Why I'll re-think extra-curricular activities as COVID restrictions ease

Getty Images/iStockphoto
Getty Images/iStockphoto 

I've always been one for letting my children do whatever activities they like after school. If I can manage to get them there, they can do it. Between my three kids over the past year or so, we've been to boxing, ju jitsu, gymnastics, cooking, ballet, AFL, soccer, drama, musical theatre, singing lessons, school band, choir, and chess club.

Phew!

I was aware that experts warn parents against overscheduling their children, but as a full-time working parent, I also didn't want to fall into the trap of using iPads as babysitters. And I figured, if my kids wanted to be busy and they were happy, then what's the harm?

What I didn't account for was just how much stress those activities put on all of us, without me even realising.

I had no idea how overscheduled and overwhelmed we were because it just felt, well, normal.

Overwhelm was my modus operandi. I was a mum of three children, aged 15 to seven, while also running two businesses – of course I was busy and stressed.

But among all the chaos and uncertainty of COVID-19 has come something extraordinary: the gift of standing still.

Sports and clubs have been cancelled until who knows when, and we've been homeschooling along with the rest of the nation. My family has spent our spare time playing games, watching movies, going for walks around the neighbourhood, talking and, yes, sometimes playing on iPads while I was trying to hit a deadline or two.

When I asked my children recently what they'd miss most when life gets back to normal, they said they'd miss our walks and our playing games together.

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And I realised that I would too.

I'm not naïve enough to think we'll be able to keep all of those activities up once school goes back and sports kick off again, but it made me stop and think just how much I've enjoyed feeling unhurried with my children as well.

Before lockdown I'd resist going to the local park in the afternoon because there wasn't enough time between gymnastics and having to get dinner started. Or we'd be rushing out the door to get to footy. 

I have to admit I'm dreading life returning to normal, because I don't want to feel rushed all the time. So I'll be looking closely at all our extra-curricular activities as they come back online and assessing them closely. Is it something my kids really love, or is it something they just do to keep busy?

If it's the latter, I'll be encouraging them to stay home and relax instead in an unstructured environment. Lockdown has taught me that we could all do with more gaps in our schedule – with nowhere to be and nothing to do. 

Not every minute has to be productive, and that feeling of not being overwhelmed all the time is something I'd like to preserve. It's something I want for myself, and it's a gift I'd like to pass onto my children. 

And I want to spend more time at the park.