School is back in session, bringing a much-needed break for many moms. While getting back into a routine, learning about the world, and seeing friends is of great benefit to your children, signing up for excessive extra-curricular obligations can take its toll on them and you.
If you’re like many of the amazing moms we work with on a daily basis, chances are your family calendar gets crazy as fall progresses, leaving little time for something supremely important that’s not on anyone’s calendar: downtime.
Sound familiar? Before you commit you and your child to a full slate of activities, we recommend reading this recent article on MindBodyGreen which explains the importance of downtime.
Every scheduled hour of after-school activities or work should be balanced by an hour of play or downtime
According to respected author and Stanford Professor Denise Pope, PhD, younger children should have an hour of play time (not counting commute time, baths, or dinner) for every hour of scheduled activities after school. Older kids need equal time to chill out alone or spend time with friends.
A good vacation is a start. But our children need to have that open-ended, what-do-you-want-to-do-today feeling more often.
For instance, if your 5th grader does Battle of the Books on Wednesdays, make sure he also has time to read, play a game, or simply daydream before jumping right in to homework. As for your 16-year-old, give her time to relax in her room with her favorite album after she gets home from her after-school job.
The New York Times also explored the idea, going deeper into Pope’s concept of “PDF: playtime, downtime and family time” from her book, Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids. The NYT article compares hectic school schedules with the more laid-back pace of vacation and concludes, “our children need to have that open-ended, what-do-you-want-to-do-today feeling more often.”
NPR also explored the issue of modern parenting styles and overscheduling kids, interviewing Alison Gopnik, author of The Gardener and the Carpenter. Gopnik states, “We’re so concerned about how our children are going to turn out that we’re unwilling to give them the autonomy that they need.”
By planning for downtime, you help your children learn to make choices about how they spend their free time, give them opportunities to daydream and develop their creativity, and teach them that time spent in service of yourself is equally important as time spent working toward a specific goal.
Remember: The same rules apply to you
The importance of relaxing and having fun isn’t reserved for your kids—you need it too. In addition to your work, managing a household, and making sure your children get to all of their appointments and activities on time, it’s easy to forget to take time for you.
Having solo time is important for your mental health, physical well-being, and ability to be a happy, healthy partner and parent. Whether it’s taking a bath with a good book, grabbing a drink with your friends, lounging at the beach with your favorite podcast playing, or making time to give yourself a long dreamed of makeover, there is nothing wrong with prioritizing your wants and needs for a while—in fact, it’s a necessary part of life.