For Busy Families, Stress Management Begins at Home

Article excerpt

There's one topic of conversation that's easy to predict when any group of parents get together: How busy our children are, and how much time and energy it takes to keep them "on schedule."

For example, Susan has soccer at 4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, and a game at 10 a.m. every Saturday. Her piano lessons are at 4:15 p.m. Tuesdays (and she is supposed to practice every night for a half-hour). She tap dances at 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays. The church youth group meets at 6 p.m. Sundays and the whole family tries to get to church on Sunday mornings.

Franklin also plays soccer, but for a different team that practices at a different park. His practices are at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays (which makes getting Susan to her piano lesson and dance class a bit exciting). His games are at 11 a.m. on Saturdays, giving his parents a chance to catch some of his sister's game before one of them has to drive him across town to his field. The school science club meets before school at 7:30 a.m. Mondays, so he needs a ride to school. Trombone lessons are every Thursday after school, which means he misses the bus and needs a ride then, too. His church group meets at 4:30 p.m. on Sundays.

Still with me? Jenny, the 4-year-old, gets dropped off at her preschool at 8:30 a.m. daily, picked up at 11:30 a.m. and dropped off at her aunt's house at 11:45 a.m. so mom can work at a local office supply store from noon to 3:30 p.m.

Jenny gets picked up at 3:45 p.m., just in time to swing by the house or school and pick up whoever has to be someplace. Oh, Jenny also has preschool gymnastics at 1 p.m. on Saturdays -- can't forget that.

Actually, both parents are involved in managing the family schedule. Dad's job starts at 8 a.m., allowing him to help out with some of the morning schedule. Since he is sometimes home by 5 p.m., he also can help out after school. And Dad has taken responsibility for scheduling a Sunday night family meeting to go over the next week's schedule.

Think I'm exaggerating? For a lot of families I know, the above is not all that out-of-line. An awful lot of us parents are running ourselves ragged trying to keep up with such schedules.

Most of us who take on such a load justify feeling frantic as one of the sacrifices we make for our families. We want our kids to have the chance to explore and develop a variety of talents and interests. …