Well, let’s just jump right into this. Some of you are going to love today’s topic, and some of you are going to be haters. I’m okay with that. We can still be friends, right?
Before we jump into today’s somewhat controversial topic, I’d like to introduce you to Sarah, a like-minded friend whom I met in college. Sarah is a full time working mom with two adorable children. She has been collaborating with me on this series, lending the perspective of a simple lifestyle while working full time. I am grateful for the input that she has shared and am excited to share her wisdom with you all today! Welcome, Sarah!
Looking at my calendar used to give me anxiety. Each day had at least one activity for our kids, not to mention any activities that my husband or I were involved in at the moment, too. The thing was, it was all good stuff: story time at the library, pottery classes, gymnastics, piano lessons, Bible studies, homeschool groups, basketball leagues…you get the picture. While it was all good, it was also all exhausting. My husband and I would race through our weeks, often feeling like we didn’t actually get a chance to see each other until the weekend.
Isn’t that what parents do, though? Isn’t part of our job to make sure that our children develop interests and chauffeur them to a myriad of activities? Well…yes and no.
Yes, it is part of the parent’s role to play chauffeur. However, we always need to keep our limits in mind. Here are three questions to ponder before signing kids up for activities:
- Can I handle this commitment and does it work with our family schedule? At our house, my husband and I have learned through experience that we can manage running kids to activities two nights per week. That’s our limit. Family time is a priority for us, and being gone more than two nights per week leaves us feeling harried and disconnected from our kids.
At Sarah’s house, one night a week is what works for them. Eating dinner as a family is a priority at their house, as well as allowing a healthy amount of down time for both the parents and kids to regroup each day.
We both have spouses with somewhat erratic schedules, so it is also important for both of us to weigh out whether we can handle carting kids to these activities without our spouse’s help.
- Is there a lifelong benefit to participating in this activity? This is an extremely subjective question, and the answers will vary wildly depending on a family’s values and interests. My kids love Star Wars, and taking a class called “Jedi Training” sure sounds fun, but is there any lifelong benefit for my kids in this class? Probably not. They also love participating in the AWANA program and youth groups at our church. My husband and I feel that these programs have lifelong benefit to our kids, as they are developing relationships with positive peers and adult mentors, as well as growing in the knowledge and relationship with Christ.Sarah says, “I started my kids in swim lessons quite young because I believed in the lifelong benefit of this. We spend a lot of time around water in the summer, swimming, fishing, kayaking, etc. This was something I felt strongly about my children doing. Since the age of three, they have both been in swim lessons in the summer. I have also done one round of swim lessons in the fall, stopped for the winter (because I didn’t want that commitment during the winter months) and then started again in spring. We will continue to do this.”
- Does my child show demonstrated interest in this activity? While I always want to encourage my children’s interests, I also want to make sure that we are focusing our energies where they are truly interested and invested. My kids have never shown interest in playing soccer; thus, I am not going to sign them up for soccer. However, my daughter did show an interest in playing ukulele. After discussing it for several months (to make sure it wasn’t a short-lived interest), we found a wonderful teacher who gives online lessons. This was a perfect for for our family, and my daughter is thriving in these lessons!Sarah has a different approach to this question. “I have brought up activities that I have wanted my children to try, or thought they may like to try, sometimes before they have expressed interest. I think it is important for my kids to try different activities to see what they like and don’t like. So, on and off from a young age, both of my kids have tried a variety of things. Most of this has taken place during the summer, when I am not working. They have both tried gymnastics, soccer and going to a day camp.” The key to this working for Sarah is to doing what works for her family schedule – in this case, doing these activities during the summer, when she is home with her kids.
Okay, these questions are all well and good, but how does one narrow down the choices with their kids? I think Sarah has a brilliant approach to this: “When my child has to make a choice between activities, she always compares everything to swimming (her most favorite activity), and so far has always chosen swimming over everything else.” Teaching our kids to make these tough choices early on will help them see where their interests truly lie, as well as instill in them how to live a balanced life. And that’s a legacy we truly want to leave with our children, right?
We’ve established our limits, prioritized our activities…and next week, we’ll take a look at the idea of rest. See you then!