How Much Is Too Much?

I have a full time job. It entails driving a car, event organization, preparing food, more driving, conflict resolution, property management, even more driving, budgeting, and much more. Then I have a part time job that’s a lot easier – it’s called work, the first one is parenting. And I’m not alone to feel this way. Especially in North America, where half your life is spent in the car and most children’s activities are extra-curricular (i.e. not provided in school) and where there is less of a family network than elsewhere, children bring a hefty extra layer of management. (I’m actually not complaining.  As I always tell my non-parent friends, the joys of having children still far outweigh the negatives.)

But I think we add to the problem a bit. Where we live, a quite standard North American suburb, most parents care about their children’s education and realize school doesn’t nearly cover all their needs. Hence we lessons and classes of every kind in our neighborhood: swimming, hockey, tennis, chess, art, cooking classes, martial arts, ballet, sailing, camps, scouts, air cadets – you name it, you can find it. It also makes each supportive parent a part-time chauffeur. But sometimes I ask myself, how much is too much? For one, after children come home for school and deal with homework (By the way, why are they bringing work home if they spent 7 hours in school?) how much energy do they have for other activities?

The other point is: how efficient is it to drive them to activities that we could be providing ourselves. For example, I am a music teacher which means I am an expert (as are most teachers) in teaching children music. This means I’ve taken on teaching my children music. It’s not easy getting the respect they would get from someone else but when I factor in the 40 minutes I save driving, the money saved, the time in getting dressed, getting out the door, parking, etc. there are very real savings in a DIY approach.

Of course not everyone is a teacher. But I believe everyone has a set of skills that they’re very able with and could pass on better than any teacher. Sports are very big here. Almost everyone has done some and many have competed at a relatively high level. These sports could be systematically passed on. The same goes for sciences. If you work say in a lab in any capacity, it’s easy to set up a simple home lab to motivate and pass on the basics to your children. It does take effort, but I prefer putting effort into something I know about rather than taxi driving. And the benefits are very real. Look at how many professional hockey players and artists had parents in the same or similar field. It’s almost as if this was a greater factor than school and extra-curricular programs. The drawback is that it requires dedication and being more organized. Not everyone has the time and energy. Personally I believe children are our greatest asset and when they are all grown up we will have fond memories of the time we spent learning together. It also goes both ways, it teaches us to be more patient and learn about ourselves as much as about them, and isn’t that what parenting is all about?’,’How Much Is Too Much’,