One of the reasons we become overwhelmed with busyness is because we have so many opportunities available to us as a couple, as children, and as a family. With so many choices clamoring for our involvement, it can be hard to set limits and live with them—especially when you love the options.
Consider just one area of options—our children’s activities. When I grew up, we played backyard football, basketball in the driveway, and Wiffle ball in the street. Our “travel league” was riding our bikes around the neighborhood until we recruited enough kids to have two teams. It’s not like that today.
Children have far more sports and extracurricular activities available to them. When I first started in ministry, it was almost unheard of to have activities on a Wednesday night or Sunday. That’s just not the case anymore. There is no such thing as a day that is off-limits. The travel, schedule, and expenses of many activities increasingly demand more commitment from families.
Travel leagues, for example, have become increasingly popular—and pricey! (We thought braces were going to be the major expense!) A couple can spend thousands of dollars for just one child to play one sport, and this does not include gas, lodging, and food expenses. I (Patrick) nearly failed math in high school, but even I can crunch the numbers and figure out that’s a lot of money, especially if there are multiple children in the house.
No matter what activities our children are involved in, an overcommitted schedule can easily squeeze out any time to cultivate a vibrant, God-honoring marriage. This is especially true when several kids are involved in multiple activities at the same time. Deciding to live within limits means we have to take a hard look at the cost, sacrifice, impact on our marriage and the rest of the family, and the fruit of certain opportunities and activities.
As a couple with kids who are getting older, we are trying to navigate some of the tough decisions about sports and activities. We’ve wrestled with some hard questions, wondering if we are trying to do too much for our kids or if we’re not giving them enough. We’ve weighed the cost and asked, Is it worth it? We’ve considered God’s purpose for marriage and family and asked, Are we doing the right thing?
For example, our kids love sports, so working through which and how many is a challenge. For the good of our kids, our family, and our marriage, we have limited the number of sports our kids play in a year. If each of our four kids were playing multiple sports throughout the year, it would be too time-consuming for us as a couple and as a family. We have set the expectation with them that when they get into sixth grade, they have to choose one sport to play that year. Considering our kids’ additional involvement in music lessons and church activities, this has made for a healthy balance for all of us.
Every couple with kids has to use wisdom to protect their marriage and family from an overcommitted schedule.
Every couple with kids has to use wisdom to protect their marriage and family from an overcommitted schedule. It is critical that we, as parents, set the pace and the limits for our kids and not the other way around. Choosing to live within limitations means choosing to say “no” to some things. It’s okay to limit the number of opportunities children can participate in during a year. It just might be the best thing for them and the best thing for protecting our marriage.
This post is an excerpt from Patrick and Ruth Schwenk’s book For Better or For Kids and was republished with permission.
Patrick Schwenk is a husband, father, pastor, and author. Along with his, wife, Patrick is the creator of For the Family and the author of For Better or For Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse with Kids in the House.