Like many young boys, my husband’s childhood dream was to play in the NFL. Unfortunately, in elementary school, he wasn’t very good at sports. In 7th grade, he was so bad at football that he quit his team. His dream obviously began to look a little dicey. Then he hit puberty and unlike many young boys, he grew to be 6’6” and his athletic ability kicked in. With a healthy dose of good genetics and very focused determination, my husband’s dream came true. He played football in the National Football League.
I love his story because it keeps raising children in perspective.
Childhood sports have gotten so out of control that I can’t even talk about it without raising my blood pressure. I have a lot of feelings about this. I don’t want to offend my lovely readers (so I will temper my opinion), but I cannot understand the pressure for kids to specialize in a sport at a young age. Most kids will not even come close to playing a sport professionally (and people are surprised to hear we don’t push our kids in that direction…we want them to live their calling in life, not their dad’s). But even my professional football-playing husband didn’t specialize in a sport until college. In high school, he played three sports and was a 5-time state champion in sports other than football.
Children’s sports are only one temptation of the parenting rat race. This one is particularly a problem because it feels like if kids don’t get involved in sports early, they miss their opportunity. And understandably not everyone’s husband played a professional sport and can speak to how ludicrous this is. Even so, I still feel this pressure. I want to do right by my kids, so it’s hard to tell when that desire ends and societal pressures begin. And this applies to every aspect of raising kids. Sports are simply an example.
Theoretically, raising kids should be easier than ever. We have so many modern conveniences, so many opportunities, so much information.
But the pressure of raising kids today is almost unbearable.
There is an unspoken thought that nothing is ever good enough. Nothing is ever right. Because if it was right yesterday, it’s wrong tomorrow.
And I can’t keep up. I can’t even keep up with my own laundry, so I definitely can’t keep up with the unrealistic and unrelenting demands of raising kids today.
Therefore, I have decided to bow out of the rat race of parenting.
I don’t like rats anyway.
There is no right or wrong way to bow out of the rat race. Like anything, it will look different for every family because we all have different value systems.
For my family, it looks like underscheduling our activities…making time for lots of down time (this either makes my kids super creative or fight a lot. I never said it was glamorous)…valuing friendships over worrying if my house is clean or not…lingering at the table past dinner to talk with my husband…tucking my kids in bed each night (even if it means my kitchen stays dirty)…saying yes to almost any adventure I can…intentionally focusing on what I am grateful for and not what I lack…pursuing my own hobbies and passions so I have something to do when my kids eventually leave the house.
My husband’s work schedule is unique. He starts working wayyyyyy before my kids and I get up, and he comes home around the time my kids go to bed. But he is home most days from about 11-2.
I have noticed that I get embarrassed if he comes home in the middle of the day and I am watching TV or doing some other mindless activity (in the summertime before school started). (I still do these things, just later in the day now.) My husband fully supports my role in our family, so this embarrassment isn’t at all from him. I realized that I am actually embarrassed because I am not busy.
Our culture overvalues busy to such a degree that I actually feel embarrassed when I am not busy.
Not staying busy is a choice I’ve intentionally made.
But it still feels weird.
Sometimes in conversation, someone will say to me, “You must be so busy with four kids.”
I often respond, “I’m actually not very busy at all.” Judging by the looks on people’s faces, I think they think I am lying to them.
Sure, daily life is a lot with so many kids (or with any amount of kids). Meals need to be cooked, laundry never ends, and my house is always sticky. And as kids get older, life naturally gets busier. This is the natural rhythm of life, so I am not saying busy is the worst thing ever. And I am not saying anyone should emulate my life.
But I am saying running in the rat race for the sake of the rat race is unwise.
Staying busy with the value system of other people (who freely ascribe to the rat race) doesn’t bode well for anyone.
I can’t emphasize enough how much this varies from family to family, and I think it’s very important to decide what this is for your family. Even specializing in a sport is fine if it’s for the benefit of your family. (An example: I know many families of all boys who exclusively play baseball. In this case, much bonding takes place over baseball, which is unifying the family. So what I see as frustrating…as I am trying to balance little boys with a daughter and an older son…is actually great for another family.)
There is no right or wrong way to raise kids (with the obvious exception of doing terrible things). So I would never try to tell you how to raise your kids. Believe me, I am barely staying afloat in my own life…I certainly don’t have time to tell you what to do (well, technically, I do have time. But I don’t have the energy.)
I only encourage you be mindful of the race you’re running.
And to bow out when the value of your choices becomes equated with a disgusting rodent.
You are a human being. Life is too short to be a rat. And your children are too valuable to spend their sweetest days chasing an elusive standard.