|Work-life balance at swim lessons.|
A portion of Senior's book (and something she touches on in her TED talk, which I wrote about last spring) is a deep discussion of extracurricular activities and the effect they have on both children and their parents lives. She also touches on issues of class and race, because even if extracurricular activities don't strike you as having anything to do with class and race, you're failing to notice something very important. I won't go into all of it here, but I recommend reading her book just for that section alone.
With two kids in elementary school, I felt like we'd been able to limit extracurricular activities fairly easily, up until this year. Now that Hannah is in fifth grade, I think the list of things she does has exploded a bit. She goes to Hebrew school three days a week, takes swim lessons, is in All City choir, plays clarinet, sometimes goes to school early for additional play practices, is taking a free class on television production, has been going to once a month parties for fifth graders, and goes to after school care on three afternoons each week. Some of those activities occur during school or aftercare, so it's not necessarily more driving for us. We use carpools too. We're making it all work, and she's really enjoying herself, but it feels like a lot to me. And instead of making me feel proud, it makes me feel a little guilty. Are we hitting that over-scheduled level?
Now as I type this, she's watching a TV show with her brother. She's resting, not stressed and running from thing to thing. She has time to help with stuff around the house, and does her own laundry. But I couldn't help asking Senior last night: what do busy families do to manage all of this without going insane? Much as I wanted confirmation that we're doing all the right things, Senior reminded me, there are no guarantees about any of these parenting choices, and we're making a lot of this up as we go. But she emphasized that if Hannah is happy and choosing to do these things mostly of her own accord (for example, Hebrew school is not negotiable for us), then we're doing okay. She also suggested involving Hannah in the logistics of all of this, which we've been starting to do now that she has her own email address and cell phone.
The other side of the coin is that it's not just the kids who have their extras. I have them too (and so does Marc). After all, I was the one out at a book talk. And I'm coincidentally going to another one tomorrow. I have this blog and the occasional writing beyond it, LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER, my synagogue's Holocaust remembrance committee, the Board of Directors for Hannah's overnight camp, my women's networking group with the terrible name, and other random events and commitments. We're also looking at doing renovations to our home, and at some point we need to start planning Hannah's bat mitzvah. Am I hitting that over-scheduled level for me? And if I'm not there yet, can I really take on any more?
I know I'm thinking about it a lot. I was asked about a commitment that's at least a year off, but it would probably be bigger than almost anything else I've listed so far. But it also has the chance for an impact far bigger than myself, and that could mean a lot to me. I haven't made any decisions yet, but I don't take any of it lightly.
So it makes me wonder. What are your extras? What are your non-negotiables? Where do you want your impact to lie? Hey, impact wasn't my word of the year for nothing. I hope you'll share your experiences with me, and maybe we can help guide each other.