It was the swimming lessons that did it. That caused our family to reevaluate the busyness of our lives.
I rushed from work to pick up my two kids from two different locations for their swimming lessons and spent the next 30 minutes catching my breath. After the lesson, the three of us crammed into a small changing room while I barked at 5 and 7-year-olds to “hurry up and change.” By the time we got to the car, I was grumpy. The kids were hungry. And I was exhausted. I had been rushing around since waking up 11 hours ago. The worst part? My kids already knew how to swim so what the heck were we doing this for?
Busy: That’s how most parents I know describe their lives.
We’re overcommitted, overscheduled and overworked. We’re carpooling and juggling activities while keeping the refrigerator full and planning summer camps three months in advance. We want our kids to have every opportunity to explore their interests, be active and succeed.
All of these things are important, and no one could fault any family for wanting the best for their children. But when it comes at the expense of our happiness, we have to ask ourselves: Is it worth it?
That Monday afternoon, after those unnecessary swimming lessons, I began to wonder if our lives needed to look like this. My husband and I talked it over, and we decided to take stock of our schedule.
When the new school year rolled around, we decided that one activity per kid per weekday was all we could handle, with an emphasis on keeping the weekends clear. Our daughter chose gymnastics and Brownies. Our son chose Beavers and karate.
Just like that, we were down to three weekday commitments and one on the weekend. Nothing else.
There have been times when I wasn’t sure the new schedule was working.
For the first few weekends, our daughter complained that she was bored. She begged me to make play dates with her friends. It was a reality check. I had longed for more unstructured time with her, while she wanted to be somewhere else.
But on those mornings when we lounged around in our pajamas—she played Lego and I drank coffee—I knew we were right where we were supposed to be.
My son went to only two of his 12 karate classes. Both of them required exaggerated fatherly enthusiasm to keep him interested. We decided it wasn’t worth our time to force him to participate in something he clearly didn’t enjoy, and have decided to wait until he is older to register him for any organized activities.
For now, our weekends are free to explore Mt. Doug, swim at the pool or go on family bike rides.
With the end of the current school year approaching, it’s the perfect time to reflect on your family’s year and remember that you have choices. You can decide how you want your lives to look, how you want your children’s lives to look—for a little while anyway. If scheduling a busy week energizes and excites you and works for your family, keep going.
But if you feel like we did, I want to let you know that busyness doesn’t have to be what defines your family.
Getting our family into alignment is still a work-in-progress, and as the kids grow I expect our schedules and expectations will also have to change. For now, I want to take it slow and model for our children that we always have a choice.
Sarah Seitz is a working mother, wife and writer. She spends her free time cutting off crusts and uses good coffee and humour to get through the day.