What’s a Mom to Do?

For me, one of the best parts of being a Mom is watching my boys grow up right before my eyes. I love watching them discover new things, master a difficult concept and simply giggle and imagine. Yet the growing-up-so-fast is also one of the biggest challenges of motherhood.

Dancer

Although we spend a lot of time playing together, I’ve noticed that our special one-on-one time (OK, technically most of it is two-on-one, but you get the idea) is dwindling. Between year-round swimming, soccer, music, gymnastics, golf… plus our trips to the zoo, Science Center, Children’s Museum, neighborhood park, church, playdates and normal day-to-day activities and errands, it feels like our play time together is getting shorter and shorter. It breaks my heart. (What does this have to do with these ballet pictures… trust, me I’m getting to that!)

Ballerina

So, I’ve been struggling to decide what to cut from their schedules. I feel like music is important. And living in Arizona with so many pools, swimming lessons are essential, right? But they love soccer… and golf. Plus, Liam really wants to take an art class now. (And how can a designer Mommy say no to that?) Ugh… what’s a Mom to do???

Contrast that with Bettijo’s schedule… She’s is a total Supermom when it comes to her family’s plan. She keeps it simple: no extracurricular activities until piano lessons — which she begins at age 7 — although she does make an exception for swimming lessons each summer. (And I must point out, she and her family stay plenty busy even without the extracurricular lessons!)

Karsyncollage5

Bettijo likes to dabble in photography and recently had the opportunity to take some photos of a blossoming dancer. She is the daughter of a friend who keeps a fairly rigorous schedule to accommodate her daughter’s dance practice and competitions. She’s talented and beautiful and Bettijo’s girls couldn’t stop gushing about those SHOES (they both want a pair now!) It was proof that the scheduling problem certainly doesn’t get any easier as kids grow.

Karsyn and Mom

So all this got us thinking: how do you decide what opportunities to register your children for? How many is too many? What’s the first activity to go? What activity, as a parent, do you not want your kids to go without? Finally, the big kicker: how do you make sure that the activities they’re in are ones they really want and not a case of parent living vicariously through child?

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Aimée

Contributor at Paging Supermom
Aimée was a co-founder of Paging Supermom. Although she dreams in pink, she wouldn’t trade her two energetic boys for anything. Between using The Force on surrounding battle droids and flying to infinity and beyond, Aimée enjoys squeezing in some personal creative time. With a background in advertising, marketing and design, she is proud to stay home raising her boys.

14 thoughts on “What’s a Mom to Do?”

  1. I was a little shocked that too many extracurriculars being a bad thing was a debate! I feel that if mom and dad can afford it and they can take turns or arrange responsability for the transportation support and coaching of each activity, kids should definately take as many lessons as possible!!

    Some should certainly be classics like sports and music and/or art and others could be very helpful like second and third language lessons. I also believe that there should exist fair negotiation between the parents and kids. Clearly we want certain things for our children that reflect on what we might have wanted for ourselves, but innevitably it is our childrens turn and we must respect them and ensure that it is an enjoyable passtime and not a chore.
    I think the more time they spend amongst peers in a more relaxed enviornent the better social skills they develop and a more personal character is established, not to mention the more they do healthy activities with other kids their age the less they are likely to stray into bad company when they get older and have more freedom. The question on whether to cut some activity should definately be discussed with the partakers, what do THEY rather, what do THEY like least, is there something else theyd like to learn and most importantly is there ANY reason WHY a healthy learning activity SHOULD be cut?
    I was a little shocked that lots of extracurriculars were being debated as too many and bad! I feel that if mom and dad can afford it and they can take turns or arrange responsibility for the transportation, support and coaching of each activity, kids should definitely take as many lessons as possible!
    Some should certainly be classics like sports and music and/or art and others could be very helpful like second and third language lessons. I also believe that there should exist fair negotiation between the parents and kids. Clearly we want certain things for our children that reflect on what we might have wanted for ourselves, but inevitably it is our children’s turn and we must respect them and ensure that it is an enjoyable pass time and not a chore.
    I think the more time they spend amongst peers in a more relaxed or competitive environment the better social skills they develop and a more personal character is established, not to mention the more they do healthy activities with other kids their age the less they are likely to stray into bad company and bad life style choices when they get older and have more freedom. The question on whether to cut some activity should definitely be discussed with the partakers, what do THEY rather, what do THEY like least, is there something else they’d like to learn and most importantly is there ANY reason WHY a healthy learning activity SHOULD be cut?
    I think that “do-nothing” moments don’t exist, there’s always SOMETHING. Lying there is usually accompanied by life lesson teachings disguised as chatting, joking, singing, tickling, watching cartoons or a favorite movie, crafting or finger painting, helping prepare snacks, etc, and if you as a parent have the concern that not enough of that time is being spent, then remind yourself to be aware of those 15 minute windows in everyday life and seize them! And let your kids enjoy childhood cause after all time flies and then comes high school, dating and college
    YIKES!

