The Curse of Being a Working (Outside the home) Mom

Posted on | February 16, 2016 | 3 Comments

When J was little, I thought I was busy.

I was always running after him, cleaning up messes, watching for ninja attacks from every blindside. It felt like the world was out to hurt him and I was his only ally. Anything could be dangerous to a toddler… they’re like tiny trouble magnets. I swear at one point J had the impressive ability to choke on plain yogurt.

But as busy as I thought we both were then is NOTHING compared to the busy that comes with kindergarten and after school activities.

I always thought I wanted an active kid. One who is just involved in every aspect of life: art, drama, sports, music… you name it. So I was happy when he expressed interest at a young age in T-ball and then soccer. We could handle that. They were Spring and Fall, and sure it could be a little busy, but nothing I couldn’t handle.

Then cue the interest in violin. And basketball. And tennis.

And now I have this little boy who does 8am music lessons and 5pm tennis lessons and 5:30 basketball/soccer/baseball/whatever else sport gets created between now and next season. I swear my kid would play quidditch if he could figure out how to ride my kitchen broom.

I don’t remember feeling this busy when I was kid.

I remember having a lot of… you know… PLAY time. Time to run around my back yard and build fairy houses with my sister. Time to swing as high as possible then launch out of the swing set and hope to land away from the pine trees. Time to just be… a kid. Maybe it’s because I got off a school bus at 4pm every day and had an older sister and backdoor neighbor “brother” who would meet me in the back yard to plot and plan the afternoon’s activities. Maybe it’s because I had a parent who stayed home, who had after school snacks waiting for dirty fingers to grab on their way outside.

Not for the first time, I worry that my son is missing out on so much “Kid Time” because of the structure of our daily lives. There’s really no alternative. Banks and I work. We aren’t exactly the sort of people who can afford a nanny five days a week, and besides… if we did, odds are J would just watch TV or build legos all afternoon. I don’t foresee a time when he will just willingly wander into the yard to play alone… although he will dribble a basketball in lazy circles around our patio for a good ten or fifteen minutes at a time.

I don’t want to over structure his life.

I want to leave time for building imaginary forts and attacking imaginary monsters.

But where is that time? Is it tucked in between the 6:15pm arrival at home and the 7:30 bedtime? Is it hiding during the ten minute evening shower or the thirty minute dinner? Is it giving up the tennis or soccer or basketball or baseball? Is it telling him “no, you can’t play that sport because you need to play outside for an hour. By yourself.” Is it finding a house with a backdoor neighbor the same age?

Where do YOU find the time? Because I’m running out of options. And I worry that I’m buying into the over-scheduled kid because I’ve lost all better ideas.


3 Responses to “The Curse of Being a Working (Outside the home) Mom”

  1. KeAnne
    February 16th, 2016 @ 11:22 am

    I agree with you 100%! I was surprised to find out how much more challenging it is to be a working mom once they go to school. We have the opposite problem in that D isn’t really scheduled to do anything during the week and on the weekends. I want him to do some activity, but he isn’t interested in sports and would rather stay home and play. I tell myself that’s OK because he’s only 6, but I worry I should try harder to find an activity for him. And I cringe at the thought of activities that don’t start until 6 during the week – how does that work?

  2. Kate
    February 16th, 2016 @ 3:53 pm

    Is there no option for more unstructured afterschool care? In our county every elementary school has “before care” and “after care” that’s sort of like camp. It was a big group of mixed aged kids with a variety of activities. There was snack and time to work on homework and outside playtime and inside playtime. I have tons of great memories of aftercare. You could also look for an in-home daycare that does after school care for older kids or a nanny share with one (or more) other families with kids a similar age. One adult can certainly supervise a gaggle of say 5-8 year olds, it would be cheaper, and he’d have other kids to play with.

  3. Kate L.
    February 16th, 2016 @ 11:48 pm

    I was an overscheduled kid. But it gave me an opportunity to try out a lot of different activities. As I got older the list of activities whittled down to a few passions. I was also a very imaginative kid, the type to create tents in my bed and drift off to sleep under the stars of my own creativity.

    My husband was the opposite, lots of unstructured time. He watched a lot of TV, played a lot of video games. And played an instrument. Until we had kids my friends would tease him about not having any imagination, any inner child. But he’s just naturally a more serious soul I think.

    (Both of us had 2 working parents BTW, if that’s relevant).

    We have kids, and I kind of feel that they should be free to try out whatever activities they want to do. Imagination can still thrive in the between spaces of a busy life. It will likely whittle down eventually, but I let them explore structured activities while they’re brave and excited, as that may someday pass.

    Overscheduled kids, fine. I just wish I could figure out how to ensure that didn’t also mean overscheduled aka exhausted mommy and daddy.

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