- It is unsustainable and it makes us highly stressed
- It is detrimental to our children
Let me develop:
Let’s assume that Junior will be our child: Junior can be male or female even if I choose to use he for writing purposes.
Considering that days are still 24 hours no matter how you look at it, if you want your child, Junior to be in a good school, to practice a sport and be good at it, to practice learning an instrument to develop his musical skills, to have play dates so he can be social and popular, to eat and sleep well so he can be healthy, to practice the second language that will give him an edge later on, to have painting classes to develop his artistic inclination, and to come up with the next brilliant idea for the world, how, tell me, do you schedule a week?
Well, afternoons after school, activities are piled up. Since homework has to fit somewhere, it is difficult to have more than one activity per day. So that leaves everything that has not been done during the week for the weekend.
When you know that weekends are the time when your sport star gets confirmation of his talent…or not, weekends are busier than weekdays!
Even if you squeeze as much as you can in this busy schedule, you risk a global nervous break down.
And please multiply this schedule by as many children as you have because a good parent has to be fair always.
By now, you understand clearly why parents, mothers in particular, are stressed.
A few facts to ponder upon:
To be good at a musical instrument you need to practice at least 20mn a day, and certainly more if you want to excel.
To be good at any sport, you need to practice three to four times a week and play matches or competitions on a regular basis.
To master a second language, not only you need to speak it, but you also need to study it to master reading and writing. My children who speak French fluently spend several hours per week learning how to write and read French; and if you ask them, they won’t tell you it is easy or fun.
To develop artistic skills, you need to be exposed to art in various forms: museums, exhibitions, concerts etc…in addition to learning different techniques that are extremely boring for a child if Junior can’t practice them regularly.
To be in a good school, you need to have good grades therefore you need to study more.
To be healthy, you need to eat well, meaning something else than the sugary bar and the sugary sport drink that you swallow in less than 10mn. And you need to sleep well, and that, for a child from 5 to 18 years of age, means a good night sleep of 8 to 10 hours.
I recommend that you read Dr Marc Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
that is extremely interesting on the matter. You will be surprised to learn that you might just be sleep deprived yourself!
To be popular, you need to be social…big times! But let’s forget about popularity, as it is the last concern, for parents at least.
You, we, all need to choose because a day is only 24 hours.
But we still want the best for our children, don’t we?
So we all want to give a maximum of opportunities so Junior ultimately goes to a top college, university (nothing less than Ivy League or Oxbridge hopefully!), so Junior is an amazing athlete, so Junior is a fine musician, so Junior is bilingual (at least!), healthy, social, popular, successful…and eventually happy. Ouf! (Phew! In French)
But Junior and his stretched parents will most likely be dead of exhaustion before Junior reaches adulthood at worse, or at best, parents will be taking some kind of antidepressants, and Junior will be testing the last drug for ADHD combined with Prozac to relieve his anxiety.
This social pressure we all comply with, more or less, is madness… and useless.
True family time is reduced to commuting. There is no room for true leisure. And parents have no true rest day that they badly deserve to sustain their week rhythm. Therefore the whole family is emotionally stressed and strained.
Of course in Asia, you probably have enough help to do the driving around for you, nevertheless your Junior still has back-to-back activities all week long. And in the UK where boarding schools are so popular, Junior saves commuting times by having anything on site but, in return he has to cope with what is social pressure from a very early age, his self esteem is measured to his achievement in this or that, and his family time is drastically reduced.
Every part of the world has its own way to deal with the overwhelming information parents get on parenting to make sure their Junior is on the winner side in the future. Because they believe, and we all believe, that the winner side is the best side to be happy. Whether that is true or not is another matter.
One thing we should all remember is that the next genius in the making will be the next genius regardless of how, when or where he has been raised. The calling, the drive to go beyond what has already been produced, created, performed does not come from education. What comes from education are values, manners, knowledge, ability to learn what others have achieved, and expertise. Genius is linked to creativity, inner drive that is nurtured, and self-awareness.
