Saturday, January 11, 2014

Am I the only one?

Shabbat is over, and another week begins. We spent this past Shabbat with a family of friends - a nice couple with their four little children - and talking with them left me deep in thought. 

Our friends are a religious family in their thirties. They live in a nice comfortable home with a small garden and a big mortgage. He is a software engineer; she is a teacher. Both are happy with their lot and are really very nice people and dedicated parents.

Their day begins at 6 AM. By 7:30 the whole family is out of the house. The children are dropped off at preschool and daycare, where they stay until around 16:00. They have lunch and some afternoon activities there, and after they are picked up by their mother, they are driven to some more extra-curricular activities almost daily. At around 6 PM they get home, eat dinner, and are in bed by 7 to begin everything all over again the next day. 

Am I the only one who feels this is a little too much? 

In contrast, our day begins at a leisurely pace around 8 AM. We get up, feed the animals, have breakfast and do the chores, and engage in a wide variety of activities until lunchtime. If the weather is nice we may go out for a walk or work in the yard. We may settle at the table to quietly draw or write. Legos are taken out, dough is on the rise, a friend stops by for a visit. Questions are asked. "What do you think will happen if we mix bicarbonate and vinegar? Are all the germs gone from my hands now that I've washed them?"

I can honestly say we don't sit around and get bored. I feel our days are pretty full. But suddenly I was hit with the full impact of what it would be like to juggle home, work, and four children aged 5 and under with their all-day-long activities. I don't think I could do that; so I was left wondering - is this nice well-meaning Mom doing too much, or am I not doing enough? Am I lazy, or is she over-active? I suppose the answer is neither - our lives are just very, very different.

There's a very neat Hebrew word used to describe a child's or adolescent preschool/school occupation. It is "misgeret", which literally means "frame". So, it figures a school and extra-curricular activities "frame" the children's (and, by the by, their parents') lives. And to me, somehow, it seems excessive that a child's entire day should be "framed", from the moment they get up and until they go to bed. 

I won't even touch the question of money right now (and rest assured, preschool and daycare and extra-curricular activities for four kids cost a bundle in Israel). Suppose I could easily afford to put our life in such a nice shiny "frame". Would I want that? No, I guess I would not. I guess I'm just not a fan of "framing" altogether. 

Obviously we do have our limits. We chose to have them by choosing to live as Orthodox Jews. Our lives move to the rhythm of seasons, holidays, and days of the week. We get up, work, eat and sleep at reasonable hours. But not every hour and every minute we live is scheduled. We live at a gentle and quiet pace. Perhaps I am spoiled to have it - the more I think of it, compared to what others have, the more I consider it a luxury. But I love it; I cannot help it.

Tomorrow we will begin all over again. We'll feed the chickens and read children's books. I'll look up at the sky and decide whether I should hang the laundry inside or out. I'll see the school bus pass by. We will, probably, learn something new. 

I'm looking forward to it. 


Tammy said...

Very well said! We live 'unframed' lives here, too.

Less is sometimes more. :)
(or at least leaves room for more)

Deanna said...

Hello from Kansas.

Teaching your children about life when they are at home in their formative years is a beautiful and proper way to teach, love, and instruct.

Cheering you on,

living from glory to glory said...

Dear Anna, I am sitting here after a little nap and everyone I know is doing something important :) Well maybe to them. But I know the pace that we live in in our lives is the one He has chosen for us!
I loved having my children home and keeping the days at a slow easy flow.
I do not like to schedule everything out day by day and so inflexible.
My children enjoyed their childhood...
Blessings, Roxy

Katy M. said...

The are not the only one. Lots of people look at the lives of others and think, "Are THEY not doing things, correctly? Are WE not doing things correctly?" I used to be the worst at this, and it made me feel like I wasn't doing enough. Now that I have been a mom for almost 8 years I know better. Every family has their own way of doing things that fits their lifestyle and their personality. At least, it should. Someone else's way of doing things wouldn't work for my family and vice versa.

Lady Anne said...

As you said, pre-school and day care cost a lot of money. Our eldest daughter had two children, two years apart, both going to the same sitter, and she had a very nice job. She sat down and figured out her gasoline to drive to the bus station, bus fare, "office" clothing, stockings, lunch, plus disposable diapers, etc., etc. and finally figured out it really didn't PAY her to work.

