Main Line Moms Run Ragged

Being your hyper-scheduled child's personal assistant is just exhausting

My daughter’s extracurricular activities have finally wound down for the summer. Forget about her—I am exhausted. I always swore that I’d never be one of those mothers that overscheduled and yet here I am, running around to lessons almost daily asking myself how I ended up in this place. I had no idea of the slippery slope that is after-school activities.

It began so innocently. She is graceful and liked dancing. We put her in ballet at a young age. It stuck. Then we moved to the Main Line and had to find a dance school and we inadvertently wound up in the serious ballet school. No longer did we go to short, lighthearted classes once a week. Oh no. This is a twice a week, extended class affair. While I pondered whether or not this was more than we bargained for, I had to weigh the fact that she gets virtually no exercise at school. The upshot is that she gets three guaranteed hours of physical activity this way. So ballet is still sticking. Damn!

Then there are the piano lessons. Unfortunately, the child is really musical. So we hired a piano teacher for weekly lessons. Sadly, this is no drop-off proposition, unlike most lessons. For piano I am expected to sit in and take notes on what they’re working on and what needs to be practiced. Ugh. It’s a lot of work for me to take stenography on musical theory for an hour, and I don’t even read or play music. (Sometimes I sneak in my iphone. Shh.) Then of course we have to practice all week, which basically requires a whip and chair. It just gets ugly.

The culmination of all the activities came to a head on a recent Sunday when all of the year-end performances were held on the same day. Of course. Back-to-back in completely different directions. It was idiotic. Remembering to bring two costumes, shoes, tights, makeup, hairpins and spray to go to Valley Forge, and then the recital dress, shoes, makeup remover, hairbrush and the sheet music to go to Germantown. Helping your child change and remove makeup on the Schuylkill is not ideal, incidentally. By the end of the day the kid had performed two difference ballet dances with a costume change and a classical piano piece for two different audiences. She was like a show pony. When we got into the car to go home I wondered, what else can she do? Juggle? Bounce a ball on her nose? Don’t just sit there—sing or something!

I have it easy compared to my friends. My child (thankfully) isn’t athletic like all the other kids we know. Getting together with my girlfriends at this time of year is almost impossible with the travel soccer and baseball schedules. I actually wince when people tell me their child is on any travel sports team. It’s not an activity—it’s a lifestyle. I can honestly say that unless that kid is going to make the major leagues and support you later in life, it’s not worth spending nights at the Best Western in Allentown.

One friend of mine doesn’t have the good fortune that I do. Her activities never end. Her twins have joined the summer swim team, in addition to their various camps and her other child’s schedule. Theoretically, I may never see her again unless we pass each other on the road. This poor woman is going to spend the summer in her car. Did I mention how grateful I am to only have one child? If I’m tired from schlepping one around, I swear I’d be in an asylum if I had to do this for multiple kids. I’m not sure if I admire these people or think they’re certifiable for not pulling the plug and telling their kids to go outside and play.

This whole scheduling run amok is likely born out of our fear that we’ll deny our children an opportunity to be great at something. We don’t want to face the future possibility that we prevented them from being a professional musician, dancer, Olympian or major leaguer because we didn’t drive them all over to hone their skills. These kids will probably tell their therapists someday about how their parents never gave them any time off! Americans are competitive and Main Line dwellers take their prospects to the next level because they can. After all, every activity you could want is available here and all you need is a mom to drive. Gotta go rest up for September.