IMG_3597edThe air is slowly starting to get a bit cooler and the days a bit shorter (well, maybe not in Texas…but I know it is in some parts of the world), and I know it can only mean that fall will be soon approaching. Fall approaching in the Northern Hemisphere also means school starting, schedules to follow, and the onset of after school activities.

I don’t know how it is in your part of the globe, but here in Texas, some children start playing tackle football from the time they can walk (it seems). If they aren’t playing football, then they are playing year round baseball and look like mini major league players.  A few months ago, I was talking to a mom of a girl in my son’s grade and she was telling me that both her girls are in ballet two times a week, gymnastics one day a week, one takes piano and the other takes violin lessons. And the same daughter who takes violin lessons, gymnastics and ballet also has to swim four days a week at 7:30 pm at night to be able to compete on the swim team. Her daughter is only going into second grade!!!

I remember looking at her and she could tell I was in total shock…all I could think was how does she do it?? I must be doing something wrong!  Am I a bad mom?!

I am struggling with my two children and one just starting school full time. I thought having them in one extra activity and my son attending church class once a week was good.

How can my own children compete with the little ones who have been playing sports almost every day of the week since they were born? Have I somehow failed my own children? Was there some hidden talent that I hadn’t noticed (dragged) out of them?

Why was I feeling like I was back in grade school comparing myself to the “pretty girls” and feeling like I would never be good enough? I felt that pang in my gut which was identical to one of the “cool” kids telling me I didn’t have the right clothes. Why was I feeling like my kids weren’t doing enough?

And then, I heard my own son asking me when he was going to have a day after school when he didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything. He was happy with what he was doing and didn’t want to add any more, but I was insecure about myself as a parent.

It is so easy to fall into that “rat race” parent trap. You may know the one…the one where you think that you are somehow failing your children because you think you aren’t giving them all the opportunities and advantages that they should have. After I caught my breath (and my mind) from talking with that lady, I realized that there was no way I could ever have the energy (or the sanity) to have my own children involved in so much. Even after doing homework and one extra after school activity, my son was asking me when he could have some free time. Between his activity and church class and my daughter’s activity, there was still only one night a week that we had nowhere we had to be after school.

Over this summer, I didn’t enroll my children in any activities. I took them with me up to Michigan for six weeks to spend the summer visiting family and to stay at my parents’ lake home on Lake Michigan. Some may think I am crazy not to enroll them in anything over the summer, but they were never bored. Between spending time with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, swimming in Lake Michigan, long walks, looking for special stones in the lake and late nights staying up learning how to play the old card games like Crazy Eights, War, Michigan Rummy and Hearts, they were able to discover things they liked and ways to keep themselves busy without the need for an organized activity to keep them “scheduled” through the summer.

I am not saying organized activities are in any way detrimental to children. I will be enrolling my children in one activity each when school starts, but I started thinking about how much is too much for children to handle on top of school and homework and chores at home. There is so much pressure on children to perform on tests at school and find that special talent which may get them a scholarship to go to college. It is so easy to get caught up in the “Rat Race” of trying to over schedule our children.

How much is too much, and when is it not enough?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that when I start to feel that sense of panic and anxiety, I need to tell myself that I am doing the best I can with the time I have and the needs and wants of my children. Listening to my son asking me when he will have an afternoon not to have to go anywhere told me that we could not add any more to our schedule.

My rule I follow right now (that works for me) is one after school activity a semester during school. My children can only choose one and then if they want to switch to something else, they can switch at the semester. This thought process may not get either of my children a sports scholarship, but I think they may grow up to be happy, well rounded adults.

How do you handle the “rat race” of activities with your children?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog written by Meredith. You can check out her life as an expat living in Nigeria and her transition back to the U.S. through her blog at We Found “Happiness”.

Photo credit to the author.

Meredith (USA)

Meredith finds it difficult to tell anyone where she is from exactly! She grew up in several states, but mainly Illinois. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana which is also where she met her husband. She taught kindergarten for seven years before she adopted her son from Guatemala and then gave birth to her daughter two years leter. She moved to Lagos, Nigeria with her husband and two children in July 2009 for her husband's work. She and her family moved back to the U.S.this summer(August 2012) and are adjusting to life back in the U.S. You can read more about her life in Lagos and her adjustment to being back on her blog: We Found Happiness.

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