Is My Kid Doing Too Many After-School Activities?

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

My schedule this week (and every week) is jam-packed to the point that there’s barely enough time to sit down and grab a well-earned cup of tea. Not because I have some high-flying job or am a single gal running around, painting the town red. It’s because I’m a mom and my kids have a better social life than I do!

Not a day goes by every week where my 9-year-old son doesn’t have an activity of some sort. If it isn’t soccer practice, it’s a game. Or tennis. Or his latest? Lacrosse. It’s getting to the point where my life seems to be a constant merry-go-round of washing uniforms, packing sports bags, dropping him off and picking him up — and my head is frankly fried. How many clubs and activities are TOO many? Are we getting to the stage where we are afraid to let our kids be bored, if only for a second?

Chatting to some moms in the playground this week, I discovered I am not alone. One has a daughter who packs in nine activities each week. Nine! Another mom admitted that she felt eternal guilt because she works four days a week and couldn’t find a free swim class for her son on her one day off. Another said she worried how she would fit in ukulele and flute lessons if her son joined the Scouts.

When did we all get so activity crazy?

As a kid, I went to Brownies every Saturday morning, Sunday school on Sunday (of course), and then I did swimming once a week. Later, in my teens, I gave up Thursday swimming and instead took up drama and squash. Brownies was ditched in favor of Saturday morning tennis. At most, there were three clubs/activities a week. Sometimes my son has three in a day! Which strikes me as slightly insane. Not only is he exhausted, but he has less time to read or do homework. Yet, if I try to put my foot down and say he can’t do soccer/lacrosse/tennis/etc. his eyes well up and he is filled with disappointment.

Is it just me or do schools have far more clubs and activities than they ever had back when we were growing up?

As I grew up, not being particularly sporty (and asthmatic), my parents were spared having to stand on a freezing-cold hockey rink throughout winter or a tennis court in the summer. They didn’t have to drive me all over town for games and practices, and then make sure I got my homework in on time. Life felt simpler. Sure, I was often bored after school, but this just gave me a reason to get creative and come up with my own ideas of things to do. By filling our kids’ days with so many clubs and sports, are we neglecting the most important thing a child needs? Time to just be to come up with games, to draw, to read, to chill out.

I’m not suggesting that we just sit our kids in front of the TV or shove a tablet in their hands, but I think a part of the reason I now work in TV is because I watched some wonderful kids’ drama shows when I got home from school. I think part of the reason I studied journalism is because I used to read the newspaper daily when I got home from school. By having time to myself, I discovered more of my passions, and they have continued to inspire me throughout my adult life. If I had been running nonstop to hockey practice/craft class/other clubs, would I have ever discovered them?

Now that my daughter is turning 5, she is eligible for a whole range of new activities and my nightmare begins all over again. She wants to do tennis, gymnastics, and every other activity she hears her little friends are doing. Plus, we have entered into “party” season, where every weekend I am heading to some soft play area or indoor hall for yet another birthday celebration. I barely have time to go grocery shopping, do laundry, or tidy up the house. What about time for me? Ha! If only!

I know I am not alone in thinking the whole activity situation has gotten out of hand. One mom admitted to me that she was relieved her son hadn’t been selected for a cricket tournament, as not only would it mean her driving for hours all across England every weekend, but the cost was exorbitant. In my youth, sports were usually confined to a Saturday morning, but with the advent of all-weather sports and more indoor gyms popping up, often parents simply zip from one activity to another all weekend long. My husband commented dryly that weekends were more exhausting than work. He laughed, saying, “I remember when a weekend actually meant something – a break!”

I’m all for kids getting exercise through sports, raising their self-confidence through team games, and making new friends by joining activities outside of school. And I love how they can develop a passion for a sport, but I do believe that passion should not become fanaticism. When your kids’ gymnastics practice is over nine hours a week, something is wrong surely? After all, parents and kids alike need downtime to regenerate our batteries and relax. Don’t you agree?

Now where did I put my schedule, because something has got to give!

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Article Posted 4 years Ago

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