EXTRA curricular activities - when is too much just too much?

September 03, 2015

Struggling to cope with the demands of extra curricular after school activities? When is too much just too much?

It seems everyone has a reason to be smug. The couples who have a boy and then a girl. Smug family. The family who whip out their brood and have “3 under 5” and sail through that. Smug family. The one that have babies that go to bed. Really bloody smug family.

Our reason to be smug (aside from the fact that we have three healthy boys) was that we spaced them out… (currently 11, 7 and 4). Smug, we thought, because we got to "recover" between babies. Smug because each was walking talking and potty trained before the next arrived. Smug because we'd arranged it so we could cope. But slowly, as they've grown out of being babies into three school age people, all with extracurricular activities I've gone from proud "yes he can play tennis and he's only four" to actively discouraging too much of it. Quite simply, the myriad and logistical organisation of “extra curricular” had me conceding defeat (floored and reaching for the gin bottle.)


Football mad 11 year old, 4 year old starting out rock climbing and music lessons (and all the practice.)

When is enough enough?

Before I go any further, let me stress that I am NOT a Tiger Mom. It's not that I'm against Tiger Mom's or anti anyone else's parenting choices, it's just I think a suitable level of boredom is healthy. Which is why I started out with a small amount of extra activities. Just swimming, then tennis, perhaps chess club. But soon enough the puppy dog eyes pleading to be signed up for more coupled with an "encouraging" sport loving, sport enthusiastic husband led to my weeks looking like this:

  • Monday Football and Hockey,
  • Tuesday School Cricket,  
  • Wednesday Swimming and Sailing,
  • Thursday Mad Science and Futsal,
  • Friday Tennis,
  • Saturday Extra Football and sometimes Club Cricket, 
  • Sunday Rugby until summer when rugby replaced by cricket  - all day cricket.

And that’s child one. 


All day cricket tournaments and flood lit football practice that finishes in the evening - when did that stop being "grown up" time?

Slowly, child two joined in. And he's keen on music too. So factor in lessons - and practice - to the mix.

Child three is still a little too small. And will be for a while. But he has spent the last four years in his car seat or on the side lines/ side of hot stuffy pool. In fact it seems that the car seat's has been his second home - and he spends his life being prodded and being fed any crap JUST to keep him awake. What's more I nearly always missed the wicket or the catch or the goal because I was prodding or food stuffing or dropping the other somewhere. 

The worse thing was that all this rigmarole was before the witching hour of tea, bath and bed.

So when do you call too much, too much?

One Friday night went: school cake sale to tennis coaching to sandwiches on the back seat of the car and changing in the boot and then onto a neverending cricket match where I missed the five minutes that my oldest batted because I was finding a loo my youngest because he continually needed the loo having drunk too much water as I'd been force feeding him crisps to keep him awake. I got home after 9.30 with three over tired boys, fought them into bed, inhaled a bottle of wine and went on extracurricular strike. This level of extra curricular needed reigning in. This pretense at Tiger Mom Hover Parent was NOT for me. We all needed to be a bit more bored a bit more often.

So what to do?

Short of waving a bottle of empty wine at them and categorically stating I was never getting in the car again I was stumped by the feeling of defeat. So I did a little internet soul searching - to see what other mum's did - and this is my short list of how to cope with the extracurricular beast.

  1. Conceding defeat - we can't all do everything. Really. So allow yourself to agree that enough is enough.
  2. And then, on to a big fat cull. Most experienced Mama's seem to recommend one club per child per week. I've gone to two... for now. 
  3. Seeing the bigger picture. DOES it matter that much if they don't do all types of sport? In fact, isn't have a bit of down time more formative in the long run.
  4. Sharing the fun/trauma. Recognising it's the same faces at the same places and getting over the playground phobia and start lift sharing. (This one might just be for me!)
  5. And finally, if you can't beat them, join them.  Learn the rules. (I've just learnt that really makes a difference!) Join the sporting committee. Make sure you go - to watch - without the rest of the brood to distract you. If you've cut down on the long list you'll have more time to engage with the smaller amount of activities. So do!


If you can't beat them - join them. And choosing to do less organised activities frees up more time for family fun.

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