Self- awareness requires time to reflect.
What kind of time do we let our children have to pause and reflect? Close to none.
Let’s face the fact that for one Steve Jobs, one Mark Zuckerberg, one Bill Gates, to only mention the latest highly successful business entrepreneurs in the IT world, there are millions of unknown more or less successful people who manage to live by. And these people may be happier than the geniuses mentioned above.
Distracted by the anxiety that our Junior may not succeed, we forget two things:
- We project our own success definition that will most likely be outdated when Junior is adult.
- We neglect our main duty: that is to protect and guide Junior so he grows into an independent, self-reliant, responsible and loving adult.
The crazy schedule forces us to give up on very important developmental aspects such as healthy food, sleeping patterns, values transmission.
Why is that? Marketing pressure is huge and we are exhausted. We have no other option than choosing our battles, and very often the ones less obvious, less visible are not even fought.
Proper feeding is one good example. I know so many parents who will eat rather healthy food themselves, but will feed their kids the junk that they ask for. You just need to see the kids’ menu in most restaurants to see what I mean by kids’ junk.
Their body and their brain are growing by the day: they need more than anybody else quality food to build a strong body for the long run.
Your children can’t be aware of that, but you, the parents, should be.
It is our job to make sure our children eat well whether they like it or not.
It is our job to teach them what to eat to feel good and what they should not eat to avoid sickness.
If our children don’t have the maturity level to discriminate between misleading advertising campaigns, we should be able to know and act accordingly. The knowledge is everywhere: in books, on the Internet. We should all forge our own opinion and stick to it. This is the guidance children need.
Values and manners are another example. Children are increasingly competitive without having the strong sense of who they are and what is their role in their interaction with others. The world is increasingly competitive you might say. Yes, but children are not meant to face the world yet.
First and foremost, they need to learn respect: self-respect and respect of others.
What do we want? Do we want our kids to react to what already exists, or do we want our kids to become responsible adults who will make the world a better place?
I want my children to become responsible adults who will feel comfortable going to that special place where they will be doing what they came on earth to do. I want them to have a strong sense of who they are so they can navigate and arbitrate what is good for them or not, regardless of what the majority thinks.
All the rest is to me speculation.
So what can we do as parents to make sure our beloved Junior fulfills his life?
- First we need to remember that Junior eventually chooses his life. We can pray to be proud of him knowing that we will have no power in the critical choices he, who once was our baby, will make.
- We must guide Junior, knowing that Junior learns mostly by watching us live. If we take respect as an example: it is far more important that we respect our body, our rhythm, and our partner, than lecturing Junior about respect.
- We must protect Junior. In the Western world, the main thing children need to be protected from is marketing. Businesses have found in children an amazing source of profits, easy to convince. Don’t expect ethics to come into the picture: businesses are here to make money. So we, the parents, are the only shields our children have to protect them from the very professional marketing pressure. And we need an awful lot of energy to do that, because most of the time, Junior is not willing to be protected!
- Last, we need to escape the pressure of parenting on a regular basis to make sure we stay away from exhaustion. Parents these days are very often alone in raising their children. Never in human history, parents have had so little support: grandparents are far, or they work, or they don’t have the energy. Siblings deal with their own life and they are not necessarily close by. Community, by fear of interference, is not there to provide reliable help. Therefore parents are on duty 24/7, 365 days a year.
This is the best route for the couple to collapse and ultimately the family to collapse: love then becomes secondary as everybody is in survival mode.
Find help to get time off: your children will benefit from it as much as you will. They will get other experiences, they will learn to value your presence, they will respect your couple, and they will become better husbands and wives in the future. Most importantly, they will learn that your world, the world, exists outside of their little person. They will learn that before being Mom and Dad, you are a man and a woman.
I will repeat it again and again: your couple has to be your priority for everybody’s sake!