Thursday, October 22, 2009

Please pass the margin

Have you heard of the concept of margin? I'm not so well-versed, but I believe the concept involves making space in your life, doing a little less, leaving room -- room in your time, your energy, your finances, etc. before you find yourself running on fumes.

I'm feeling the lack of margin these days. There are a couple of witty little posts and long, reflective ones trying to wind their way out, but honesty compels me to admit, right now I got nuthin'. This week I manhandled five passport applications into the U.S. bureaucracy, endeavored to inspire my children to further learning, tutored for four hours, and finally, after feeling like I was spending a disproportionate part of my day walking to and fro in the house picking up stuff, filled with grace for nobody, promised myself to stop that and just for a day, neither clean nor nag. By Wednesday night, I felt myself quivering on the verge of tears during our AWANA club night over my child's "under-performance." Not good.

I had to take ten minutes to stand outside and watch the rain fall. I had to tell the Lord, for the twelve thousandth time perhaps, that I cannot make it and that He must. I had to listen for His reminder that His transforming work in me is just like that gentle rain: unstoppable.

I know my children deserve my best. I know the answer is not to withdraw from them. But I also feel sometimes that they're getting less than my best, because I'm not taking care of their mother. I read a post by beloved author Shannon Hale about mothering and creativity and thought, yes, that part is usually the first to go. But one distant day from now, my children will be living lives of their own, and what will be left? How do you give your family 100%, relishing the work and the joys of the domestic sphere, but also maintain a certain amount of yourself in reserve -- the part that is a child of God and therefore enjoys creating, that wants to go and do and explore?

I believe that children naturally respect adults who take care of themselves, who remain lifelong learners, who refuse to stagnate. Yet meanwhile, they and their surroundings require great care and (often immediate) attention. The default for most of us, I think, is to become primarily consumers and maintainers, rather than producers and delighters. (New word. You're welcome, Mr. Webster.)

Friends, how do you all reconcile this dilemma in your own lives? Has anyone modeled for you that kind of balance?


Anne said...

Ooh, that sounds so eerily familiar I don't even know what to say. Really. When I think of something better than this I'll let you know.

JoAnn said...

Dearest Hannah,
Your story is so very familiar. I can't relate to being a homeschool Mom, but I can relate to needing "margin" while raising three children and keeping a houseful of college students fed and cared for. My margin came when my children finally started to go to school. Having that time during the day when I could really be in control of my surroundings, catch up on laundry, shop in peace, spend time in the Word, and visit with friends, enabled me to deal with all the other demands I had to face when they were home. I don't think they suffered too much for having gone to school, though I am sure that our son got a better education at a private school than our daughter got in public school, where she was often told that "average is OK."
You are doing a great job with the kids, and I know you take homeschooling very seriously. I also know how challenging it can be to have all three of them at home all the time. (Some mothers manage with even more than that!) I don't know how I could have done it. Which is why I didn't.
Have I ever said how much I enjoy the way you write, putting every-day experiences into words that vividly express not only your own trials and joys, but also ours as well? Keep writing.... it's good therapy ;-)
Much love,
Your MIL

Stephanie said...

I want to comment, but I don't know what to say. I believe we all feel this. Whether we home school, traditional school, work, stay-at-home or whatever in between. I know my kids benefit when I take care of my own sanity and well-being - however it is achieved. After all, aren't our children imitators of what we are, not what we say? Who we are and how we take care of ourselves must have a great impact on who they are and who they are becoming.

Julie said...

Wow. I've been feeling the exact same way lately. I don't have officially school aged children, but I do plan on homeschooling, but I feel like every OTHER mom on the planet can handle, keeping the house picked up, the errands run, devoting enough attention to each child in every aspect, learning, play etc. While still maintaining the finances and making it places on time. I only have a toddler and a baby!! Just two! I feel like something is wrong with me. I've decided that my children should not suffer a lack of my attention because the house has to be perfect, which is very hard for me because I always have had to keep going going going until I just drop, just like my mom always did, she never took care of herself, always put herself very last and now I've turned out the same way. Except for I notice when I get even a tiny short break, I'm happier, more cheerful mom. But how do you change a mindset that's been drilled into you your whole life? The only thing that helps me is not taking the time with my children for granted. Which I know no one does, but I mean one day, while handing the baby to my husband and doing chores all day as usual (of course with "baby time" in there too), I realized, the is the last day, my baby will be that small, and today there will be a milestone in his life, a small accomplishment that I might miss. And my older boy needs me just as much and I thought there is nothing that can bring that back. So slowly I'm trying to break myself and take a lot more time for the things that count, no not by any means to live in unsanitary crazy messy conditions..but just stop obsessing about always doing all the things that will never end..there will always be toys everywhere, laundry every single day etc. The only time the house is really picked up is right before a Friday night college meeting if we host and then it's minuetes after that it goes downhill...It's really hard though, and even harder is trying to take care of myself and even harder is that my husband and I rarely ever get the opportunity to go on a date. (max once every two months) So I'm wondering what couples do for that as well... Sorry for the long comment!!