Can I let you in on a secret? Your little kids don’t have to do activities. They will be perfectly fine if they aren’t signed up for a sport or class or lesson every semester. You don’t have to have something going on every night of the week. Or any night of the week if you don’t want to.
I know. Earth shattering.
Don’t get me wrong, we have standing plans for certain evenings, and some weeks are pretty busy. But none of those plans are for kids’ activities, and that is by choice. I want it to be normal in our family to have seasons of slowing down and having nothing to do. I know after being forced to do nothing during the pandemic, a lot of people probably want to make up for lost time, but I don’t think it’s healthy that being busy has become a status symbol.
“How are you?”
“Oh, my gosh, we are SO busy. Timmy has baseball every night, and the girls have dance and basket weaving three nights a week, so we eat out a ton and don’t get to bed until 9 pm every night!”
“That sounds … busy?”
If you’ve seen any of my last few Instagram takeovers, you’re probably thinking I have no room to talk about doing too much. Last year, I ran a small business in addition to my “real” job and all of my normal responsibilities. Deadlines for orders loomed over my head like heavy rain clouds. My phone pinging with an email or DM sent my heart racing. Constantly focusing on food safety caused my old anxiety around food poisoning and sickness to kick up again. I wouldn’t go to restaurants. I ate a lot of cereal because it was one of my “safe” foods. I lost weight from stress and not eating. I stopped exercising. I stopped reading my bible. I didn’t take the kids to the park or the library. I started having panic attacks and had to get back on anxiety medication to control them. I ran myself absolutely ragged, and for what? A little extra money? I’d rather be poor. So this year I’m making a conscious decision to do less.
And I’m showing my kids that it is perfectly fine to not fill all your spare time with activities or always be productive. It’s fine to sit. It’s fine to be bored. In fact, it’s not just fine, it’s healthy. I had to learn that the hard way. It’s how we were designed to live – in a rhythm of work, play, and rest. And while my kids are small, I want them to spend their time not in school just playing and using their imaginations. Even if that means I’m resetting the living room back into a living room every night after having been a doctor’s office, beach, outer space, or moonrat cave. Yes, a moonrat is an actual animal. News to me, too.
My brothers and I grew up playing city league and school sports. We loved being at the ball fields for t-ball and softball, the practice fields for soccer, and the gym for volleyball. But it was just for fun. We learned some valuable things about sportsmanship and working hard, but none of us were making a career out of it. Being on a team or in a group of some sort is healthy for kids. Learning to negotiate differences and work toward a common goal is great practice for adult life. But it doesn’t have to be so serious and it doesn’t have to start so young. I absolutely want my kids to find more structured activities when they get older if that’s what they want to do. But for right now, they need to just be little kids. And our family needs to practice having boundaries around busyness, so it becomes normal for all of us to set aside time for rest.
You don’t need my permission to reject hustle culture for your family and just chill, but if you’ve been thinking about it and need a little encouragement, here’s your sign.