Well Rounded Child or Over Tired Parents?

kids soccer

Amongst my colleague working mamas, we all share our woes. Sleepless nights, trying to make dinner in a short time frame, hating daylight savings and trying to run ALL THE ERRANDS on our lunch break are just a few. Some have it worse than others, just like contributors on this blog but one issue unites them all:

Extracurricular activities.

I would like to say this is only my friends with older children but it is already starting with age 3. I was recently in a little support group for working moms at my work and this came up. EVERY mom at the table had something to say. Soccer, band, music, tae kwon do, ballet, on and on and on. High schoolers, elementary age and preschoolers.  It was question after question about whether we were doing the right thing.

Do you put them in a bunch to test out the waters of different things to find their calling or are you doing it to boost some resume/college application in the future?

Are you doing it to keep up with the Joneses or are you looking for something for the kids to really get into?

Are you looking for academic choices to challenge them mentally or for physical ones to wear your kids out because they get 30 minutes of recess all week?

Are you pushing things YOU want to attend or letting them pick?

Do you eat up your weekend shuttling kids to soccer games or book up your evenings all week?

Everyone was second guessing their choices and not really sure why. Everyone had a different story, a different background. But the moral of all the stories was WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME AS IT IS! Why are we pushing ourselves and family to do ALL THE THINGS.? Is it really worth it? Are we making well rounded kids or just overtired parents?

I personally believe 3 is too little. Landon gets plenty of exercise at daycare and by us just going to the park and such on weekends. On top of that, I don’t want to be boxed in to an activity each weekend. My kid still naps (thank heavens) and often for long chunks so our weekend fun outings are usually only mornings. So that is 2 chunks of time to just do what we want. I don’t want some of that time always dedicated to soccer or whatever. I also already pay enough in childcare costs, I don’t need another bill for entertaining my kid.

As for older, I still am unsure. I never played sports and I kind of regret it. While I don’t believe in heaping on the pressure to your kids, I think maybe a little healthy push towards something isn’t so bad. My parents let me choose what I wanted to do. I did cheerleading for a few years for a rec team and a few stints in gymnastics for the same reason. I sometimes wish they would have put me in something more exploratory to see if I would like team sports and competition. Maybe a clinic or short camp would have been a sound choice for everyone. No weeknight sprints to do everything. I could spend a Saturday or two checking something out to see if I liked it. Ideally school would provide this to some extent but we know the arts are slashed to pieces in budgets and sports getting pretty cut throat early on. It is a giant mess I sure am not gonna solve here but soon I am going to have to revisit it and I am just not ready.

What are your thoughts on extracurricular activities? How many is too many? Too few? I would love to hear from some seasoned moms who have some dos and don’ts.

Photo via woodleywonderworks on Flickr

About the author

Brandy juggles the world of working mamahood by being a software developer by day and a tickle monster by night. She holds down her NC fort with her gaggle of boys: dashing husband Kevin (married 2005), crazy son Landon (born 2009), squishy newborn Oliver (born 2012) and a goofy mutt, Jack Sparrow. You can find out more about her and the Mann clan over at mannlymama and she tweets incessantly at @mannlymama.

21 Comments

  1. Shannon says:

    When I was young, I spent a couple of weeknights and pretty much every weekend at the local baseball field to watch my brother’s game. Looking back, I loved being there. It was a key part of my childhood. My dad coached my brother from when he was about 5 years old until he was probably in middle school, my mom was the “team mom” and it was a family-oriented thing. Even though I preferred singing with my karaoke machine, writing stories or playing with Barbies, I liked the social aspect and I’ve always loved the game of baseball. BUT. Now that I’m a parent, I wonder how my parents did it? My mom stayed at home with us for a few years, but once we hit elementary school, she went back to work. I’m trying to remember how many nights we hit Burger King on the way to the ball field and if she ever looked stressed out, but all I remember is the good stuff.