That was for two children. I can't fathom doing it with four. I wonder if your friend is actually earning anything. I think you have made a much wiser choice. You are raising your own children; the sitter may do a good job, but you can do it better.

I was a stay-at-home mom until my second child started school, and I was never, ever bored!

Anonymous said...

So you're saying that 4 preschoolers are in school 'til 4:00 in the afternoon, & then spend 2 hrs in activities after that? That is just horrendous! Kids need more time with their parents, they need more time for free play, hobbies, nature, to dream, just for running around.

Of course, I don't know if I could handle all that responsibility & activity, maybe that's why I dislike the idea. Or maybe it's because I homeschooled my son & I think it's the best thing you could do.


Winkel's Crazy Ideas said...

I know people who live like that. Nice people, who want the very best for their children but who's lives are sheduled down to the minute. Our life with our four children is much more unframed. Time to think, time to be bored, time to find out who we are, outside of a framed shedule. We do very little ekstra-curricular activities but use nature together as a family. Pam

Laura Spilde said...

It is too much because their may be more burden than they can bear. Just being a family is the best I think.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Lady Anne, there's no doubt that preschool (even government-funded preschool) and extra-curricular activities for 4 children amount to *at least* a teacher's salary, and perhaps more. But in our society, most people won't say, "hey, I might just teach my kids at home and skip all that". The need for preschool and extra activities is a given, and all the rest is planned around that.

Rose Godfrey said...

Thank you for this. You are not alone, and we all benefit from knowing three are many--maybe not the majority, but many people who choose a simpler, and, I think, more realistic pace.

Anonymous said...

I never understood what is so desirable about these hectic lifestyles. I totally feel like you about this. All this stress is taking its toll on peoples health at the end, whether they realize it or not.

Christianlady68 said...

This is a deep and thoughtful article. We homeschooled our children who are now all grown. In Deut. it says to teach our children of the Lord when we rise, when we walk through the day, and when we lie down at night. How can that be done if we only have a couple of hours a day with our children? I will always be blessed for the days we taught our children. So many memories. . . Now, we have 10 grandchildren. No, they are not homeschooled because it is so financially difficult in our area, but their parents spend at least 6 or more hours per day with the grandchildren. Children are a blessing and the moments of their youth are gone by so quickly. Thank you the your delightful blog!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it wouldn't suit you; it evidently suits your friends--and, believe it or not, the woman of the family may actually _enjoy_ being a teacher of other children; many women get a lot out of their careers. That their choices suit them is all that matters for them, and that your choices suit you is all that matters for you.

Anonymous said...

I very much wonder what these scheduled children will be like on their own? Will they just go into scheduled jobs. Told what to do and how much of it to do and when to come and when to go home and how long to be out to eat their lunch and what is appropriate for job attire and what they need to get ahead in that "fun' job? When do they get to schedule their own lives. With the talents God gave only them and being able to use the amount of time each day it takes to do it? When is there time for that quiet time to listen to god's promptings in their lives? Do they know how to entertain themselves? I doubt it. How often have I heard a person say that when they retired they did not know what to do with all that time to fill? They had no boss to set their work load anymore. How sad is this? Your children will wonder about things and know how to find the answers. they will listen to that frog or bumblebee. They will have confidence that they are loved and they are capable of doing things themselves. There will be so many differences in confidence. True confidence in them. They know how to play and work together and also alone. They will learn their talents naturally not forced apron them by professional lessons. I am fearful of a world where people are programed to be so busy and to think to be the top dog is the best thing in life. I could go on about this. Sorry for such along reply. I just read this post. I have been noticing the trend. These families really do not know their children. Their other caregivers take care of them more than they do. Who better though to mold a child in God's ways if it is not their own parents? We are to tenderly and reverently watch over the welfare and rearing of our own children. Gathering them from a place that has housed them that day and bringing them home to a fast meal , a bath and bed is not caring for them just housing them again. This is really a sad state of affairs and one the future may find leads to people that are distant from their own families. They will parent as they were shown. Think about it. I want to personally thank you Anna for being the type of mother you are, A hands on loving mother. Sarah