Every newscaster, child-rearing expert and talk show host, it seems, has at one point or another lamented the overschedulization of America ’s children (and yes, I think I made that word up). You’ve heard the rant: little Billy goes to school all day, and then afterwards he takes karate, or he has baseball practice, or a math tutor, or flag football. And then on the weekends he’s got soccer, and guitar lessons, and the round of golf that he plays every weekend in the hopes of getting a golf scholarship to college someday, not to mention homework and a project for the science fair, leaving absolutely no time left over for family, friends, or God forbid, fun. This state of affairs has gotten so bad, it’s been denounced as a horrible, anxiety-creating, childhood-robbing problem, comparable to the factories of industrial-era England. With all of the outrage that’s gone on, it’s shocking that no one in Congress has thought to sponsor the After School Activity Childhood Protection Act.
But what about the parents who are overscheduled? Who, exactly, is taking note of the overschedulization of us?? And no, the companies that make those giant whiteboards that you can hang in your kitchen to keep track of it all do not count. They want you to be overscheduled. It’s how they make their money.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I am scheduled to within an inch of my life. And it isn’t because my kids are so overscheduled, because I’ve listened to those newscasters and child-rearing experts, and I’ve made a point to limit their activities to two during the week. But still, if I want to do anything for me on a consistent basis – exercise, write, have sex with my husband – I have to schedule it or else it just doesn’t happen (sorry, honey). But the result is that I have no time that isn’t planned out down to the minute, and no room for spontaneity.
Last week, for example, a friend of mine who I haven’t seen for a while asked if we could have lunch, and the conversation went something like this.
Her: “Hey, when can we have lunch? I haven’t seen you in so long.”
Me: “Well, let’s see…I can’t do Mondays because I pick Davis up from school at noon and then he has a swim lesson at 1:30. Tuesdays and Thursdays I work, and I don’t have lunch out on those days because I barely get enough time to work as it is. Wednesdays I have to be in Burbank during lunch for the table read of the show, and Fridays I pick Davis up at noon and we go to a gym class after school.”
Her (slightly dumbfounded): “Okay. What about coffee? We could do a morning, or maybe in the afternoon, around three”
Me (starting to become embarrassed): “Can’t do three. I have to pick Harper up from the bus stop at 3:30. And mornings are tough because I drop Davis off at nine and then I either go straight to work or I go straight to the gym; the only time I get to work out is on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from ten to eleven.”
Her (now visibly annoyed): “Okay. Well, you let me know if anything opens up, I’d love to see you.”
Me (fake cheerful): “I will! I will definitely call you.”
But please, Joe Biden has a better chance of winning the Democratic nomination than my schedule does of opening up, so what’s a girl to do? Well, I suppose I could stop working, because that would free up Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then I could stop exercising, which would give me back a few mornings, and I guess I don’t really need to have sex with my husband. And then yeah, I’d have scads of free time for lunches and coffees with my friends. Of course, I’d also be bored, fat, and probably divorced, but hey, I could go on lots of spontaneous dates.
No, unfortunately, unless Congress passes the Parental Anti-Overschedulization Act, I don’t have an answer to this conundrum. But on the bright side, there are always vacations, and in eleven years, Harper will be able to drive herself to wherever she needs to go. I should probably call that friend. I can tell her that I’ll be available for coffee pretty much any afternoon – in 2018.