Spontaneity vs Over-Scheduling

190312_Spontaneity vs Overscheduling


A couple of weeks back we delved into the wonderful, crazy and often overwhelming subject of coordinating our children’s calendars.  It’s a topic that frequents many a parent chit chat - the constant flow of children’s activities that need to be prioritised and scheduled in amongst the throes of everyday life.  

Y’know how it goes …  “Wow, we’re up to week 7, where did all that time go?”  

“We haven’t got a spare weekend until Easter.”  

“We’re just so busy all the time.”  

In my case this type of conversation is usually summed up with the promise of a catch up - sometime in 2024.

I’m not sure about all of you, but I’m a little tired of the whole ‘I’m Busy’ competition.  I’m guilty of partaking in the race. In fact a few of the personal lifestyle changes that I’ve experienced during the last 9 months have most definitely resulted in some staggering realisations.

My biggest light bulb moment?

When I’m busy in my own mind,  the overwhelm I experience is based on my perception of the tasks at hand and the priority I give to each of them.  

How do you feel when you think about your family schedule? How do your children react? When someone asks how you are or what you’ve been up do, is one of the first words to come out of your mouth “busy”?

Our individual interpretation of the word “busy” can vary significantly.  What might seem busy for one person is not so for another. Even what seemed busy to ourselves in the past may feel like a walk in the park in comparison to the pace we are living at right now.  And sometimes, I must confess, I kind-of use the word ‘busy’ as a stand-in for ‘important’ - as in I must be making forward progress and living successfully because my life and my family’s life are jam-packed with action and activity.

But how good does this feel, deep down?  For me, not great. And how does this look from my children’s perspective?  Probably confusing and fairly meaningless.

It led me to wonder, is my hunger for my kids to achieve in life starving their ability to be bored, creative and spontaneous?

Or do I give the children’s activities priority over my own interests?

190312_Spontaneity vs Overscheduling

I know that the answer to these types of questions will be unique to each and every one of us. And I very much welcome any suggestions on how you manage the spontaneity - over-scheduling balance.  

Another lesson learnt is that while it’s important for me to support my children and husband (and also that they return the favour) in each person’s individual pursuits, the collective good of the family needs to remain a top priority.

It looks like this in our family:

  • We remember to help each member of the family to understand why certain activities have priorities over others.  For example, the need for myself and my husband to work...

“Mummy would really love to help coach your soccer team, but unfortunately she doesn’t finish work until after your practice time.  But she can’t wait to watch how much you’ve improved at the game on Saturday”

  • The need for parents to have some me-time...

“Daddy has been to the last four circus rehearsals and really loves to watch you perform.  This week he needs some time to himself at home, so Gran will take you instead”

  • Scheduled spontaneity.  We block out time on our calendar for doing things on a whim, usually on Sunday afternoons.  We plan nothing and just go with the flow. It’s deliciously wonderful!

  • Avoiding over-scheduling.  Achieving this balancing act is by far the most challenging for us.  We love to allow our children to try all different types of things in the hopes they will find the one or two things that really make their heart sing.  The problem is - they have way more than two things! We’ve found that marking up a calendar such as the one mentioned on my blog “Kids' Calendars” and then asking them to tell us which activity they will give up (or put on hold) in order to pursue the new one.  This strategy tends to help us all drill down to that one thing they really do love. The big rule, however, is that we always finish the term or season so as not to let a team down.

So the balance between spontaneity and over-scheduling is as delicate as it is dynamic.  I’ve also come to realise that there is no ‘right answer’ or magical solution, it’s just something I’ve had to commit to to working at on an ongoing basis.  To that end, perhaps you have a little hint or tip on what has worked and when. What do you think about the number of times we use the word “busy” in casual conversations? Perhaps you’ve got a better default response for the question “How have you been?”.  Help me and others learn by replying to this email or commenting below the blog post. With your permission, I will share it with the tribe!

PS:  I found that writing things down helped my kids to visualise the time commitment needed for each of their activities and why they need to prioritise them.  If you'd like to get your hands on a downloadable prompt sheet;

1. Sign up for the newsletter (it's free) below

2. Send me an email and I'll reply with the prompt sheet

1 comment

  • I don’t think I could love this post anymore. It really shits me to tears when people say I’m so busy as an excuse of why they haven’t seen you. Oh I just had to get that off my chest.

    I totally agree with you Yvette about the overscheduling. Last year when Sophie started school we didn’t add anything new. We kept dancing and swimming which she had been doing the year before. When term two came she told us she needed a break from dancing, she was too tired. I was so proud that she could tell us that. We had the term off and went back in term three.

    Fast forward to this year, dance is on the same night as Guides and she had to pick one. Guides won as she had been waiting all of last year to start. We still do swimming and now she’s in Year 1 she is the school choir and dance team. My hubby and I do wonder if this is too much but seven weeks in she’s enjoying it so we will just see term by term how she is enjoying the school extra curricular. Hopefully she will feel confident to tell us if she feels it’s too much.

    Thanks for the great blog post, it gives us a lot to think about especially the spontaneity on the weekend. Maybe something for the big kids to do whilst their baby brother has a nap!

    Katie Allen

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