    Part of the reason my plan [right now] is to keep my son an only child is because of our time constraints and financial situation. I don’t want to tell my son IF he is interested in something that we can’t afford it or don’t have time, but at the same time you’re right that sometimes, it’s too much. I’ve seen parents of girls who are in dance or cheerleadering and literally, their lives are dedicated to practices, performances, competitions, with very little down time or quality family time. I think it’s hard to find that balance, but when it comes time–and I agree with you that three is too young, maybe more like 5 or 6–I want my son to CHOOSE something, probably one thing, and see if he sticks with it and if we can swing it.
    Shannon recently posted..Unpaid Maternity Leave and Human RightsMy Profile

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  2. HeatherK says:

    I am definitely NOT a seasoned mom, but I will share my experiences! My kids are 2 and 4 and we enroll them in extracurriculars all year long, but only one at a time. I grew up as a competitive swimmer, so swimming is very important to me. My kids take swim lessons half of the year (they started at Baby&Me) and do another activity in between. For my son, thus far, it has been soccer. Soccer and swimming are about all you can do at the toddler age. Lately he has been very interested in baseball/t-ball, and not so much soccer. This winter we are pulling him from soccer and putting him in a learning t-ball program. My daughter loves to dance and loves all things girly, so she is in Baby Ballerina (you would die from the cuteness). Basically they wear princess costumes, carry wands, and dance around for an hour. She LOVES it!
    Right now the classes are not too much of a time burden (I won’t go into financials on the soccer and ballet: yikes!). They are one day a week for an hour or half hour for swim. My husband and I switch off who takes which kid to their activity each week, so it is not too bad! However, this spring we plan on enrolling my son in community t-ball. It is a four day/wk commitment! Three weekdays and one weekend! If he enjoys it, then I think it is worth it and we will continue, but if not: I am not forcing him and he can stop after the spring! I, personally, loved my sport. I swam 6 days a week year round for 14 years. It was a HUGE time (and money) commitment on my parents and me, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I think as long as your kid is happy: you are doing the right thing.

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    • Brandy says:

      FOUR DAYS A WEEK!? God speed, woman. I know swimming seems like a HUGE commitment. Early workouts…costs for pool memberships. YIPES!
      Twitter: mannlymama

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  3. Jamie says:

    My girls haven’t had any extras yet — but I’m seriously considering signing them up for gymnastics/tumbling for 45 minutes a week in the spring. Just because I think they would enjoy it and like it.

    Bo played t-ball last spring and enjoyed it. It was 1 night and 1 weekend game of 1 hour. We missed a lot of the weekend games because we were out of town, but it was still enjoyable for him.

    I think they need to be exposed to a few things to be able to decide if there is something they truly want to pursue. First and foremost in my mind will be academics but since we are still at the pre-school level there isn’t a lot of pressure or worry at this point.

    I’m with you though — I definitely don’t want to be running around like a chicken with my head cut off all week long. An hour or two a week, I can handle at this point, but that’s enough.
    Jamie recently posted..Bo’s 5th BirthdayMy Profile
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    • Brandy says:

      They are starting to offer small programs in preschool for additional price. While I think it is nice in a way, it is causing issues of it own. I CAN’T WIN!
      Twitter: mannlymama

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  4. Surf Momma says:

    We go to an in home daycare and tried A at a tumbling/gymnastics camp this summer during her vacation week and he loved it. It was really just something to do for the week but he continually asked to go back. So we take him one night a week for a 45 minute class. It’s the husband’s night to cook dinner and I’m the mom off in the corner with a Starbucks and a book. It’s my 45 minutes of quiet. We take him because he loves it, otherwise we wouldn’t consider doing anything at three. He can try whatever sports and activities he likes as he gets old and I’ll support him. I don’t want to push him or force him. As long as he’s happy with what he’s doing and we can comfortably afford it we’ll do it.

