Saturday, April 14, 2012

Too Busy

LAF/Beautiful Womanhood linked to Enough of Parenting Misery Lit, a critique of another article about raising kids in North America.  I thought there were some great things in it:

...I am not sure what is meant by the “lack of an adult life”. You generally should not become a parent until you reach adulthood, and the years spent in active parenting do, by definition, mostly revolve around the kids. In order to raise children well (to be secure, healthy, confident, well-trained, ultimately decent and productive human beings) you need to put in some time and effort. With a little more effort, spouses can make time for each other. The key is balance, and for most families this is the challenging part.

As a parent, you have to make a lot of choices. One of them is how much time you will spend together as a family, and how much time you will be involved in various other activities. This should include, by the way, not just sport, culture and recreation, but also things like community volunteering, which teaches children that life is also about making it better for those less fortunate....

Many North American parents feel not just a desire, but an obligation to offer their children the widest possible range of leisure experiences and activities. The choices are myriad: music lessons (Pick one—or more—of a hundred different instruments and musical styles, then decide: solo, ensemble, band, orchestra, choir, or a combination thereof?); sports (Which to choose? How many at once? Highly competitive or just for fun?); dance, drama, clubs, hobbies. Multiply by the number of children. Calculate the extra hours you as a parent will spend chauffeuring, waiting, fund-raising, cheering, volunteering, assistant-coaching. Multiply by the number of children. By this point, there is no need to wonder why you don’t have any “adult life”.

How much is too much? Where does “life enrichment” end and pushy-parent, stage-mom or hockey-dad syndrome begin? Should a pre-schooler’s life be so tightly scheduled that he develops severe anxiety issues? As children grow, they develop their strengths and preferences for how they wish to spend their after-school hours. The hard part for parents is knowing when to encourage, when to accommodate, and when to (regrettably) say no—or at least, not right now. Ultimately, the decision belongs to the parent. If it doesn’t, are you still the parent, or have you been relegated to chauffeur, lunch-packer and grudging financier?...

 The alternative is to tell your children that, unfortunately, they cannot do it all. This is not deprivation: it is reality. No one can do it all or have it all, not even people who seem to have all the time and money in the world. It is all right to tell your children that they will have to give up some activities entirely, or wait until next year or possibly even adulthood to experience them. Many North Americans are not willing to do this. They want their kids to do it all, play it all, learn it all, experience it all. And then they wonder why their life seems like the Neverending Story of Hellish Exhaustion....

 Life is burdensome for many; when it’s burdensome as a result of our own choices, it is time to find a new balance. It’s basically a matter of priorities, which each family must decide for itself. Parents simply have to be aware that every choice has consequences. There are only so many hours in a day and days in a week, and only about eighteen years in a child’s life until they leave the nest. How many of those do you want to spend in the car—or the studio, field, track, gym or stadium, and how many do you want to spend strolling in the park?

(I added the emphasis.)