Friday, 19 October 2012

I haven't got TIME to have more kids!

I didn't even think about posting Quick Takes at Conversion Diary today - I have a head cold and am too throughly sluggish to post anything 'quick' and 'snappish'. Instead, we have rambling and wittering, I suspect....possibly ranting...

BUT ANYWAY - one of the things Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary did bring to my attention today, was their family suddenly seeming over-scheduled with activities. I've written briefly about this before, in the context of having larger families. But today I'm inspired, if that's the correct word, by a comment a fellow school mum made to me yesterday:

"I haven't got TIME to have more kids!"

Now, let me make it clear, she didn't mean time for you-know-what or pregnancy or maternity leave. She went on to list the activities in which her children participate as a reason for not being able to contemplate a larger family. And although they, boy and girl, take part in less activities than mine (and the Fulwilers), it seems like things like football can take over an entire weekend or more.

Chess in Pyjamas. Optional fight afterwards.

And I have to say, I agree with her. I feel that I don't have time to have more kids either. But, we're going ahead anyway, because we think it's a wonderful thing to do. Strangely enough, we didn't really take into the account that throwing more children into an existing set of activities is a difficulty we should avoid. Which is quite possibly crazy, since my (self-employed) husband currently does two short days in order to pick up and take to swimming class, rather than me dragging my pregnant still-nauseous self and a pre-schooler to the poolside. Rather, we are choosing to embrace the challenges another child is certain to bring, regardless of the impact on activities and other factors.

Having the Worst Pregnancy Sickness I've Ever Experienced threw things into perspective this summer, for one thing, particularly on the return to school. I mentioned to my friend (a mother of four children aged 12, 8, 4 and 1 whose activities seem to require particularly intense micro-management due to their spacing) that as long as my children are fed, get to bed on time and bathe semi-regularly I'm not going to fixate on the details. Things that were once seen as very important to us as parents, like a tall girl needing to do ballet to enhance her coordination, confidence and posture, or a 6 year old not being able to attend an after-school club this time around, now simply don't have the priority that, I suspect, families with one or two children focus on.

Yet we do already heavily over-schedule - three dance classes for 2ndSister (ballet, tap and modern theatre), piano lessons on what used to be our free night, swimming and Brownies for 1stSister on the same evening. Yes, the activities ebb and flow, and sometimes (gasp!) they even get skipped, but fitting them in with homework, dinner and bath night remains a juggling act sometimes. And although we don't find the cost prohibitive, that's only through blessed circumstance. The lure of extra-curricular activities, for parents and children alike, not only means that we may feel we have the time to have more kids, but that we couldn't afford to support them in a contemporary lifestyle either.

Brownie girl

I'm aware that there area huge amount of things that larger families can do as entertainment, education and exercise - we no longer get out to roam around in nature as often as I'd like, for example. But because it's the norm to do at least one or two activities outside of school in the week, or at the weekend - often juggled with two parents in paid employment - I wouldn't want my children to miss out entirely. What would devastate me, however, is if their existing commitments were a prohibitive factor on how much 'extra' (a NEW LIFE!) we could take on. To me, personally, there's nothing more important. Obviously, it is crucial to me that my children don't spend all their time as a family, or indeed with their class at school, and of value that they participate in structured exercise and music time. Yet however many children we have, we'd try to ensure a healthy mix. Sometimes, something's got to give. But for us, not the possibility of a new pregnancy.

Although my children learn life skills from their activities, I see their natures developing via the simple activities they participate in at home. Spontaneously reading storybooks to a pre-schooler; doing dishwasher duty as a team; sharing movie night; playing a game of chess that ends up in an argument. Knowing when time is needed for oneself; helping sisters with outfits and makeup; making each other laugh; celebrating each other's achievements with a round of applause. Family time is precious, whether you have one child or more - I would suggest it be ring-fenced and nurtured, allowed to breathe between rushing harum-scarum betwixt pillar and post. Allowing them to be, allowing them to be bored, allowing them to imagine and create. If you feel another child would throw a carefully managed schedule into tailspin, does that mean there is already a lack of breathing space?

3Sisters Playdough time

I know parents who spend lots of time trying to discern God's will for them regarding children in today's world. Sometimes, just trying to get through the day with one child can make us feel ill-equipped to cope and the thought of pregnancy, labour and a newborn cause us to panic and postpone. Oftimes I feel a little like the Mayor of Whoville, trying to deal with the needs of all the Sisters at once. We know that what is right for one family isn't right for another. But, not wanting to have more children because you already have a pressured extra-curricular schedule, is a sentiment that saddens me.

Can't something be tweaked, adjusted....can't we strive to live in a less busy, cluttered world in order to raise new life?

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