26 Feb Are You Overloading Your Kids?
A nanny wonders why parents fill their children’s weeks with so much extra stuff.
Emma hastily said goodbye to her teacher, collected her bag and raced out of ballet class. We bid farewell to Emma’s other nanny who was waiting for her brother’s class to finish. “See you at home,” I said as we dashed out the door.
This was a typical afternoon. I was one of the two nannies on duty most weekdays, and between us we transported the kids to their many activities.
For 10-year-old Emma, Monday was ballet followed by tennis; Tuesday was guitar; Wednesday was softball followed by piano; Thursday was choir practice.
On top of that, once all three children reconvened at home in the evening they were all expected to practice their instruments for half an hour. Then there was Saturday where I picked Emma up mid-way through her athletics session (which she told me she hated) to take her to choir rehearsal.
From a nannying perspective it was easy. I was getting paid to take the kids from one activity to the next while I sat and read my book. But it got me thinking, are we overloading our kids?
Are all these extracurricular activities really necessary, or are we trying to mould our children into the best they can possibly be and sacrificing their childhoods in the process?
Emma’s parents were both doctors so they could easily afford the wages of two nannies plus all the activities, which I can assure you – with uniforms and instruments – quickly added up. But I had to wonder if it was the right decision for the kids. What exactly does turning our children into the ‘best’ they can be entail, and where do we draw the line?
As an eight year old I took piano lessons, which I soon began to hate. My parents allowed me to quit knowing I wasn’t enjoying them. Do I regret it? Do I wish my parents had forced me to continue against my will? No. As much as I’d fantasised about being a world-class piano player, the truth is, I hated it so much that I sulked in lessons and never did my homework.
As a nanny to these kids, I wondered what happened to running outside and making up imaginary stories of pirates and fairies, or sitting down on a rainy day to a fun craft project, or even the simple activity of baking together.
All these kids wanted to do once they got home was sit in front of the computer or television, because they were so exhausted and needed to tune out. And with all the extracurricular activities they were expected to do, who could blame them?
Words by Felicity Roberts