Do you feel like you hardly have supper together as a family? Are your kids grumpy and tired at the end of every day? Do you feel like you never get anything done? Does your family spend most weekends away from home?
If you answered yes to all or most of these questions, your child’s extracurricular schedule may be too full!
When my kids were little, it was easy to say “I’ll never be the mom that runs around all the time, putting my kids in every activity.” Maybe you said that too.
But then the pressure comes to match up to what other parents are doing. You’re influenced by “dire warnings” that if you don’t start your kid playing year-round baseball, right now, they’ll never make the team. You think to yourself, “my kids need to keep busy, that’s why I put them in so many activities”, without realizing that maybe they don’t want to be busy all the time, they just want to be home.
There’s a tension between wanting to nurture your children’s interests vs. packing their days so full you barely have room to breathe.
What are some good options for finding balance in the area of extracurriculars, and know that you’re doing it for real enjoyment, not out of pressure, while still finding time for what’s most important?
Here are a few tips that we’ve tried over the years as we’ve worked through trying to balance four children’s activities and interests with finding time to nurture our family and faith.
- Check your motives. Sometimes we’re the problem. Because of unmet expectations from our own childhoods, or the temptation to live vicariously through our kids’ accomplishments, we may push our desires onto our children. Pray that God would help you slow down and give you the wisdom to see where you are pursuing interests that are your own, rather than what’s best for your child.
- Lighten the load. Have a talk with your kids about what extracurriculars they want to do compared to the ones they feel like you’re making them do. Make it clear that you do care about their opinion. Prayerfully decide if there are some good things you can say no to for now, in favor of making time for the best things.
- Enlist help from others. Build a carpool network if you can to take some of the load off of you for transporting kids to activities. Could you and your husband split the time? Are there other parents in the co-op or activity that would be willing to split time with you too? Just ask, you may be surprised to find another parent who was afraid to ask for help as well!
- Ask yourself how your busyness is affecting the rest of your life. In our non-stop world, we tend to put being busy on a pedestal, as if somehow that makes us better or more accomplished. But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes busyness deals a crushing blow to the rest of our lives. Is your family life suffering? How about your marriage? Do you feel like you can’t ever get any projects done at home because you’re never there? Consider how the push for extra-curriculars could be hampering other areas of your family and home life.
- Consider how too many outside activities could be affecting your faith. I know it’s hard not to want to participate in activities that require Sunday attendance, but if you’re consistently missing worship in favor of gymnastics or orchestra, I’d urge you to commit that to prayer and place God as your first priority. I’ve found that when we’ve learned to say “no” to some things that would negatively impact our spiritual lives, God blesses that so abundantly!
Your choices today for your family will make an eternal difference, one way or another. Ask the Lord for wisdom and discernment and follow His will for your family. Seeking balance in this area will relieve chaos and give you a more abundant sense of peace that you are making the right choices and keeping your priorities intact.