The family dinner is on its way out. Families are too busy. They can’t seem to be in the same room together for too long much less have a meal together. The commitments have grown. Schools need volunteers. The sports need coaches and supporters. Aging relatives need your help. Kids have too many activities and desires. It is no wonder that families are too stressed. How can we calm this spiral of family commitments?
This is a difficult question for families to answer. It is hard to fight the pressures we face. To calm down our family commitments it means that a parent needs to say “no” to somebody. This, in turn, may lead to disappointment, anger or guilt. But nonetheless it may be necessary if a family gains some sanity in the process.
Many families have choices to make regarding their commitments. Do kids really need to be on two baseball teams or two hockey teams? Let your kids focus on one sport and one team a season. In fact, one extracurricular activity per season may be sufficient. If there is more than one in a season at least have one activity limited to once a week. Our kids really don’t need to be so scheduled.
Some families don’t have the luxury to sign their kids up for activities to be overscheduled. Many families have two working parents. Some have divorced parents trying to balance custody arrangements along with work and school commitments. Yet other families have single parents who balance work and home schedules. What constitutes “over scheduling” may be very specific to family makeup and family health. There cannot be a “one size fits all” prescription for family activity. It is important for all families to look at what they can do to support everyone’s interests while balancing what is realistic for the family to be committed to.
In light of this, parents need to recognize that there are pressures for us to keep up with other families. If other players are on two baseball teams, should your son play on a second team as well? If your neighbor’s daughter is going to a summer ballet program, should your daughter too? This pressure continues through high school so much so that you can be made to think that you are ruining your child’s chances for a good college or even a good life if you do not keep up with other families. Of course, this is not true. We do not have to keep up with other families!
Families need to look at the calendar together. Discuss what is necessary and fair. All members need to be involved in the family schedule. Someone’s activity may have to be sacrificed in favor of another’s. Sometimes a practice, game or party may have to be missed for the sake of family sanity. This is blasphemy in today’s family but should not be.
Coaches, teachers and parents need to chill out. Everyone wants commitment to the team, the class or to the social group. But with families committed to death, people need to recognize a family’s excuse as a legitimate reason to miss a practice game or event.
Families should rely on community supports without guilt. We all need help from other parents, extended family or a hired babysitter. Don’t let others make you feel bad if you cannot always be at the game or volunteer for the class. Be there when you can. Get support where you need it and let go of the guilt that others put on you. We all need help and support. We can’t do it all.
Something has to give with this helter skelter family life that people are experiencing. We need renewed commitment to time at home to relax with the family without a scheduled event.