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  2. I am Karsyn’s Mom, so I thought I would share my thoughts on this as well. I must admit sometimes I, and her dad, struggle with the amount of time and money that is committed to her dancing… but here is how it all came about and I hope it will help someone else.
    Karsyn displayed an interest in dance at early age. Of course I was excited about it , but I thought, ” let’s see if this is just a phase or is this something she really likes and is talented at”. I mean , she is only 3, right? So I got her a little ballet video she could dance to and learn steps to see how much she liked it. Well, practically every day for several months she would ask to watch, imitate and learn the ballet positions and steps. Six months later she began taking a combo class (tap, ballet, acro)a few months before turning 4yrs old. She Loved it! She showed a love for dance and a gift for dance,and it grows from year to year. TRUST me, it is not always easy! My husband and I have gone back and forth several times over the past years, trying to decide if the time and money are worth it??? We always come back to several reasons to keep her in it;
    1. She has a true passion for it
    2. It keeps her physically fit ( my husbands side of the family is of large stature and struggles with obesity)
    3. She is talented, maybe not the very best, but very talented
    4. She Loves DANCE more than Boys, YEAH! ( she is not almost 11, let’s hope it stays that way)
    5. She continues to learn discipline and gain confidence from participating in dance
    6. She is a straight A student, and a leader in school
    7. She still has chores and responsibilities at home and they are a priority!

    If the last two items on our list were a problem…. we would definitely rethink her/our commitment to her talent. Bottom line; Her Dance Education is a privilege, not a right!

    We sacrifice weekend trips and other things to join her in this journey. But we have sacrificed these things for our other children , who have excelled in sports or other things too. These activities become part of our family time together. We also commit to being together for church/Sundays and Monday family nights each week.
    When Karsyn is not dancing, she cherishes being home. She loves her down time and Needs her down time. She does sacrifice birthday parties and some social time with friends, but we have discussed many times the option she has to NOT dance…. and SHE always returns to her love of dance. And so, we continue ,for now, with her gift and passion to DANCE.

    Every family is different, so decide what works for you and yours!

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  3. I have always been conflicted by what is ‘too much’ or ‘too little’. As a mother of 4, who are fairly close together in age, I am always on the go. But it is the choice I have made, I made it so each of my individual children can have their individual interests. Each understands that whilst they sit at a dance studio, next time it will be the other waiting for them to finish cadets or where ever we may be. It teaches them that not one of them has to do the same thing, or they can if they so choose. But patience for each other and respect for their choices and their siblings choices are a big thing.

    In order to stay scheduled, and ensure we always have at least 1 night and 1 day off a week to spend together as a family that are not the same day. We have encouraged our children to chose an activity that they would like to do throughout the school year. And during summer they each are permitted 1 week long camp and the rest is for family trips, outings or hanging with their friends. Now these camps are never the same week – but that gives them a break from each other too. It means I am always on the go, but my children who are not in an activity that day may choose a friend’s house or something else to do – so I have to schedule that in too.

