Right about when our children start primary school, we trick ourselves into believing that they are finally old enough to be occupied gainfully for the day, and that we might even find ourselves with a few spare hours where we can have a breather, chill out with friends, or be more productive. Little do we know that the opposite is in fact true, and we find our lives caught in a whirlpool of extracurricular activities on weekday afternoons (and most weekends too!), morphing into chauffeurs for our children.
We somehow get ourselves caught in that seemingly endless rut where we sign our children up for all the possible activities of the world that we think will magically make them into the well-rounded personalities that any good college would want.
Whether it is music (piano and violin lessons here we come!), the arts (endless evening rehearsals at Little Theatre productions), or sports (swim clubs and soccer training galore), we want them to do it all.
Whether or not it makes a blind bit of difference is another article altogether, but we hardly pause and think about whether we, as parents, actually want to spend all our free time carting children around to the various places they have to be – it is literally a full time job as a chauffeur! There have been a few interesting studies around this phenomenon of parents getting overwhelmed by their children’s activities, with most of them suggesting that most parents find it incredibly stressful to manage the multiple demands on their time, and the lack of any free time for themselves.
Many parents reveal that they find it more stressful than a full time job, and some find it more stressful than doing taxes! And for those parents who have more than 1 child, it just gets worse with the number of activities increasing exponentially.
I do understand the rationale of parents who get pulled into this – we all want what’s best for our kids, and if it means that we have to sacrifice 12 years of our lives to drive our children around, we (not so happily) do it. But there also comes a point when we must stop and smell the coffee.
The years when we have children to cater to are also the prime years of our adult lives, and we shouldn’t feel obliged to completely burn ourselves out driving them around endlessly. We also need to feel content and happy. We all know that confident young adults emerge by having parents who are involved and engaged in their lives, rather than parents who only service them and burn out.
It’s all about finding that perfect balance that keeps us sane enough to make decisions that are in the interest of ourselves and our children.
Waheeda Shariff Samji is a Director at The Latham School