The One Thing Every Parent Desperately Needs

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Glass half-full or glass half-empty?

It’s the age-old keep-your-chin-up statement—the positivity guilt-trip. When life gives you lemons (they say), add them to your glass and you’ve got lemonade. And so when a well-meaning someone asks how we are, we smile and respond, “Great! How are you?” even while the weight of life grows heavier on our shoulders. As husbands and wives, moms and dads, we wear our weariness like a badge. We are worn out, and it is worth it!

Until one day the glass goes from empty to full to overflowing. And we realize we’re drowning.

Dear friends, this is not okay.

We need room to breathe. We need permission to stop. We need space to think.

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What we need—what we desperately need—is margin.

What is margin?

The dictionary defines margin as an extra amount of something (such as time or space) that can be used if needed.

Two key things stand out to us in that definition: extra and if needed.

In our fast-paced world, there’s not much allowance for extra. We fill our days to the brim with work, chores and social gatherings. When something or someone comes along and needs us—when we need a moment to ourselves—it can feel like stopping will send the train off the tracks.  

How do I get margin?

For this reason, margin must be deliberately scheduled. If we are to have extra space or time to use when we need it, then we have to set boundaries with boldness. We should be more concerned with balance than busyness.

Creating margin might just mean grabbing your calendar and blocking out white space—boxes with a whole lot of nothing planned. Are you beginning to see the picture?

What does margin look like?

From the outside looking in, margin may look like laziness. Margin can be found sitting on couches, taking a bath, strolling through the neighborhood, listening to music, reading a book, putting together puzzles, laughing, talking, or even just sitting in silence.

Margin isn’t immediately productive. But, boy, does it have lasting benefits.

The pause that margin provides is life-giving. Margin allows you to breathe, leaves room for creativity, and offers a quiet space for you to think and grow. It also serves as a catchall for life’s inevitable mishaps and emergencies. Margin looks reality square in the face and says, “I know you’re coming. I’ll be ready for you.”

A person who makes room for margin is a mature man or woman indeed.

You can create margin in your life by starting with three small steps:

1. Acknowledge the truth:

Be honest with yourself about how busy you really are. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, admit it and refuse to let guilt seep in. Instead, remember that a mature adult makes room for margin.

2. Make some changes:

Grab a calendar or a sheet of paper. Consider all that you do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Leave nothing out—that means you should include kids’ activities, church events and TV time. Evaluate your schedule and make a few cuts. Then fill those openings with blank spaces. When the time comes, you can meet a need or simply enjoy your newfound margin.

3. Alert your people:

Inform anyone who will be affected by your schedule cuts. Then talk with your spouse and a close friend about your new view on life. Ask for encouragement and understanding, and hold firm if you get resistance.

As this article comes to a close, we have just one request: that you make margin a priority today. We hope you’ll find yourself getting more sleep at night, showing up early to appointments, and maybe even breathing a little easier throughout the day.

personal-development | @ChrisBrownOnAir