I am typing this while perched on a stool outside my daughter’s ballet class. I am distracted as I type – I keep looking up to watch my tiny bunhead plié at the barre and practice her pique turns across the floor. There is, in my opinion, no better way to spend a Sunday morning.
That being said, I am starting to have some seriously conflicted feelings about my kids’ extracurricular activities. Sometimes I think there are too damn many of them.
Here’s how our schedule nets out: Monday afternoon is tennis. Tuesday is music lessons – piano for my daughter, drums for my son. Wednesday my son plays drums in a rock band (side note: eight-year-old rock band is hilarious). Thursday is soccer practice for my son and dance team rehearsal for my daughter. Fridays are free. Usually we have a soccer game on Saturday. Then Sunday it’s ballet and tap classes back-to-back.
That’s insane, right? I mean, this is on top of homework and playing with friends and normal kid activities. The logistics involved are mind-boggling. And I am only able to make it work because I work primarily from home, have an incredibly flexible schedule, and have some help from my parents, other kids’ parents, and/or our regular babysitter (especially critical on Thursdays when dance and soccer directly conflict). What on earth are we going to do when the baby is old enough to want her own activities?!? (And OMG Heather just told me she can have up to ten games per weekend when all three of her children are fully engaged in all of their sports. TEN GAMES PER WEEKEND.)
I acknowledge that this slate of extra-curriculars is a lot, but every time I try to cut it down I hit a roadblock: when you break it down, it’s only one instrument each, one physical activity each, plus a tennis lesson thrown on top. The sole activity my husband and I “make” them do is Tuesday music; the rest is stuff they adore. It’s stuff they do with friends. It’s stuff they would very much miss if we took it off the calendar.
And let’s get real: given today’s school landscape, a lot of kids don’t regularly receive arts education or even PE at school anymore. I can rail about how “overscheduled” my kids are all I want…but if any of us want expose our children to music or martial arts or team sports or gymnastics or dance or painting or whatever they love and your family values, you’re probably going to have to book it outside of school hours. That’s today’s reality.
Yes, I worry about them being spoiled and entitled – of course I do – but I also find it hard to muster a serious argument against my daughter’s love of dance, or my son’s love of team sports in general. So for the time being, we’re stuck with our crazy schedule.
And this got me thinking. What do parents do when they both work and no one has a super flexible work-from-home schedule? Seriously, what do they do? It seems to me the options are as follows: (i) pay one or more nannies a small fortune to chauffer the kids around; (ii) arrange carpools like a boss with other kids’ parents (although this is hard if you can’t regularly reciprocate); or (iii) just don’t have the kids do these activities. Argh. None of those are awesome options.
Lovely readers, Heather and I would love to hear from you about how you solve the extra- curricular problem. Any tips, pointers, insights? Whether you’re a working parent who’s had to solve for a calendar like mine, or a SAHM or SAHD who juggles multiple kid schedules and/or helps out shuttling friends’ kids around, we’d sincerely love to hear from you. Tell me my schedule is insane and I’m a bad mom for allowing it, if you want. I can take it.
Hit us with an email or let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
As for me, as conflicted as I feel, I’m going to keep on being a chauffer and tossing snacks into the back seat as we dash from one activity to the next. I’ll keep returning emails from my iPhone as my kids smack tennis balls back and forth to each other, and taking conference calls from the park as I watch my son run as fast as he can down the soccer pitch. I’ll cheerfully agree to pick up my daughter’s dance team friend after practice on Thursdays, because her parents both have office jobs and they really need the assist.
Wishing you an easy Monday with light traffic.