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?

You’re Still At Home and Your Children Are In School?

This article was first published in 2002 when my youngest entered kindergarten (and before we adopted child #5!). But it’s still pertinent today, and I was reminded of that after receiving two emails from readers this past week who were struggling with this decision. May this encourage those of you who have kids in school but still want to be committed to the profession of motherhood.

You’re Still At Home and Your Children Are In School?

By Jill Savage

I can hardly believe the day is here. In fact, I’m not quite sure what to think of the prospect of this new season of life. Because of the spacing of our four children, we have had a preschooler at home for 17 years. For the first time in my career as a mom, I now have all of my children in full-day school. What will I do with myself?

The question was posed to me the other day, “Now that all of your children are in school what will you do?” When I responded that I would remain committed to full-time motherhood, the second question followed: “Why?” While there are fewer of us home full-time when our children enter school, most who remain home do so with the same convictions I have. Let me share with you why I think the profession of motherhood is still a valid career choice for me:

Maintaining The Energy To Parent—It is so difficult for me to put in a full days work outside of the home and come home feeling ready to handle the challenges of parenting children. Keeping a strong marriage takes energy as well. With homemaking as my profession, it is the activity to which I give my primary energy.

After School Hours—A recent study was conducted with sexually active teenagers. When asked when and where they most often had sex, the most common reply was in their own homes between the hours of 3pm-5pm! My children need my presence for accountability, for encouragement, and for communication. Those hours after school are also when they talk most about their day, their struggles, their hopes, and their fears. An after school snack and a listening ear are important parts of my long-term career goal of helping my children mature and learn about the world in which they live. I don’t want to miss that.

Parenting Responsibilities—I don’t believe it’s my oldest child’s responsibility to parent her siblings. While she is certainly capable of caring for her brothers and sister on occasion, and even being an occasional taxi driver for extracurricular activities, she doesn’t need that responsibility every day after school, on school holidays, or during the summer.

Sick Days, Field Trips, Volunteer Opportunities—Being available to care for a sick child at home without concern of how many personal days I’ve used up at the office is emotionally freeing to me. Accompanying field trips or helping out at the school are valuable ways for me to stay involved in my children’s education. The school, the church, and the community need volunteers who have time and energy to help with worthwhile endeavors. I believe that’s a good use of my education and my skills.

Laundry, Meals, and the Fine Art of Homemaking—Just because everyone is in school, there’s still the same amount of laundry, the same meals to prepare, and the same house to manage. There are appointments to make, bills to pay, and groceries to buy. I don’t believe I’ll want for something to do.

Many moms use this season to return to school themselves or pursue part-time employment just during the school year, while keeping family the priority. It’s a good season to explore some of those opportunities. I’ll probably do that as well, with some writing and speaking opportunities. However, with one child in full-day kindergarten, one in sixth grade, one enjoying his sophomore year, and one entering her senior year in high school, there’s plenty of work to be done at home and in the lives of my children. I still believe there’s no better profession than the profession of motherhood!

For a Season and a Reason

The Savage’s are enjoying a much-needed Spring Break. But when it’s over, I’ll be returning to something that I thought I’d never do again: homeschool.

Many years ago I homeschooled Anne in 7th grade and Evan in 5th and 6th grade. We made the homeschooling choice because quite honestly, Anne desired to be home and because Evan needed it from an academic perspective. It was for a season and for a reason.

This year has been an incredibly hard year for our 17-year-old. The fall was difficult emotionally and relationally. She even struggled academically—a first for her in the high school years. Throughout the fall she kept saying, “I need to get out of the high school environment. It’s not a good place for me.” Of course we did what all parents would do—we encouraged her to persevere. “Life get’s hard sometimes. You have to stick with it. It build’s character when you push through the hard stuff…” we encouraged.

Over Christmas break Erica became lethargic. She slept more than she was awake. This continued into January and we didn’t know if there was something physical causing this (all tests were coming up negative) or if the emotional was causing the physical. It was a very hard season for her and for us. By the end of January, Erica was asking me to finish out her highschool by homeschooling her. My initial response was no because she was so close to being finished (she was set to graduate in Dec 2008).

The physical exhaustion continued into February and finally on a third set of blood tests we had our answer—she tested positive for Epstein-Barr virus which is a marker for Mono. Now we had an answer!

After much prayer and discussion, Mark and I decided that the best thing for Erica emotionally, academically, and physically was to bring her home. The school has let us keep her textbooks for the remainder of the semester and she will finish up next fall with a mix of homeschooling and as a dual enrolled student at Heartland Community College earning both high school and college credit.

She made the transition about three weeks before Spring Break (and two weeks before the Hearts at Home conference!), so we’ve just started into our new routine, but we’ll really transition fully next week.

But the difference we’ve already experienced has been amazing. Erica is as relaxed as she’s been in a long time. She’s self-motivated to learn and has been very receptive to my leadership and teaching. She’s been pleasant to be around. It’s like the weight of the world has been lifted off her shoulders.

One of the reasons I value being home is because it affords us options. No, not the kind of options that money buys, but the kind of options that time buys. I honestly never thought I’d homeschool again but I guess it is again for a season and a reason.