As soon as we ticked over into 2017 I knew something had changed. I could sense an immediate step change in my parenting mindset and all because my 4 ½ year old Giuliana would be starting kindy in term 1.
Giuliana is a July baby so she won’t start school until 2018. Even though I’m still 12 months away from her starting reception I still experienced a wave of anxiety and pressure as to whether I should immerse our family in that vast realm that often goes hand in hand with school….extra-curricular activities!
Full disclosure – I’m a lazy parent when it comes to this sort of thing. I know kids who shortly after their birth were enrolled in multiple activities – swimming, sensory classes, music, kinder gym et al. I on the other hand was happy to err on the side of coffee when it came to going out with Giuliana in those early years.
However, I am now the mother of a ‘grown up kindy girl’ (she tells me this daily) and my aforementioned laziness has been replaced with FOMO…..hmm, I wonder if there is a kids capoeira class in my area??
I felt jittery all through January as I tried to rationalise the right number of activities for Giuliana and our family. I would flip-flop constantly and at one point I was convinced that swimming, art, dancing and Italian was the way to go. Luckily, I had a moment of rational clarity to realise that I was setting myself up for a weekly schedule filled with pressure, expectation and excessive yelling at the kids.
The reality is – life is already hectic. I juggle consulting part time with my blog/List & Assist stuff, I have another daughter Sienna and we’re a FIFO family, so managing the calendar is always king. Committing to 4 activities every week would have been sheer and utter madness…and I know it!
In reaching this conclusion, I thought about some of the questions families should ask themselves before they commit to lots of extra-curricular activities.
The Monies – Part 1
Extra-curricular activities can sound surprisingly affordable when broken down to a weekly denomination i.e. it’s ‘only’ $10 or $20 a week/lesson. If it’s a year-round activity it’s going to cost you in excess of $500 per year and that’s just the activity. Add another sport or an instrument to the mix and you could be up for $2000+ per year. Yikes.
The Monies – Part 2
Further to Part 1, you and I both know that it’s NEVER just $10 a week/lesson. Unless you’re swimming in cash Scrooge McDuck style, it’s critical to find out from the outset the total financial commitment for each activity. For example, you might be enrolling you daughter in a dancing class, but don’t forget about the costumes, uniforms, hair/makeup (for concerts/exams), equipment, interstate trips, private lessons etc. Note to self: encourage Giuliana to take up chess!
It’s rare for an activity to just be 30 minutes per week. When you’re weighing up any activity, think about the travel time both there and back, plus any warm up/down time, changing time etc. What will the traffic be like when you are trying to get there?? Will it take you 15 minutes to get a car park??
If you have multiple kids doing multiple activities who is physically going to get them there each week?? It doesn’t take long for parents to feel like an Uber service as they traverse the city going from one activity to another. Alternatively, it might not be possible to commit to some activities if you cant leave work/study in time. For school based activities I recommend trying to share the load with fellow parents who are also headed to the same places. Offer to drop the kids at soccer if they will drop them home after band practice.
A word of caution – it’s always best to ask grandparents/relatives if they are happy to get involved in the kid’s activities on a regular basis. They might love the opportunity to get involved once a term, but might not want to drive to trampolining every week through peak hour traffic.
What happens when you can’t make it??
Kids will be kids. They get sick, tired, lose interest (in most things) but you are now inconveniently commitment to a terms worth of fees (or worse a direct debit!) Once again, I recommend checking the fine print from the outset. You might be happy to forego the odd missed session, but you might also need to find the time to organise a make-up lesson. Do you have the time (and capacity) on another day of the week to catch up the sessions the kids miss??
So, what is Giuliana’s number….1. Swimming. She only started lessons just before Christmas (lazy parent….remember)….and I used to be a swimming teacher! My rationale is that starting kindy is still a big deal for a little kid and I would rather bed that in before adding something else into the mix. Giuliana has years to try a range of activities, sports and instruments and find the ones she loves. As for me, 2017 is shaping up to be another crazy busy year so I am more than happy to be ‘lazy parent version 2.0’ for a while.
Written by Brooke Ciccozzi from List & Assist