Having school aged kids is exhausting. I used to think, as a parent, that the busiest time in my life would be when I had an infant, a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. They could do almost nothing on their own. They relied on me or my husband to get them everything they needed. Even the simplest of tasks required our help.

Now these same kids are in 3rd, 5th and 7th grades. They are in school at least 6 1/2 hours a day. Everyone can feed themselves, make their own lunches, do simple chores and be a little responsible. I thought this would be the easy part. I would just work while they were gone at school and then run them to a few activities and we would all have a home cooked meal together. WRONG!

I think society has made that a little more challenging. Our school district suggests that each child have their grade level times 10 as a basis for the amount of homework they get each night. That means 30, 50 and 70 minutes of homework each night for us. My son is in 3rd grade. In those 30 minutes, he is supposed to study spelling, study for any other subject tests, do one to three worksheets for math and read for 15 minutes per night. Now you add in the time for whining and complaining and we are way past 30 minutes. I have to hover nearby while he does all this in case of questions or distractions.

Then “they” think that each child should be in an extra curricular activity. I totally agree. I think these activities give kids confidence, pride, and the ability to work well with others. In addition, they can make friends with the same interests. Coaches always encourage you to practice some additional time at home and if you play an instrument, that means daily practice. Two of my kids play instruments and every season we have one to three sports going on. These activities overlap constantly.

“They” also tell you that you should try to have dinner together as a family. Don’t forget – it has to be a well balanced meal and frozen pizza does not count. At our house, in order for everyone to eat together, we are dining at either 4:00 or 8:00. So, as an alternative, “they” say to try to set up a family night on a night when there are no activities. I am sorry if this sounds selfish, but if we have no kid activities, me and whats-his-name are going to sit down with a glass of wine and catch up on things – sans kids. This could be their time for socializing.

Did you know you also had to set aside time for that? According to the Scholastic article I read, everyone needs playdates and social time. That means, that since none of them can drive, they either socialize within walking distance or I add that to my after school driving route.

As if that is not enough, the Scholastic article suggests that kids volunteer. I agree. Volunteering is a very important to my husband and I, but how do I make time for the kids to volunteer, too? Yes, as they get older, you can volunteer as a family – everyone’s volunteering taking place at one activity. When do we fit that in?

For my 7th grader, they suggest no more than 20 hours of after school activities. That is four hours a night plus homework, socializing, volunteering and family time. They did not even mention religious activities after school. Or just plain old down time. Or earning extra money babysitting or lawn mowing.

How does all of this work? It doesn’t. Something has to give. I think all of these things are important parts of my children’s lives. I am realistic in knowing that you can have family time in the way of a Sunday afternoon together and sometimes volunteering is your social time for the week. Babysitting may cut into your down time and you might have to skip practice in order to get the homework done.

The ironic part of the article says not to let the kids burn out. It doesn’t mention anything about us parents!