    A well organized home life can allow a balance to all the chaos others may think your life is. And how dare we put our children through that. (sarcasm) But children grow, they want to do more, they want to learn more. And they still want to be children.

    Yes, each year my daughters want to add another dance class, or my son thinks symgym(swimming, diving, gymnastics combo) is the best thing in the world. Two go to cadets, and one of them joins the robotics team at school. Then decides he’ll pick up Hip Hop as a sideline as well. While the other has decided she only wants to dance, and wants to give up cadets. That is their choice, and I will never make them do what they don’t want. But if they ask I will try to accommodate them. But I also have to say ‘no, that’s too much.’

    They are well-rounded, active, smart and they all attend a french immersion school as well. Which was pretty much they only thing we really encouraged, as a second language is important in today’s world – no matter what it is. No one can say what is ‘too much’ or ‘too little’. Anything you do for your children is worth it. So my schedule of tournaments, classes and competitions seems busy to you. But my kids are happy, and every family is different. Because this is right for us, it may not be for you. We make sure we have our down time, our family time and our friend time. Not everyone one does everything. And it works for us.

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  4. I tend to agree that it’s different for each family. As long as the kids are happy, well adjusted, and spending time with the family, it’s great to let them try new things. For our four kids, I try not to drag everything out across the week. We try to schedule as many activities as we can in one or two days so that we can have the other days completely free. I am doing a lot of driving on those days, but I have neighbors I carpool with, and my husband helps out when he’s not working.

    As far as letting the kids only do things they like, I have to disagree. My 10 y/o claims to hate piano, but we’ve already told him it doesn’t matter. He’s stuck taking it until he’s older because his dad and I feel it is important. He knows if he masters the piano, he can switch to another instrument if that is what he chooses. I have my kids each in one sport for exercise so they don’t spend all their free time playing video games, and I think it’s also important to learn how to play team sports. I would agree it gets busier with age. While my 18 mo old is only in swimming lessons, my four year old is in swimming, dance, and music, my 5 y/o is in swimming, soccer, and music, and my 10 y/o is in piano, soccer, cub scouts, and is on the swim team. He gets straight A’s, though, and is a good kid, so he seems to balance his homework load with his activities.

    We all find time to hang out together on the weekends and nights we have free, and the kids support each other since we all go to all the activities unless they overlap. I think it works for our family and we don’t feel too overscheduled. My kids definitely have plenty of time to play. There are a lot of other things my kids would like to try, and when they’re willing to drop something, we can pick something else up. While I’d love for them to try every activity and sport out there, for now, this is the best I can do.

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  5. I know you’ll make the best decision. Don’t over-think it! I try to keep J’s schedule pretty simple and when we do something different from the everyday schedule, he REALLY looks forward to it! You’re the best mom for your boys and they’ll love you no matter what!

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  6. Very interesting to read all these different perspectives! I did want to clarify a couple things in Aimee’s post:

    (1) I’m not sure I’m a “Supermom about my family’s plan” … Aimee is sometimes too kind to me ;)

    (2) The no extra activities besides piano and swim lessons in the summer has been our game plan for while our kids are young. My husband and I feel like the basics of piano are important knowledge for everyone. Then as they get older and express real (not just fleeting) interests in things we plan to let them do other activities. We still haven’t decided how many (but I tend to lean towards the one activity per child at a time approach — since that is how I was raised). It is obviously a plan in progress, and it’s helpful reading all your insights.

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  7. When my kiddo’s were little, we did almost nothing. Summer soccer teams. Piano for the oldest. As they have gotten older, I have HAD to increase some things, like Cub Scouts and now Boy Scouts. All four of mine are in a tumbling-type class, and they are all on the same night, and time. Having a hubby that works nights, I have to do all the running, studying, homework, dinner, chores, shopping, disciplining etc, etc, so I chose to be under-involved.
    I agree with what has been said. You have to decide for you and your family what feels right. If it works, and your all (relatively) happy, go for it. But I found that I had to not worry that my kids didn’t do soccer and basketball and piano and dance and drama and singing and, and, and. I knew my limit with what I could and couldn’t do.
    My thought, is that the biggest concern, is comparing you and your life/schedule/abilities to others. YOU will do what works for you, and YOU know what is best for your kids. Trust your gut!!!!

