The Too Busy Family

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.