When we think about work/life balance, one of the biggest challenges is simply having too many things to do and not enough time to do it all. Often the root of the problem lies in a schedule of activities that seems to keep us on the move every minute. And it’s not just your own schedule but also the overlapping activities of every member of your household.
An overbooked calendar is one of the greatest challenges to balance. Keep in mind that as a parent, your child’s activities take time for both you and your child. Too much of a good thing can have a negative effect even if it is something that your child enjoys. Too much candy, even if you enjoy it, can cause a stomachache. So too, over-activity can cause another kind of “ache” from the tension it can place on the whole family.
Before you, your spouse or your child takes on another commitment ask:
- How will this added commitment or activity impact our time together?
- What is the real, personal benefit to my child from participating in this activity?
- What transportation will be needed? (Be realistic! This is an important determining factor.)
Parents have the ultimate responsibility for deciding on the number and types of activities their children will participate in. Children may want to do everything but when a parent makes the decision it may relieve a burden of decision-making from the child. New studies show that children need “downtime” from organized activities. Sometimes the greatest favor a parent can do for a child is to limit outside commitments.
Sue Shellenbarger, a weekly columnist on work and family issues for the Wall Street Journal, comments on the value of just being with your child. She writes, “I was on a multitasking roll one day when I got a wakeup call. I’d done my workday on flextime, starting early to finish by the time my kids got out of school. I checked backpacks, did laundry, cleared voice mail, started dinner. I was picking up the phone to call the parents of my son’s hockey teammates as part of my job as team manager, when my son, 10, yelled from the living room: ‘Mom, you’re always running around. Can’t you just sit down with me for one minute?’
It was a moment of truth: I thought I was on top of my parenting duties, but I hadn’t even spent 10 seconds focusing on the object of it all: my kid.” Shellenbarger’s article goes on to quote Ellen Galinsky, author of Ask the Children, who comments, “the average parent says when they’re together with their kid, ‘OK, let’s go do something.’ The average kid will say, ‘We’re together. That’s good enough for me.’ They want some time that’s not always rushed, programmed, planned.”
So when you are in the process of deciding to schedule another after-school activity or planning for the weekend, it’s great to know that your child doesn’t have to be involved and “doing” everything. In fact, they may be counting on you to “just say no!”