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  8. Great discussion! My kids (almost 7 and 9) have always been involved in activities. I NEVER had to drag either one of them to a lesson, because they simply enjoy all the activities they do.

    I am fortunate that they both found a true passion for their sport at a young age. My daughter who will be seven in a few weeks is in competitive gymnastics and spends about 12 hours/week at the gym. I look at her dedication and focus (trying the same skill repeatedly until she gets it) as something that she will carry with her forever (I hope).

    They both started piano around age five. I emphasize to them that learning music is supposed to be a fun and stress-free activity. It’s perfectly fine with us if they spend more than one week learning a song. We have found a teacher who is very positive encouraging, so that helps.

    I believe that it is possible to find balance even when we are busy. Having them involved in activities has allowed me to be a much more organized mom (dinner at 4:30 anyone?) and to truly treasure those moments we can just sit and relax (or watch one of them do cartwheels while the other bounces a little basketball against the wall :-)).

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  9. I forgot…. As far as swimming, we are part of a super fun recreational swim team in our neighborhood. We do that only in the Summers and it’s a great way to escape the heat here in Arizona (and make friends). Again, as much as possible we try to incorporate fun into their activities.

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  10. I really struggle with the opposite problem. I can’t get my 7 year old interested in doing anything at all. She is an only child so it is important to me that she be around other kids outside of school. She loves going to school and she seems to have lots of friends so I don’t *think* she is having trouble with social skills. I always figured I would be holding her back from too many activities so I am truly at a loss that I am actually trying to encourage something…anything. It seems like she doesn’t want anything structured. When she went to gymnastics she didn’t enjoy the instruction part of the class. She LOVED the free play time during the last few minutes of the class. Any suggestions or insight?

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  11. I have four so budgeting as well as timing is a concern. The kids have tried different activities during various seasons/sessions and I am very lucky our community center and town sports groups have reason prices and/or discounts for multiple children.

    Now that the kids are older and have more homework, I have made after school a no extracurricular activity time and play dates only happen on weekends. Wrangling four to bed on some nights is very extracurricular in and of itself!

    This school year I found an activity that all four (two boys, two girls) can do together–Irish Dance. Thankfully they all enjoy it and I’m tickled for as long as it lasts since this all began as my idea.

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  12. My aunt & uncle had an interesting philosophy – each of their children were required to choose one individual sport and one team sport to participate in. The purpose of the individual sport was to learn dedication and self-reliance. They were required to also participate in a team sport to learn teamwork and leadership.

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  13. I could gush about this topic but i will simply add that as a mom of four i love keeping my kids the right amount of busy- we have always used the “guide” that we won’t offer something that can’t be offered to all…. not that all four will play baseball to the level or with the passion as the oldest but we won’t ever allow him to be part of a team and ask the others to cut theirs out. Whatever that may be you know a fairness scale – it doesn’t matter that the second in line isn’t as naturally gifted at the sport as the first if he has a passion and desire he will get the same opportunity and support as the first and it goes down the line! All four will receive the same opportunities for growth/development ….. even though they range from 4-14 currently they all are involved and the super star isn’t given any preference. We try hard to remain balanced for them – this summer the oldest had opportunities for traveling to play in elite events that he had to be selected for and we all were excited for him and supported him- but to try to keep it slightly balanced i took the other three to have a fun filled weekend. In general we try to use the all for one and one for all motto in our house (so sometimes the girls live at the baseball field) but to balance we give preference to things like girls getting a bday invite and wanting to go —-so we do and dad handles baseball and we aren’t there to cheer a game!
    Oh and golf is a sport of skill strategy and yourhbhave to walk the course unless an adult is there to drive (even then all matches even through high school are walked) so it’s a bunch of exercise (mom of golfers too)

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