Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week I talk about how margin can easily slip away with busyness.
I have always been a stay-at-home mom, but with my writing I’ve moved more and more towards “working from home”, and it’s eating so much of our margins. My husband and I are taking a weekend retreat in two weeks to pray about how to do life differently, because this isn’t what we want. At the same time, it’s difficult because we’ve felt that God was moving both of us in the direction we are now. So we’re going to put all options on the table and ask God to help us find the win-win. Sometimes all couples need to do that! And if you could pray for wisdom for us, that would be great.
I love to-do lists and organization planners. I have Excel spreadsheets for household chores and the business tasks I need to complete on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. On good days, when I don’t hit the snooze button, I actually get most of those things done.
There’s only one problem. I have no margins in my life. If I’m super organized and super energetic, it is possible to keep my house clean and to get all my work done and, hopefully, to head to the grocery store before we’re stuck discovering that all we have in the cupboards are tins of cranberry sauce and tuna. But if an emergency comes up, I’m in trouble.
My husband works more than full-time, and my writing and speaking require my full-time attention and too much travel. Because I write primarily on marriage, it’s also really hard to neglect mine, or that “hypocrite” word might get tossed around. And with my oldest now flown the coop, I’m trying to spend as much time as I can with my youngest before she leaves, too.
Life is simply busy. Pretty much everyone feels that way. But I think one of the biggest sources of stress isn’t the amount of work on our plate; it’s that nagging feeling that one more straw is going to cause the whole thing to come crashing down.
We used to have some buffer in our lives. At one time women were home to bring dinners to friends in the hospital, or to take parents to doctors’ appointments, or to care for a sister’s child if said sister caught a disgusting intestinal bug. Today few of us have people we can rely on. And what’s perhaps even worse is that we aren’t able to be there for those that we love, either.
When my cousin had a baby recently and needed help, I wasn’t in the position to go. What kind of life are we leading if we don’t have the room to be there for those that we love?
Yet my problem doesn’t stop there. What if, in all of our chaos of making more money, we’re actually missing out on a “good life”? A “good life” has to involve little touches of creativity and beauty: that home-cooked meal instead of the barbecued chicken we picked up on the way home; those refinished dressers instead of the Ikea assemble-yourself plywood; the crocheted baby afghans. One of the things I miss most lately is the joy of friends coming for dinner, an event which is quite difficult if you’re never home to cook dinner, let alone to clear a path to the dining room table.
My business started off extremely part time, but it has mushroomed, for which I am grateful. My husband is doing well at his job, for which I am proud. Yet I am not certain that this is the life I want. If I have no room for emergencies, and little room for beauty and hospitality and fun, then what is the point?
The dual income family is now the norm, and that won’t change. Certainly we could all lower our expectations and work less. The reduction in stress is likely worth the reduction in income. Yet that is not always easy to do. And in the meantime, there is no one left to “keep the homefires burning”. We women felt undervalued when we were “just housewives”, but gradually, as most women work, more and more of us are realizing just how valuable having someone at home was. That spouse didn’t just care for the kids and do the housework; that spouse gave you that buffer, that margin, that made life liveable. I can’t give up a business I’ve spent years creating, but in the meantime, I could really use a wife.
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