Motherhood: The New Competitive Sport
By Dana Tuszke
One of the advantages to working from home is that I am able to spend more quality time with my son, Dawson. One of the disadvantages to working from home is that I often spend too much time with my son.
With my husband working outside the home 40+ hours a week, he doesn't have as much time to spend with his "mini-me," aside from a few hours here and there when he's not fulfilling the many demands of his pregnant wife (taking the garbage out, lifting heavy things, opening jars, re-carpeting the spare bedroom, the list goes on).
Dawson and I do lots of fun things together; trips to the park, the library, Adventure Alley at the YMCA, and lots of play dates, too. But, sometimes Mom needs a night out, and last month I took advantage of 2 hours away from all motherly and wifely duties.
A few months ago I joined a moms' group to meet other local mothers and their children. Dawson and I have made some great friends, and I truly enjoy my time out with these new friends. I love having the support network, and when I'm stuck at home for days on end, it's nice to know I can call one of my mom-friends for adult conversation.
For the recent Moms' Night Out (MNO) we went to dinner at a local hot spot; just me and six other moms. We talked about the new school year which is fast approaching, which teachers our children had and how much money we spent on Back To School necessities. After talking to the newest member of the group for a fair amount of time, I realized I was conversing with one of those moms. You know the type. The mom who has her children involved in seven different sports, dance classes and other extra-curricular activities. My husband calls them "CompetiMoms" and the title rightly fits.
This woman was very sweet and friendly, and she spoke of her children with a glint in her eye. She was proud of her kids' accomplishments, and loved telling me how skilled they were in sports, how involved they were in charitable organizations, etc.
Her three children, ages 13, 11 and 8 are involved in 3 sports each (soccer, football, hockey, volleyball, softball, gymnastics, karate and tennis), one has dance class, one has piano & clarinet lessons, and the other takes art classes at the local Art Village. My head was spinning just thinking of all the hours my friend spends in the car, driving each of her children from one activity to the next. It's almost as time consuming as a full-time job. Where does she find the time?
I didn't ask what her schedule was like from day to day, but as a stay-at-home mom, I imagine she has the time to run her children all over town, in between laundry, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping and other household duties. But are these activities spread out on different days of the week? Don't some of these activities overlap? My curiosity got the best of me, so I asked.
"Oh, Julie has dance on Thursdays, and soccer on Tuesdays, Andrea has piano on Mondays and Fridays, and softball and volleyball on Wednesday and Friday. Adam has hockey on Tuesday and Soccer on Thursday..."
My head was spinning. I cannot imagine doing all of these things all week long. Where does she find time for herself? Does she find time for herself?
My friend asked me what activities Dawson was involved in. I thought her head was going to explode when I said, "He's not in any activities just yet." The expression on her face was priceless. I think she thought I was the crazy one. I felt like I was being judged for not having my son in sports or any classes, but seriously, the boy isn't even five years old yet. When did motherhood become a competitive sport?
I know being a parent is a full-time job, but I don't remember reading anything about being a full-time taxi driver in the job description. I couldn't help but wonder if my friend has over-scheduled her children. Do her kids enjoy these activities? Was it their decision to join every single one? How much influence did their parents have in making these decisions? How expensive is it to be involved in each one of these sports and classes?
I can't help but wonder if this mother is living vicariously through her children, or if she just wants them to experience many different things? What are the advantages of being involved in several different activities? What are the disadvantages? I mean really, all these activities on top of school work? And earning their keep with household chores? Are today's parents trying to raise Super Kids?
I know parents want what's best for their children. We want to provide for them and offer them opportunities to do things they love. But at what point are we pushing our children too hard? At what point are they too involved? When did childhood become a full time job?
When I compare my son to these Super Kids, I start to think I'm not doing enough or encouraging him enough. He's not enrolled in soccer (although he has mentioned he'd like to learn to play this year), I haven't signed him up for gymnastics at the YMCA, I'm not pushing him into piano lessons either.
In all honesty, my son is just happy to play with his Legos, hang out at the park with his best friends, and he loves when his parents read to him before bed. Isn't that enough? At what age should I introduce new opportunities, whether it be sports or music lessons?
I'll never be able to compete with the CompetiMoms, and that's all right with me.
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