They sat in front of me as we waited for our kids to finish soccer practice, two moms shooting the breeze.
“After this, Amelia has ballet and then we’ve got to run over to the school to pick up Trent’s football uniform. Tomorrow they have swim class right after school, then they’re getting their flu shots before Lego Club at the library. Don’t even get me started on the rest of the week.”
“You are Supermom,” the second woman chimed in, “I don’t know how you do it all.”
“Oh trust me,” replied the first with feigned humility, “I’m not. Our schedule this fall is just insane.”
Their conversation continued, but I stopped listening and let what I’d heard sink in.
Supermom. It’s a word we toss around for the women who seem to have it all together and do everything effortlessly. But after listening to these women, I began to wonder with a growing sense of unease, “When did being busy become the standard for being a great mom?”
I used to roll my eyes at the parents whose lives were controlled by their kids’ busy schedules; who had practices, clubs, and special events scheduled for every day of the week (and weekends too). I’d hear them lament their lack of time and how hectic life was while wanting to cry, “It’s your own fault!”
Of course, pride has a way of going before the fall and, sure enough, as my kids have gotten older I’ve been heading in that same direction.
With three kids who all have different interests, I’ve found myself being the Chief Taxi Driver and Bleacher Warmer for one activity after another this fall. But after overhearing those moms, I began to wonder about the cost of our busyness.
Some of the activities last later than the kids’ typical bedtimes. Others occur at dinnertime, making family suppers next to impossible. Some require the siblings who aren’t doing the activity to sit in a tiny waiting area while I try to keep them from bouncing off the walls.
Being so busy has also prevented us from making other plans. My boys ask almost daily after school if they can have friends over to play, but the answer is almost always no due to a combination of a jam-packed schedule and wanting to just veg out on the days that we don’t have anywhere to go.
And of course there’s the lack of downtime for the kids. Study after study has shown the importance of free play for kids’ development. Balanced and active play lays the foundation for a skilled, healthy, resilient, and successful society, yet somehow parents, myself included, have fallen for the lie that the more activities we sign our kids up for, the better off they’ll be.
After taking a look at our crazy schedule, we’ve been able to make some changes.
One late night class was switched to earlier in the day. Another ended on it’s own. My husband and I arranged to meet up when he gets out of work so that the bored kids in the waiting room can go home instead.
They’re simple changes, but they’ve made a difference.
We’re still busy, but not like we were before. And more importantly, now the kids have time for free play. On the days that we’re not running around, I’ve been making sure not to schedule anything for them.
When they get home from school, they grab a snack to refuel. I like to keep CLIF Kid Zbars® on hand. They have the nutrients active kids need in flavors they crave and I love that CLIF Kid is dedicated to reclaiming play.
Once the kids are fueled up, they do whatever makes them happy. They rule a kingdom as a kind and beautiful princess (who knows that kindness means not feeding her dog a CLIF Kid Zbar that has chocolate chips 😉 ).
They play with our puppy.
And they go on leaf hunts to gather their most colorful finds into a science journal. They explore, create, and let their imaginations run wild. These are the moments that will allow my kids to discover what they love and what they dream of doing in the future.
So what is my plea to you, my fellow parent who finds her family caught in the trap of busyness?
Examine your schedule. Is it overstuffed? Is there room for downtime? Does it leave you feeling like Supermom on the outside, but ragged and rundown on the inside?
Examine your kids. What activities make them come alive? What activities have they been begging to try? What activities do they do because they’ve always done them or because you think they should do them?
Make time to simply BE. Make cuts where they’re needed by focusing on what your kids love. Then take that free time and leave it alone. If your family has been over-scheduled for a long time, it might feel uncomfortable at first. Your kids might be bored. That’s good. You’ll probably find that that’s when the magic begins to happen.
I’m not asking you to end your kids’ extra-curriculars. They’re important and they have their place in teaching valuable skills. But I am asking if you need to have so many on your plate that there’s no room left for your kids to just be kids.
Busy doesn’t have to equal Super if you don’t want it to. The choice is yours.
Check out this CLIF Kid video celebrating the joy of play!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.