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My first “personal growth” book of 2018 was The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner. Apparently, she is loved in the Christian blogging community, but her name was completely new to me. I picked it up at the library simply because I stumbled upon it looking for something else and as I read the back cover, it looked like something I might benefit from!
“Fringe Hours” are pockets during the day where you can find some time to do something for yourself. They will probably vary from person to person but for a mom of young kids, I find that my available fringe hours are before everyone wakes up, during naps, and after my children go to sleep. Turner also mentions lunchtime as a popular time, especially for people who work and have a lunch-break they can use to read, go for a walk, etc. If children are at a practice or activity, a parent could also take advantage of this time. Lastly, during meals was a suggested time. This was the least likely time for me! (Walking away from a toddler and preschooler while they eat dinner sounds like a disaster waiting to happen!)
It came as no surprise to me that I have these chunks of time during the day that I could use. Except Jessica Turner was able to convince me to actually USE this time to do something for me. I was easily convinced that it was worth it to wake earlier in the morning to start the day doing something I loved, than to continue to wake up when my children wake up, whining about being hungry or needing help with something.
She asked questions throughout the book to help the reader identify passions, which may have been stifled for years or even decades! “What inspires you? Who inspires you?” I struggled at first to identify some of these interests, outside the obvious answers of reading and cooking. I think at this time in my life, these really are my passions.
If I struggled with anything in the book, it was a chapter called Embracing Help. Turner’s solution to create more time and less stress in the day, was to hire out help in areas like food prep, childcare, cleaning, home repair, and even hobbies (as in developing new hobbies). In the subsequent chapter, she discusses obstacles, with finances being the first one listed. It was difficult to read about how you need to look at your budget items and decide which things you can go without so that you can get help from outside the home, thus making your life less stressful. Turner gave an example of cutting her cable bill so that she could afford to have someone clean her house twice a month. I know many people may be able to easily eliminate some items that aren’t necessary or bringing them joy to be able to create room in their budget for services that will help them reduce stress. But I thought of the many families who do not have space in their budget to remove anything because they already have removed all the extraneous items. It felt like a potentially isolating chapter.
The other concept in the book that is a struggle for some, though not everyone, was learning to say no to things. Turner suggested holding activities up Kon-Mari style, asking “Does it bring me joy?” before saying yes to it. There are some situations where you may be able to do this and effectively say no to something because you do not have enough time to do it well. But there are many situations where you just need to figure it out and do it. There are plenty of things I’d like to say no to because they are stressing me out, but that doesn’t mean I can forego my responsibility. Turner might suggest picking up a baked item instead of taking the time to cook it yourself. But again, finances come into play, and not everybody is able to do this. Even while I could see how “saying no” does not always work, I think it is something that I should practice.
All in all, a wonderfully challenging book. This genre of books is not my favorite and I can confess to seldom reading through the entirety of a “personal growth” book, but The Fringe Hours came into my hands at just the right time and was powerful for me. I’d love to hear what fringe hours would look like in your day. What times could you identify in your day where you could be doing something that would bring you joy?