My kids are 4 and 7 and, I'm not going to lie to you, we're in a good place now. Everyone in the family has some level of self-sufficiency. We get along very well. We can communicate our wants and needs and love to one another clearly and effectively. Sure, we have our "bad days," but for the most part things are solid. But as my kids become more autonomous individuals, they have more autonomous interests: baseball, ballet, friends, that sort of thing. And it's great! I'm encouraging their interests! But I'm wary, too. Because I refuse to plan my life around my kids' schedules. I've made that mistake before, and I just don't want to go back to that way of life.
When they were babies, and even toddlers to a certain degree, everything was on their schedule. We couldn't go places because it just wasn't worth it to mess with their naps. I couldn't be away too long because they'd have to eat (and my boobs would be painfully engorged). Babies are needy AF, you guys. And, hey, we know that when we signed up for the whole parenting gig. It's cool. I don't begrudge them any of that labor intensive attention. And even today, a huge chunk of my life revolves around my children, both physically and certainly emotionally. That's just part for the parenting course.
But now that I've moved to a point where we can all chill a little bit and we're more flexible than I was when I had to feed them and put them to sleep every couple of hours, I don't want to go back to living on a rigid, exhausting schedule, particularly if it's a schedule based on their wants instead of their needs. Like, I'm more than happy to take my kids to practice, games, classes, and playdates a few times a week, because I want them to be a well-rounded and have a life outside of the walls of their home and school. But there's a limit and I'm drawing my line in the sand.
I want to encourage them, but I'm not about to give up every other good thing we've got going in my life (and the life of our family unit) because they couldn't choose between flute lessons and ballet and baseball and soccer and scouts so LOL let's just do all of them. Absolutely not. Here's why:
Because I Work
Life as it exists in the United States today is not built for working parents. When you have a job outside of the home, revolving your life around your kids' schedule is almost certainly going to have to come second to your work schedule.
I'm extremely fortunate to have a job where I work from home, which comes with a lot of perks that makes doing a lot of the parenting stuff a bit easier (sick days, for example, or the fact that not having a commute to eat up any time frees me up to be other places with and for them more easily), but that does not mean that I can stop what I'm doing whenever I want because my kid has cheerleading practice every day starting at 3 p.m. for god knows why. Not only can I not afford to not work, I wouldn't not work even if I could. I enjoy work and I'm not going to give that up.
Because I'm Not A Chauffeur
I feel like this is something that creeps up on parents without them noticing it: one day, you realize you've just spent most of your free time this week carting your kids to various activities. And some of that is unavoidable, and I'm not saying I'm never going to drive my kids anywhere. I certainly spend my fair share of time in a car as it is, but I want to be mindful of it moving forward because I know it can sneakily take over your life. No thank you.
Because I Want To Spend Time With Them As A Family
Revolving my life around the kids' schedule means I'm not prioritizing our collective life as a family, and that's important to me. I want them to have their own experiences, but if we're taking up every Saturday morning with my son's baseball games and every Saturday afternoon with my daughter's soccer games and every Sunday doing some more of the same... where's the time for us? I don't want our family life to be taking turns between each person's individual interest: I want to do things as a family unit. That's going to beat out whatever they have on their agenda.
Because Dinner Is Important To Me
I fully admit this is culturally specific in some ways and old-fashioned in others. It's also tremendously privileged. But we are currently able to have dinner together as a family just about every night and that is, as far as I'm concerned, a standing appointment that can only be fiddled with under unique or crucially important circumstances.
Sorry kids, nothing on your personal agenda is going to trump your Italian mama telling you we're going to be at the table every evening.
Because I Want The Two Of Them To Have A Relationship
If each of them is off doing their own thing, how are they going to find the time to develop a relationship on their own as they grow? I'm not the kind of person who is convinced that all siblings are going to grow up to be BFFs. I think most probably won't. But a sibling relationship is special and, well, I'd like to give them the opportunity to be BFFs. That means less individualized activities and more unstructured play at home.
Because I Have A Social Life Of My Own
Yeah, hi, remember how I work from home? That means my co-workers are a 4-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy and I need an adult outlet that isn't my husband from time to time. I have needs of my own! It's not like I'm saying, "Sorry kids, you can't do any activities or have any playdates because mommy wants to go to Happy Hour!" But I am saying, "Sorry kids, but we do what you want to do a lot, and we can't add one more thing to the list today because today mommy's going to Happy Hour."
Because I Need Down Time
Can't we all just relax a little bit? Why does everything have to be a mile-a-minute? Why do we feel like we have to justify ourselves to some invisible judge who thinks we shouldn't be wasting any time whatsoever? I'm all about "wasting" time, sometimes. Learn to be bored a little bit, kids. It's good for you.
Because I'm Selfish About Them
Look, I only get a few short years with my family in this particular configuration and with all of us living together under the same roof. I want to take advantage of it. I don't want to spend the entire time carting them off to band practice or whatever. There won't be no band practice, but I want to see them in more than just passing.
Because No One Else Is Ever Going To Revolve Their Lives Around Their Schedule
Honestly, it sounds harsh but, like... for real. I love my children. I think they are unique and special and perfect, but I don't want them growing up entitled. And I feel like revolving my entire life around their wants, needs, and activities is a slippery slope that ends with them thinking they're the center of the universe.
Because I Don't Have To
This is both flippant (I'm in charge, yo) and an acknowledgement of my privilege. Some people have to revolve their entire schedules around their children for any number of reasons. Some medical. Some emotional and/or psychological. And those parents are doing what's best for their families. My way isn't the only way to go about this and it's not the best way for everyone.
Because, Frankly, They Owe Me
I do a lot for them. Honestly, most of my life revolves around them, whether I like it or not. It's called parenthood. Fortunately, I do like it. The least they can do for me is not expect me to revolve my life around their schedules as well.