Finding Family Balance Between Activities and Leisure Time

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We seem to live in an ever-scheduled world, where if your preschool and older child isn’t involved in at least 2-3 things a season that you’re seen as a “bad” parent or a “lazy” parent. But really, you’ve got to wonder if the stress involved with transporting numerous children multiple days of the week is good for them or for your stress levels. Or your wallet. Let me explain.

As a child, I was involved in soccer, dance, basketball, and swimming lessons. Not all at the same time, but typically basketball was in the fall/winter, dance was during the school year, soccer was only in the summer (I’m from the midwest) and swimming lessons were…. I don’t even know! But that’s a fairly loaded schedule. Some years I did Kickers Soccer which was like advanced soccer league. We had to travel sometimes 1 hour for a game and had intense practice/training a few times a week. I had 2 parents to drive me around to these things, but I also had 2 younger siblings that were involved in things. I don’t recall what I ever ate the nights I had practice or a game. Or maybe we got drive-thru food afterwards, I can’t recall.

And I loved doing all those activities, but our family life got a bit out of whack with the constant go-go-go. I could tell my mom was stressed for all of it- of being on time to drop one kid off and for another to be dropped off too, across town. Numerous times I would be waiting for an hour in the dance studio because my mom was late, again, picking me up. I don’t remember spending a lot of time with my parents, doing things together, as I would’ve liked. There’s pockets of memories with them, usually at holidays, but not normally a thing like going to the park, going out for lunch/dinner, or just having some random fun.

Why do we seem to have over-scheduled lives these days? The trend seemed to start in the 90s when the economy was good and money seemed to be more within grasp for middle class families. With that, parents were able to enroll their child in sports, instruments, martial arts, dance, gymnastics, and other activities. In an attempt to socialize their child and show their money off (at least partially) to others, children in this generation were given the world. The consolation trophy was invented for those who didn’t place in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. Little awards were given for each year you were a dancer at the studio I went to- the awards ceremony was fun!

When I was about 12 years old, I was upset about how I was always in the 3rd and 4th row in dance and was crying about it. I decided that if I was never going to be “seen” while dancing that I didn’t want to do it anymore. I also wasn’t part of the popular girls, so I believed that was a factor too. Around that time I was disinterested in soccer too and decided to not do any more sports or etc because I felt the pull of my time in ways that I didn’t like anymore. I was also involved in Girl Scouts amidst all the dance, sports, an instrument that I was learning how to play, etc. It just got to be too much for me. Pulled in so many directions.

And I noticed a profound change in me. I no longer felt rushed to get ready for this to be on time for that event going on, to warm up and be ready for a game or practice, to make sure that I had my equipment ready. I took a hiatus from all activities for a few years and really decided to simplify and discover who I was, what I liked, and who I liked to be around. I discovered a lot, deepened my friendships, read more books, and reveled in the silence that I now had. I began writing poetry- looking back on it now, it’s a bit juvenile, but still important to self-expression.

I discovered that I loved to cook and bake and gained confidence in the kitchen, which allowed me to try new things, eat new foods, and now I love all types of unique cuisines and can make them too in my from-scratch kitchen. I started singing in the choir and fell in love with that. I still sing whenever possible and love doing karaoke and can sing 3-4 octaves worth, from Alto 2 through Soprano 2. I got a 1/4 tuition college scholarship for singing. I deepened my skills with computers and gave a detailed speech/presentation on how to use Excel when I was in 4th grade- my parents remember this, but I don’t. No wonder I’m so good with it… haha! I now make my own business Handbook, forms, contract, design images, write on this blog, do email campaigns, and so much more.

Just recently, I discovered that I love DIY, minimalist, and frugal living. I love being able to do simple and meaningful things with my children, things I wish my parents did with me- going to the beach, the park, a splash pad, the kiddie pool at the YMCA, playing in the backyard, making cookies together, cleaning (I know, an odd one, right!?), grocery shopping, and sensory/table activities. I find that the most important thing for children is connection to those that love them. I revel in this discovery on an everyday basis because I may decide to enroll my older son in a dance class or soccer. But we will do 1 thing at a time, and if he doesn’t like it, we will try to finish out the timeframe or move on to something else. Or just simplify and have family dinners at home more. I like those nights the best, anyways. đź’—

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