We made a choice when we moved to Alberta to try not to over-extend ourselves this first year. Marc said “no” to a few fun extra things, I decided not to do my practicum internship in our first year here, and we decided not to put the kids in any extra curricular activities. We did this because we just didn’t know what shape our lives were going to take on a daily basis. We had to readjust to a parent with a “job.” I know. It seems strange to say it, but it’s true. While being student-parents was in some ways a bit a crazy and ridiculous and super stressful, there was a certain amount of flexibility that came with that lifestyle. (Have I mentioned how I will forever miss Marc and I both having all summer off to be with the kids?!)
But now Marc is back to the traditional 9 to 5 grind of work (well, except that he’s a pastor so it’s not really 9 to 5 five days a week…). All three kids are now in school. And, silly me, I thought that have my mornings child-free would free up so much of my time to finish up my last handful of masters classes! That totally hasn’t happened. But I’m getting there.
The thing is… everything is new here. New job. New school. New house. New church. New responsibilities. New friends. New environment. New tax bracket. So, in anticipation of all of the newness and adjustment, we decided, like I said, to not do anything “extra” this year, especially for the kids’ sake. I knew from his first two years in school that Luke gets pretty tired after a day in school. So a day in school where you get on the bus at 7:38 and off the bus at 4:05 — well, that’s an especially long day. And the idea of getting them signed up for things before we knew how they were going to handle those long days… I didn’t want to risk it. And I didn’t think it was a wise choice, anyway.
So how do our days go? Instead of the kids getting home at 4 o’clock and us driving them back the 20 minutes into town for whatever random activity they would’ve had on x number of weeknights, the kids get home and we relax. Today, for example, Marc made tea and Luke and Madeline and Marc read books and drank their tea while Olivia and I coloured together. It was super laid back, everyone kind of doing their own thing but we were all together in the living room. And, really, most days are like that. I love it.
But sometimes there’s are these nagging thoughts in my head, “When are your kids going to get their Red Cross swim levels?” “Aren’t they ever going to have a chance to do this activity or that activity?” “Plus! You keep forgetting to give them their music lessons! You said you wanted to teach them yourself, so YOU better teach them YOURSELF!”
I know lots of familes take the occasional year off of activities and I know this was the right choice for us this year, but I wonder/worry about the coming years. Am I ever going to feel like we can handle swimming and scouts and who knows what? When we only have about four hours together at the end of each weekday, what does it look like to put the kids into activities that will (between the lesson and the driving) take up two of those four hours?! And how many nights would we do that? What about the nasty winter roads? What about the fact that my kids seem to get sick so often — so we’re going to pay the big bucks and then they’ll miss half the lessons because of bad roads and bad colds?!
Part of the reason that we chose the school we did for the kids was because they are an arts-based school and provide a number of extra curricular activities at noon hour. I think this is brilliant! Kids are just bopping around at noon hour anyway, may as well have them learning something! Madeline’s doing dance every Wednesday noon hour and Luke took an art class at noon during the fall. I’m hoping they’ll have more opportunities in the coming years.
But why do I hope this? Is it because it will be fun and fruitful for the kids or because it will appease my motherly guilt that they are “involved” in enough.
I tell you, I LOVE watching my kids play at home, work in the science lab, explore outside, and create stories and art on a daily basis. Is this somehow less than those activities that we’d pay several hundred dollars to enroll them in? I really want to say “no,” and I think in my head I know it’s true, but I still feel bad about it.
I guess we will continue to listen to our kids and to the rhythms that work for our family. That will change again next year as Olivia goes to school full time and I begin my counseling internship in the fall. I’m excited for the chance to do some tangible work in this area of counseling that I am so passionate about, but it will mean more balancing and maybe more pulling back from some things for me. Even though my internship will just be part time, I feel like I’m going to be calling on the wisdom of the working moms to find out how to balance out everything (especially motherly guilt).
(And also, all you moms who take your kids to so many things and don’t get stressed, or even if you do get stressed, you keep doing it…. please! I want to know how you do it! I know taking my kids to activities holds its own prestigious place in my social anxiety, so I want know — how do you do it?!)
In the meantime, I am loving these quiet days with the kids. I know it was the wise and good choice for this year. I just wish I could calm the voice in my head that says I’m depriving my kids of something else. But really, no matter what we choose, we’re depriving our kids of something, right?! I hope when they look back they won’t feel like cozy afternoons in the living room were too much deprivation.