My year of less is more: why your kids NOT being 'the best they can be' might be good for your family life.

In the upper middle class, well-educated world that I live in we value not simply attending school, but we value doing excellently at school.  And we don't simply value attending school, we value participating in music, tennis, soccer, cricket, drama, dance, gymnastics, swimming and of course excelling in all of that too.  It's a great privilege of wealth and health that we are able to give our kids these opportunities.  But it can make you very busy and stressed, both in time and finances and sometimes anxious as you don't want them to waste these good opportunities.

Being forced to step out of that world a bit has caused me to think a lot about why we do it. When our kids are little they are a bit of an extension of ourselves.  We might start off hoping and dreaming for almost a better, more improved version of ourselves.  Or we feel these are THE life skills that our child should be given.  Or we do it because that's what our  peers are doing with their kids and we don't want ours to miss out.  But what happens when they aren't very good at it?  Or they hate it?  Or they refuse to participate?  Or they get so sick that they can't even pick up their instrument?

Well, once again I've been forced back to basic principles.  Having kids isn't actually about creating super new versions of ourselves.  As you quickly discover when they become teenagers they're just going to do it their own way anyway, because, surprise, surprise, they are their own people!  So why did I have kids?  (I've written before about our vision for our family). To have and foster those precious relationships.  To give our kids a good secure, safe childhood that will enable them to launch into adulthood, emotionally resilient and ready to face the challenges of life (of course, that's a big goal,  but hey it's good to think big when it comes to a vision!).

How has doing less helped foster and strengthen those relationships?

1.  There has been enough time and energy for me to debrief with the 13 year old from day after day of difficult Year 8 girl  relationships at school.  Never underestimate how much time and energy you need to be a listening and available parent to teenagers.  I did (underestimate)!

2.  The 9 year old boy who regularly complains that six hours/day of school is quite an interruption to his life, is about 100 times more relaxed because we're not rushing.  Shame it took me 9 years to work out that he's like that.  He's not going to have a lot to 'show' (in terms of achievements/skills) for this stage of his life but he's learning, reading, creating, relaxing, growing and these are all important.

3.  We're eating most of our family meals together and enjoying fun, interesting conversations.  It's nice to have enough time to remember what we like about being in our family.

4.  I've been less cross with my kids because the constant pressure to use every free available second that we weren't involved in an activity has gone.  I'm not a good mum under pressure.

5. Doing less, and having had control taken away has made me just care less about how they achieve. I want them to be diligent, and to keep progressing, but how they actually go seems to concern me less.  Partly this comes from having a sick child and having the goals for each day narrowed so significantly - it has impacted on my perspective enormously.

Read more about how we decluttered the schedule here, and what it was like before.


Sarah S said…
In the Mexican culture that I've experienced, success, excellence and leadership are not even mentioned. The group is important, and doing what is required is important, but there's not the pressure to be the best.

In our school community cooperation and valuing the different abilities of everybody is the number one goal, so nobody is elevated.

It's quite refreshing to see that the success mantra is just part of Australian cultural baggage. It's not the only way, and it's not necessarily the best!

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