Work and Life Balance

Our Story Begins:
Stop Trying for Perfection!


I had a phone conversation during my day job yesterday with a parent whose story just left me exhausted . . . and I was sitting at a desk not moving.

I was trying to get an interview for a TV story and working around the child’s schedule – let me reiterate that for you . . . the child’s schedule . . . was nigh impossible. I tried for Monday and they had practice for the sport du jour. I tried Tuesday and they had rehearsal for a school musical. Wednesday? Nope. Other child had La Crosse practice. By the time I’d hit Thursday with no hope I realized there was no point. I moved on to a family whose schedule wasn’t too dissimilar but had a Wednesday opening.

In my quest to find children for my story, I ran into this system over and over again. There was also this quest to make sure that whichever parent I spoke with made sure that the kids had the activities, the car the family needed, the school support system meeting attended and God knows what else.

It had me feeling overwhelmed and more than a little guilty about my own parenting skills.

My children, you see, are often latchkey for at least an hour or so. My oldest child – the one with the driver’s license – is away at college. The next in line won’t get a license until sometime in 2015. I have a son who wants to take guitar lessons, same said daughter who wants to be in several after-school-clubs, and another son who wants to join school clubs. The problem is their father has to work and their mother passed away more than three years ago. I don’t feel comfortable asking family friends to shuttle them around and act like a taxi driver. They have to catch the bus home.

After hearing the exhaustion in the voices of parents and then speaking with kids in their families . . . none of them seemed particularly ecstatic about the lives they were leading.

On my way home I put on a podcast, one of many in my iPhone, by Mike Pesca from Slate magazine called The Gist.  Stop Freaking Out About Your Kids! was the name of the episode.

Pesca loves language and his erudite chastisement of the so-called “Tiger Moms” and Dads in an interview with a British author was just what I needed on the way home. My children aren’t exceptionally athletic, so they’re not dying to play football. I embraced the fact that even though parents I’d spoken with said they knew “what’s best for my kid.” I inform my kids the reality of our situation rather than try to bend reality to my whims.

Pesca says we’re setting up parents to feel like failures . . . something I certainly was beginning to feel at the end of my day. To go on a rant of my own here, though, let me just say that activity is activity. “Activities” for the sake of indulgence or the panic to look good on a college application or to live vicariously through your child seemed wrong.

Related:  Our Story Begins: Taking the Advice of Your Kids

Or maybe I’m trying, just a little, to justify my own lack of after-school activity, too.

Regardless, I believe in the fact that I’m involved. I’m there with my kids, for my kids when they need me there, and enjoying our time together. Even if I work late, I see them, tuck them in, and give them a hug goodnight. Even my college-age daughter when she’s home.

My point is this: quality of life isn’t based on the amount of activities you do. The activities you do should help improve and enjoy your quality of life.

What about you? Do you feel more like a taxi driver than a parent? Are you pushing your kids to do activities one way or another?