Life in the Slow Lane: Refusing to Live an Overscheduled Life

So often when I ask a mama how life is treating her, I get something to the effect of, “You know, busy.”  But why?  The most common justification of why someone is so busy is that they’re overscheduled. Activities every night of the week, weekend-long tournaments, and literally thousands of dollars in tuition, costumes, and equipment all put a lot of pressure on parents and, even more so, kids. Call me crazy, but I cannot think of a single thing that would make me want to spend an entire Saturday at a soccer tournament.

Life in the Slow Lane

Now ladies, please put those pitchforks down for a minute. If your kid is super crazy excited about a sport or activity, by all means, support it.  Activities that enrich our children’s lives and education are important. I know a ton of fantastic parents whose children thrive on lots of activity, so a fast pace works for them. Where we’ve drawn a line for our family is this:

If time spent at activities (and traveling to and from) negatively impacts our ability to spend time with our kids and actually parent them, then that’s a no-go for us. 

Our faith is very important to us and activities that take place on Sundays or conflict with other church activities are also a no-go. 

If our kids’ schedules limit the time they engage in free play and render them unable to deal with not being entertained 24/7, then we have to step back and evaluate whether our current level of busy-ness is working for our family or not. 

(If you’d like to read more on the benefits and drawbacks of extracurricular activities, check out these articles from the University of Wisconsin, UI Extension and the Cleveland Clinic

I spent too long thinking that good parenting meant being over scheduled; busy, broke, and exhausted. 

But I was exhausted. I was cranky. My kid was unhappy. We were unhappy. Financially, we couldn’t keep up with the demands of costumes, tuition, and travel costs for gymnastics or dance. 

So because something had to change, something changed. 

We spent more weeknights playing and reading, more weekends resting and going on adventures.  We put whatever extra funds we had toward family trips and activities. In all this space, it turns out that Big is insanely creative and can raid a recycling bin and come out with a Barbie Dream House a few hours later. She learns gymnastics and dance from YouTube and units at school. She takes piano lessons from her grandpa. Our perspective is that there will be time for our kids to get involved in extracurricular activities as they get older. I imagine Big will be in show choir, drama, and band as she gets older. She’s just made for that. I suspect Little will be into basketball, drag-racing, and skydiving. Help me, Jesus.

I’ve learned to recognize what works for my kids.

Because we’ve chosen public school for our kids, I know Big has plenty of structured time in her day. So much so, that she experiences a common phenomenon known as “restraint collapse” when she gets home. We’ve found that after school is not a good time for more activity. Homegirl needs a hot minute. Little is my introvert, and I see restraint collapse in her when we come home from a play date or church. She is done people-ing, so skydiving lessons will have to wait.  

I hope we get to a place in our culture where being absolutely overwhelmed, overscheduled, and exhausted aren’t seen as some sort of badge of honor. Where going into debt just so my kid has a chance at a competitive sport or art isn’t viewed as committed parenting.  I care that my kids turn out to be good humans and for us, that means less structured activity and more time to play. For someone else’s kids, that might mean structured activities and more opportunities to socialize. 

Thankfully, I’m learning to lay down the guilt of choosing a slower pace for our family.    

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