    Other things we do as a family – the park, the pool at the gym, bike rides and that is enough for now!
    Surf Momma recently posted..Vote…My Profile
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    • Brandy says:

      I feel like there is just no time for us to be together as a family as is. Nights are hectic with just dinner and bedtime! But that “free” 45 min does sounds luxurious! :)
      Twitter: mannlymama

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  5. Joanna says:

    Madison is in dance and she loves it. It’s one hour, every saturday morning from 9:30-10:30. I put her in it not knowing if she would love it but she absolutely adores every second of it.
    Twitter: RaisingMadison

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  6. cayley says:

    Like other commenters, we do swimming 1x week and gymnastics. For is the point is to encourage fun exciting fitness, and all the big stuff like waiting turns, following the class rules, etc. When she was in a Montessori preschool, it didn’t have the same class structure as regular school, so that aspect of extracurriculars was important (we expected her to be in montessori until elementary school, even though that didn’t happen). I always played sports, and did all kinds of extracurriculars, and loved them. That stuff wad why I hot up in the mornings, and why I bothered to go to school in my teens. It would be nice if it were offered through the schools, in terms of schedule, but I’m sure we’ll keep her in something regardless. Not compulsive all the time everything, but once or twice a week exposure to something- a different activity, a different group of kids, a different opportunity to be good or not so good at something.

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    • Brandy says:

      You make a good point about taking turns and rules. Even though he is in preschool, I think he doesn’t get that kind of structure.
      Twitter: mannlymama

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  7. Laura Case says:

    Having slightly older kids, we are actively making the decision to have them in sports. Always. We let them pick the sport and because of Jon’s travel schedule, they must pick the same sport. I just left this comment on Alicia’s blog – I played tennis from age 6 through college, college captain two years (and MVP!). I also played softball and volleyball in the other seasons. I could write a novel about everything playing sports gave me in life!

    But truly, I don’t feel overtired with this. This is one of the most fun parts of being a parent for me. I laughed so hard I cried at their first basketball game, and I cheered with pride when they each got their first basket in a game. There’s enough drudgery in parenting that it’s nice to have something that is just genuinely fun.

    And I CAN NOT WAIT to ace their asses on the tennis court when they start in January.
    Laura Case recently posted..Five wonderful things for you todayMy Profile

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  8. Erin says:

    My daughter is almost 3, and the only thing we’ve done outside of daycare is a music class. She took one when she was about 8 months old that I got peer pressured into by a friend and that was a waste, but now she absolutely LOVES it, and I love that it gives me 1 on 1 time with her while Dad stays home with baby bro. It’s one night a week from 5-5:45 and does mean that my husband and I both have to leave work a bit early but we both have super flexible jobs so it’s no big deal. We’ll only do 1 class with her at a time, and probably nothing in the summer because we’re just so busy then. Next up is her first swim class and her Dad will do that one. I also plan to have her try dance because I think she’d love it.

    As for sports… meh. I tried many and I guess I’m glad I did, but nothing ever stuck. Pre-high school, I did soccer, softball, tennis, gymnastics, swimming, and volleyball. And to be frank, I sucked at every single one of them :) I also took piano lessons and was in band for awhile. Just writing that makes me tired as a parent, and I really don’t have fond memories of it as a child. I also did several years of dance, art classes, and drama classes (seriously – where did my mom who worked full time get the energy to take me to all this crap?!) and liked those much more. By the time high school rolled around, I got involved in high school debate and that was it!
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  9. Donna says:

    We made a decision that our kids can only do 2 things at a time. Our son who is 16 played soccer (his choice) from K-7th grade and then decided he did not want to play anymore and switched to Drama. He is also in Boy Scouts and has been since about 2nd grade. At times this was even too much. However, now that he can drive himself it is a lot easier. We have also relaxed the “only 2 rule.” He now is a class officer, on newspaper staff and a few other things at school. We tell him that he can not mess up the “family time schedule” to do these extras.

    This past summer I put my 4 year old daughter in a dance camp for a week while I attended training. She loved it and begged and begged to be in a dance class. So in Aug we put her in a combo Gymnastics/Pre-Ballet class. It is one day a week for 45 minutes. Next year she can choose her path or pick something else altogether. I use this 45 minutes as my time of peace and read.

