come by it by waking up very early in the morning. (hello! So NOT me! You won’t see me tweeting abut my #miraclemorning anytime soon.) Some stay up late at night. (more my style). But some find it difficult to say no to things, or just have a super demanding life and that margin never, ever happens.

And then. . . Mama has a breakdown.

It is rarely pretty.

So, the advice that this wise mom gave is what I am going to pass on to you today.

You have to schedule (or, truth be told, unschedule) margin. This wise woman gave the advice to mentally divide your day into three parts–morning, afternoon and evening. The goal is to leave one of those blocks unscheduled.

And, I really do try to do this. Now, before you jump to the conclusion that another woman on Facebook did a few weeks ago, “Wow, it must be nice for you to have such a flexible schedule!”, let me remind you that I have six children, a husband, a 40 hour a week job, committees, friends, and commitments. I also have the same 24 hours a day to work with as you do.

So, when I say that I leave a block unscheduled each day (and some days it just cannot happen), I am not saying that I do nothing at all 5 mornings a week. What it looks like in my life is that if I have a morning meeting on Monday, and a lunch date with a friend that day, I need to make sure that my evening is less structured so that I do not feel like a whirling dervish. Or, if the kids have activities every night this week–concerts and sports events and parties–I need to use my lunchbreak at work wisely, and use that time to pick up groceries, run to the post office, or even get my hair trimmed.

Margin means that I am not double parking my brain.

Margin means that I am scheduling time for things that refresh and renew me.

For example, mornings in our house are crazy. There is not a single morning person in our family, and we all have to head out the door within minutes of each other. Even if I could sneak away and spend five minutes in devotional time, it would be far from peaceful.

So I set aside my first bit of time at work for a devotion and to read part of a professional development book. I do this before cracking open the email or updating the social media calendars. I schedule that time in, before the day can get away from me.

I set aside my lunchbreak to write. Some days I run errands and meet friends for lunch, but mostly I write. Writing clears my mind and renews me. So I schedule it in. . .or it would never happen.

Margin makes me a better woman, and my family realizes when I am running short on it. There are times when it just does not happen, like busy seasons at work, or holidays, or getting ready to leave on vacation. But, as a rule, I try to make sure it occurs.

Chime in! How do you make sure to get margin in your life? Leave me a comment or a tweet! 

For your continuing education: