Guest Post: The Need For Margin

Yesterday my daughter’s blog post was a powerful one. I asked her if I could share it with you today and she gave me permission to do so. May you be both encouraged and challenged by the thoughts she shares:

Current Status: No Margin
By Anne McClane

Over the last four weeks, I have been processing this concept of “margin” in my life. Actually its more than just processing, God has been hammering me with it!

In July, I gave my work notice that I would be leaving my job as a high school secretary. But, I agreed to stay on until they found someone to replace me (big mistake not to give a specific date…but I was trying to be nice! Trust me, I learned my lesson.) I’ve been working full-time for the last four weeks and it has done nothing but confirm my decision to stay home with Rilyn. Not just for Rilyn’s sake, but also for my husband and for me.

Initially, I made the decision to stay home logistically for Rilyn. Aside from my struggle with leaving her all day with a babysitter, financially it just didn’t make sense. Most of the money I would make would go to her sitters.

But since I’ve returned to work, I’ve gained a new and even greater perspective on why it is important for me to be home: Margin.

Margin: the amount available beyond what is necessary.

Margin in motherhood. Being at work all day, even just sitting at a desk, is exhausting. And being a mom, especially to an infant, means no rest time once I get home. I go through the motions of taking care of Rilyn and trying to be in the moment with her, but I’m not mentally there.

Margin: the amount available beyond what is necessary.

Margin in my marriage. Having my work hat on, then immediately switching to my mommy hat also places challenges on my wife hat, which in my mind should be on before the others. It is important that I am available to support my husband both at home and in ministry. In the last four weeks, I haven’t had as much to give as I’d like. Yes, my marriage could survive in this atmosphere, but I want it to thrive. I want to be an active partner with my husband in life and ministry, but right now its taking a lot of work to be more than passing ships in the night. I’m a better mom to Rilyn if I’m a better wife to my husband first. If I’m being honest, in the last four weeks, I find myself being Mom first, Wife second. Rilyn’s needs are screaming at me (literally screaming sometimes). Matt doesn’t need me to feed, bathe, change or hold him. Being home will provide me the needed margin to set my priorities straight.

Margin: the amount available beyond what is necessary.

Margin in my faith and ministry. Sadly, what little time I was finding in the last few months with God, has become nothing. I’ll be honest, yesterday was the first time in four weeks that I even opened my Bible. I’m empty. And you can’t (or shouldn’t) serve out of your emptiness. Romans 15:13 (The Message) says, “May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!” I can’t be filled with “the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit” without spending quality time with my Savior.

Last year, I stepped down from leading a high school girls small group because I didn’t have the time or energy working full time and being pregnant. I wasn’t able to have the deep relationships with the girls that I used to have. And I miss that. In the last four weeks, I’ve had several ministry opportunities that I just haven’t been able to do because I’ve had to make my family a priority with what little amount I had available.

Margin: the amount available beyond what is necessary.

Margin for me. Being home will also allow me to find time for me. This summer, I had a weekly play date with some other mom friends. I miss that time! I struggle adding friends into the mix when I don’t even have quality time with my family. I also struggle with not feeling guilty when I go have some “me” time. I feel like I should be spending that time with Matt and Rilyn. I don’t even have time to update this blog! Once I’m home full time, there will be more of a balance and more margin for personal time.

Margin: the amount available beyond what is necessary.

I understand that staying home isn’t the answer for everyone. But I do believe that its not only for the sake of a child; its also for the family, marriage and personal lives of those who choose that. I don’t think enough people take that into consideration. I’m not quiting my job because life is too difficult. I’m choosing to prioritize.

Yes, I could find a better paying job. But is that necessary? No, not for us. Yes, we will be giving up nice vacations and Starbucks. But finding margin for the more important things in my life is so worth it!

Anne McClane is the oldest of the Savage kids.  She and her husband Matt have been married four years.  They are the parents of 4-month-old Rilyn. You can find Anne online at

What about you?  Where do you need to find more margin in your life?  What decisions have you made to increase the margin in your life?

Lower the Expectations

On Saturday I had the privilege of watching a friend’s 3-month-old for about 7 hours.  It took me back to the good ‘ole days of burp rags, diaper changes, and very little time for myself. 

I agreed to babysit with two days notice…enough time for me to do one thing: lower my expectations. 

When there’s a little one in your life—whether permanently or temporarily—one has to lower the expectations or one will find herself very frustrated. 

Nearly every time I speak somewhere a weary mom will come up and ask me how in the world I’ve written seven books with five kids.  And my answer is I DIDN’T WRITE MY FIRST BOOK UNTIL MY YOUNGEST WAS IN SCHOOL.  There’s no way I could have ever written a book with a preschooler on my knee.That would have been an impossible expectation and would have resulted in a high level of frustration for me and my family.

So this past Saturday I planned to accomplish only one thing: take care of this little one.  I managed to empty the dishwasher on one of her 15 minute naps and I folded a load of laundry on her second 15 minute nap—but then I felt like superwoman because I EXCEEDED my expectations! 

If you’re in the season of little ones, do yourself a favor and lower your expectations.  Determine that the one thing you will accomplish is to care for your little one. 

I’m sure you’ll get one or two things done beyond that…and then you’ll exceed your expectations and really feel like it’s been a successful day!

What about you?  Have you found it helpful to lower your expectations?  How have you practically done that?

A message from God

Here are some beautiful words from God’s word for you and me today:

“Are you tired? Worn out? …Come to me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace… Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
                                                             Matthew 11:28 The Message

Interruptions are the work!

My friend Becky shared this quote with me this week:

“My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered the interruptions were my work.”   ~~  Henri Nouwen

Wow!  If that doesn’t describe motherhood, I don’t know what does!

Seriously…do you ever feel like you can’t get anything done because of all the interruptions?  The baby cries.  The toddler wakes up. The teenager needs help with his homework.  The hubby needs you to run an errand. 

But what if we looked at those interruptions as our actual work?  In the Hearts at Home book, Professionalizing Motherhood, I share that my sense of accomplishment improved when I stopped making a “to do” list at the beginning of the day and began doing a “did today” list  at the end of the day.  The “did today” list includes all of the interruptions I certainly don’t plan on but very much accomplish each day.

If you are wondering what you are accomplishing…why don’t you give this a try?  I find it helps me keep valuable perspective! 

What about you?  What strategies do you use to keep a right perspective on accomplishment in your day?

Anne’s First-time mom posts

Dear Anne,

You have now entered into a new season of life.  Motherhood will be the most important job you’ll ever have. 

There are so many things that I long to share with you: lessons your dad and I learned the hard way, strategies we learned from everyday parenting experiences, and knowledge that can only come from those who have gone before you.
You’ll have to learn much from your own experiences, but I do hope you’ll allow me to encourage you in some important mothering principles every mom needs to know.
It is so very important, Anne, to keep your marriage a priority.  I’d been married 10 years before I understood the importance of “wife first, mother second.” Set aside time daily to talk, weekly to date, and annually for an overnight getaway. Investing in your marriage is the absolute best gift you can give to your daughter.
You also need to know that you can’t take care of your family if you don’t learn how to take care of yourself.  Stay in tune with your own needs and make an effort to keep your emotional fuel tank filled.  Learn to ask for what you need and work with Matt to take some time for yourself on a regular basis. 
You are now a woman in the profession of motherhood.  Regardless of whether motherhood is your sole profession or it’s one of two professions you have, it’s important for you to think of it as the job that it is.  When a mom thinks of motherhood as a profession she becomes a far more intentional mom.
Don’t be afraid to leave your little one on occasion.  Find another mom to trade childcare with, an older couple in your church to occasionally babysit, or give Nana and Pappaw or Grandma and Grandpa time with your precious little one. 
Every mom needs a mothering community. It’s important to find other moms who understand what your life is like. Start by inviting another mom over for a visit. If possible, find a moms group you can attend regularly.
Build your life on a foundation of faith.  Your relationship with God will give you the strength, the wisdom, and the help you will need as a parent. 
You are now embarking on the most incredible experience you’ll ever have.  You’ll make plenty of mistakes just like every other parent. But you’ll turn those mistakes into learning opportunities like so many others have done before you.   

You can find Anne’s “new mom” blog HERE.

How can you soothe a colicky baby?

Calling all those who have lived through the newborn stage!  What words of wisdom can you share with a new mom and dad who’s little one is so good during the day but has a crying spell of several hours somewhere around midnight each night? 

Little Rilyn is so content during the day, but so discontent for a couple of hours each night.  She doesn’t seem to have a tummy ache, her diaper is dry, she’s nursed well, she’s just unhappy at a time when mom and dad have little stamina.  They have rocked, walked, swaddled, unswaddled…you name it.

We’ve all lived through it and we’ve all likely found things that worked for our kids.  Let’s share some of that wisdom that comes only from experience for those moms (and dads!) of newborns who are tuning into today’s post.

How have you successfully soothed a colicky baby?  How have you stayed sane in the midst of a trying newborn season?

My Daughter is Becoming a Mommy

Today my daughter, Anne, wrote a beautiful letter to her little one due in just a few weeks.  I wanted to share it with you on the eve of Anne’s first Hearts at Home conference that she is attending as an expecting mom.  You can read it on her blog here

My daughter is becoming a mommy. 

This, my friends, is what we work toward as moms everyday.  

Wisdom for first time moms?

I’m spent some time today with a new mom. She was looking for encouragement from a seasoned mom. “Seasoned…” that’s a nice way to say old. 🙂

That conversation got me thinking about a good blog conversation for us to have. Seasoned moms—not “old” but simply defined as a mom with an older child or two or more children—what wisdom would you share with a first time mom?

What did you wish you would have known with the first child that you now know since you’re a little farther down the road?

What do you wish someone would have told you when you were pregnant or navigating this parenting thing for the first time?

Let’s share encouragement with moms who are just starting on this mothering journey!