Planning for Margin

Andrea FortenberryFamily

What’s your weekly schedule like? Is every evening accounted for? Or do you have some white space on the calendar where you can relax and be together as a family? 

Until my daughter was in the first grade, we had a general practice of only allowing her to choose one extra-curricular activity at a time. We attended mid-week service at church, so that was two evenings out of seven that were filled. We knew plenty of families who had over scheduled and overextended their kids with sports, music lessons, church, scouting and more. Just hearing about their schedules made me anxious, so we decided to put this guideline in place. 

But I knew the day was coming when my daughter would want to do more than one thing at a time and when my son would also begin extra-curricular activities. We slowly began to loosen our guideline. Between the two of them, we currently have four out of seven evenings filled. Sometimes five, depending on whether my daughter has a swim meet. It’s a lot to manage. The one weeknight when we don’t have anywhere to be is a gift! 

Although this school year hasn’t ended yet, we’re already talking about our summer calendar and next school year. For the summer, we have numerous camps and activities the kids can do, but many of the dates conflict with an out-of-town wedding.  

My daughter will be old enough for band next school year and she’ll be moving up to 5th and 6th grade at church, which makes her eligible for the student worship team. She’s also interested in cheerleading.  

We spent some time this week talking about all these activities. We decided we had to say no to some camps because the dates didn’t work out and we wouldn’t have enough margin. Doing it all would just be too much. Doing too much makes us tired, it makes us eat out more and we miss out on family time. 

I also explained how we need to take some things off the calendar next school year before we can add other things. She responded well and we decided to cancel gymnastics after this month. We picked a few summer activities for this year and will hope to do the others next summer.  

Margin is so important for us as individuals and with our families. Margin is what allows for pillow fights, snuggle time and game nights. Margin allows us to be present, instead of being exhausted or distracted by what comes next. 

If you think your family is overscheduled and needs some margin, here are a few helpful questions to help you create more white space on the calendar:

·      What on our calendar feels like more of an obligation than a joy? Cut it as soon as you can.

·      Which activities can we move to a later date or cancel altogether?

·      What guideline(s) can we set in place for our children’s activities? (A certain number at a time, certain days of the week only, etc.)

·      Which day(s) of the week can our family block out on the calendar to enjoy down time?  

It may not happen overnight, but when you do get that margin on the calendar, enjoy it and make some fun memories with your family! You don’t need to go anywhere to make memories. Go home and love being with each other.