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May 17, 2007

Hurried Children

Run The Wall Street Journal contacted the Silicon Valley Moms Blog to find some moms who would share their thoughts on overbooking children with activities. "Helping Overbooked Kids Cut Back," the article resulting from this search and interviews with others, was published this morning. The article discusses the debate on keeping kids busy with structured activities versus free play time. One Professor of family studies at the University of Maryland, Sandra Hofferth, who did a study "found an increase since 1981 in the time kids spend in structured activities".  She said "only one-fourth were what she calls "hurried children," engaged in three or more activities, or four or more hours of activities a week."

I had to opportunity to the talk to writer, Sue Shellenbarger, while I was shopping at Target (my second office). The timing was perfect, the week before I was trying to schedule some old fashioned playdates for my 8 year old son to have one on one time with his friends. We decided this year he would not sign up for baseball so he could have more free time. But it felt like I was trying to book an interview with movie stars; many of my son's friends had organized sport practice two times a week as well as other organized activities scheduled. It was so Silicon Valley, I had marathon sessions with other moms, smartphone versus PDA, trying to find time for our kids to play. We could find an hour here or an hour there but no long stretch of time was available. I felt lucky to have his regular weekly playdate with a neighborhood friend.

The truth is, some kids are very happy being overbooked. Even my 4 year old twins can stay at their preschool until 4pm when needed, and do not want to leave when I come to pick them up. They need to be with other kids and are begging me to start taking soccer classes. My older son needs his downtime so I limit his weekday organized activities.

Finding the right mix is hard, I still feel like my weekdays are filled with mom saying "hurry" we need to be here, "hurry" we need to be there. Hurry, hurry, hurry...... Which leaves me feeling overbooked and stressed (hurried mama). Sometimes I even day dream of sitting by a pool reading a book. Such a peaceful thought. Wonder if I can schedule that as a weekly activity with my three boys?

Related Discussion on the Wall Street Journal Blog "The Juggle" - Over-Scheduling Kids: Hurting or Helping?