    I really think that some parents overdo it on the extras (too early, too much). Parents need down time and if all they do is work and shuttle kids around they don’t get that down time. Kids also need time to learn to play on their own and they need some unstructured time. This is how they learn to occupy themselves.

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  10. KeAnne says:

    We tried soccer, and it wasn’t a success. D liked it but he didn’t necessarily like learning skills. He enjoyed being out there to run and kick the ball. It was from 5:30 – 6:15 on Tuesday nights, and it was a huge pain logistically, especially since D has pretty much given up naps (woe is me). One takeaway is that weeknight activities are not ideal for us at this time. I’d love to find an activity on the weekends. We used to go to the Saturday morning class at The Little Gym, but ours closed last fall. I’m thinking about swimming lessons, but then I wonder whether I’m enrolling him in something just to do something vs trying to find something I think he will truly enjoy.

    I was not an athlete at all. I scored 6 points in 2 years of rec basketball. I did participate in theater and forensics in middle school and high school. Our extracurricular activities were limited due to where I grew up as well as the fact that since my school was on the other side of the county from where I lived, so whatever activity I did necessitated having transportation to get there.

    I want Daniel to have an activity he likes whether its the arts or a sport, but I don’t want to overschedule him. I want him to have time to free play.
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  11. Jodi says:

    Having substantially older kids… we are hot and heavy most nights of the week with activity. My almost 12 and almost 10 year old kids both play elite level soccer here locally – so that means practices at least 3 nights a week for him, and 2 for her + an indoor sessions. Currently we train every day except Friday and have multiple games (typically on Sunday.) We often do private and small group training for specific reasons (like tryout prep, or shooting camp, etc)

    It’s AWESOME. They love it – we don’t drive the boat on the level they choose to play at – but we certainly support their ambition and goals that they set. It’s easier with older kids because you don’t feel the need to be there all.the.time – great families are involved so there’s lots of carpool options and trade offs. Most of the 4-6:30 practice times I hit the trails and run or take my bike and get a great ride in while they are in training. My husband and I share the reponsibility and we attend games usually as a family.

    I will say that playing at this level – they only play one sport. Financially there’s a line there!! The other requirement is grades – if academics start to slide then the soccer requirements will have to dial back… school first. So far it’s been zero issue though – the soccer activity/fitness/being on a team/sense of commitment/work ethic just supports excellence in school.

    All of this started very casually though – nothing formal until each kid was in grade 1. And with Amelia – we’ll do the same and avoid mad chaos/insanity of U5 soccer. :)

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  12. Katherine says:

    I am sort of dreading the idea of this right now…Andy was way into sports from the age of 4 all the way through high school, all year long. I played a sport or two through elementary school and then had other extra curriculars in high school but yea…we both had parents that didn’t work, for at least part of those years. I’m sure our girls will be involved in extra curricular activities, but I’m not starting that now. I don’t have time to keep my house clean/get my kids to bed at a decent, let alone shuffle my child(ren) to and from dance classes/gymnastics/etc. Part of this is just selfishness on my part I guess, but on the other hand, I’m sure if one of my kids showed a true, genuine interest in something, we’d make it work.
    Twitter: lilmissrysmama

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  13. Lauren says:

    We did swim lessons in the evenings with our 8 mos old and soon realized that it was just too much (for all of us) and decided that except in extreme circumstances, after work would be left to the normal chaos of commuting, dinner, bedtime. This fall we did soccer on Sat and gymnastics on Sun with our 18 month old (now 22 month old). We’ve realized as this session ends that she just needs her rest on the weekends, so we’re going to cut down to one activity. Like you, I know she gets lots of exercise and socialization at day care, so I think a relaxing morning at home reading books with mom and dad is just what she (we) need on the mornings.

    As a note, the reason I felt the need to push these activities was because I look at my SAHM friends and they have 23 classes/activities they take their kids to during the week and I felt like my daughter was missing out. But just like so many things, I can’ t compare the two. My daughter does so many activities at day care that duplicate story time, gymboree, etc and while I wish I could participate more with her, we need to adjust expectations and know that I am doing what I feel is best for her and our family.
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