The following post is from staff writer Melissa Batai
What was your childhood like? How many trips out of the country did you make? How many vacations did you take within the United States? How many extracurricular activities did you participate in?
If your childhood was like mine, the answer to most of these questions is “not many.”
Did You Have a Simpler Childhood?
When I was growing up, my family and I took two large scale (if you want to call them that) vacations. One was eight hours away in our home state, and one was to the East Coast so I could look at colleges that I was considering. The only other vacations we took were our once a year extended family meet up over the 4th of July to a campsite a few hours away.
While my childhood might be a bit more modest than others my age, I remember it as fairly happy, filled with lots of time to play with neighborhood friends and with my cousins. I didn’t feel deprived.
My dad worked full-time outside the home, and my mom babysat at home. She was always available for me, and I loved that.
Today’s Action-Packed Childhood
Now, typically both parents work and bring home a fairly good income. They can give their children more than they had as children themselves, but often, the price of giving children all that we parents think that they want comes with a high price tag.
My friend, I’ll call her Jane, is the perfect example of this. Her 12 year old twin daughters are on three to four sports team a year. Jane regularly takes them to pro sporting events related to the sports that they enjoy. She takes them to high quality plays where the tickets are $50+ per person. They regularly take vacations within the United States and to foreign countries.
Jane is not alone in her spending for her children.
One recent survey by BabyCenter found that “moms report spending an average of $1,391 a year on [children’s] activities, and 30 percent are fully prepared to stretch beyond their ‘comfort zone’ in paying for these extras.” Of these moms, “56 percent say they feel pressure to sign their children up for many activities. ‘That’s probably the biggest expense now, aside from food—the things they do extracurricularly,’ says Caroly Holyoke, a mother of two.”
However, providing your children with so many experiences is not without significant downsides. “Jenny Cohen, a mother of two in Washington, D.C., says, ‘Pretty much every woman I know works, whether part-time or full-time, in order to provide all this. But it’s a constant struggle, and there’s very little fat, financial or emotional, in our lives’” (BabyCenter).
Jane is facing that struggle right now. She took a full-time job seven years ago when she and her husband felt they could no longer provide their children the life that they wanted to on his salary alone. Between her job, house cleaning, running the kids to extracurriculars, and her own social life, Jane is exhausted. She’s recently gained 30 pounds and has been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.
While she might have had the auto immune condition regardless of her life style, the on-the-go, frenzied pace she is living, all for the sake of giving her children the “perfect” life, isn’t good for herself or her family.
Do you agree that parents try to give their kids too much and often hurt themselves, physically, financially, emotionally, in the process? Or do you think Jane’s case is just an example of how the face of childhood (and parenting) has changed over the years?