I Spend 20 Hours A Month Waiting Around For My Daughter’s Extracurricular Activities

extracurricular activities kidsBecause I was THAT bored, I actually calculated how much time I spend waiting for my daughter…while I was waiting for my daughter.

Extracurricular activities kids, goes like this. On Monday evenings, I wait one hour during her singing lessons. On Thursdays, I wait an hour and a half for her play practices. On Friday nights, I wait an hour and a half for her ballet classes at the National Ballet School and on Sundays, I wait another hour for her dancing classes at the National Ballet School. That’s five hours a week I generally sit in my car outside whatever studio she’s at.

And, no, I don’t think she’s over-programmed. She loves this shit, but five hours a week in my car (which is where I usually wait) over a month is 20 hours a month in my car, and that’s 20 hours I could be productive doing something that doesn’t include playing Boogle on my iPad while waiting for my daughter. That’s a lot of time for me to be sitting and waiting and pretty much doing nothing while counting down the minutes, thinking, “Is there anything I can do right now aside from playing Boogle?”

The problem with her singing lessons is that it’s only an hour. Yes, I can sit and watch every week but trust me, after hearing the group sing the same songs that they will perform in concert, it gets a little tedious. The same with her play practices. I don’t want to watch every week, because by the time the play production actually comes around, I’ll be bored out of my mind when I actually see the play.

Her ballet school is located in a somewhat shady part of town. When it was light out at night, I would go for walks, but I’m not feeling too comfortable doing that when it gets dark at six p.m. And there is nothing, and I mean nothing, around that school to do. (There is one coffee shop. But I don’t need coffee at seven p.m. at night.)

The school is too far from my house to go back home and come back. I’m not a very patient person. I’m the type that will get my hair dyed one day and then go back at a later date to get it trimmed because I can’t sit in the same place for more than two hours. Same goes for manicures and pedicures. Unless they are doing my feet and my hands at THE SAME TIME then I will go back twice.

The problem with extracurricular programs is that they are either too long or too short. I find this with birthday parties too. The hour ones I can sometimes deal with if I know other mothers and can sit and chat with them. But at some of the programs, I don’t know anyone. So I do what I can to kill the time. I bring a book. I bring magazines. I bring my phone and call friends. But in the back of my head I’m just counting down the minutes, even seconds, until I know my daughter will be done and I can get back home.

Waiting for your child in an extracurricular activity is like having a newborn and going on endless walks. You actually have no where you need to go, but you end up at a drug store just killing time because there is nothing else to do.

My grocery shopping is done on the weekends. It’s too fucking cold to go on walks. I find that I really don’t ever need to DO anything when I’m waiting for my daughter. And during the hour classes, which fall generally during rush hour, I can’t really do anything.

I guess I could make up chores – hey you could never have too much toothpaste! I could buy another tube! – but then I’d just be spending money that I don’t need to spend and come on, buying toothpaste is possibly as boring as just sitting in your car waiting for your child to be done with their classes. Like I said, there’s never any point in going back home after dropping her off, because by the time I got back home, I’d just have to leave again.

So, yes, I’m getting really good at Boogle on my iPad. But, god, waiting is such a waste of time. And the worst of it, is that it makes ME feel lazy, even though I’m the one driving her to all these places and making sure she gets there on time. That’s 20 hours a month, my friends, that I could be doing something productive. But at least I can say my high-score is 156 on Boogle!

(photo: s74 / Shutterstock)

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  • chickadee

    Nice try at heading off criticism regarding over-scheduling your child. Frankly, this is a big-ass White Whine.

    1. I can afford to pay the fees for multiple expensive activities
    2. I don’t lose time from work having to ferry my child to her activities
    3. I have an iPad to entertain my spoiled self while I wait, and then I complain about being bored

    Why is it that other writers for this and other sites manage to write articles while privileged without sounding like people who need a time out?

    • rebecca

      How do you know how much they cost? I work ALL day when she’s at school. And, omg, I have an IPad! I’m so spoiled! Glad to see your commenting again Chickadee! I’ve missed you! xo

    • chickadee

      Nice rebuttal….sorry you missed my point. Let me spell it out for you. Some parents can’t afford extracurricular activities at all. Some parents have to take unpaid time off from work to get their children to their activities and actually lose money while they wait. You just lose brain cells,apparently. You are conplaining about having to play games on your iPad OMG yes that sounds spoiled.

      There is nothing wrong with being able to afford these things, but you manage to sound clueless when you complain about them. And it’s even sadder when you aren’t aware of it.

    • rebecca eckler

      This post is NOT about what people can afford. It’s simply about waiting time. Do not read into it more than it is.

    • chickadee

      It’s even sadder when you aren’t aware of it.

    • rebecca eckler

      It’s sadder that we are even going on about this. I’m sure we can agree on that!

    • chickadee

      Why are you so anxious that we agree?

    • rebecca eckler

      Because I crave your approval.

    • chickadee

      You crave *someone’s*, certainly.

    • Not That Rebecca


  • Amanda

    Wow. Read a book, maybe? On the nights when you’re not in a sketchy neighborhood, take your jogging shoes and run around the block a few times, or do some jumping jacks. Talk to a friend on the phone? Or see if you could take parallel lessons with your daughter – my gym offers kickboxing classes to the mothers while their kids learn kung-fu. Put some imagination into it!

  • Cal.Mom

    Try bringing a laptop (or loading some of the work related apps onto your ipad) and do work or “virtual” chores.

    While waiting at my child’s activities, I have done budgeting, to-do lists, created / edited documents and a host of other work, volunteer and personal projects while using my laptop and ipad. Working like this during wait time has save me a lot of late nights and has allowed me to take on volunteer projects that I otherwise would not have had time for.

    Lots of the parent waiting areas have wireless, and even if they do not, there it lot’s you can do without being connected to the Internet. The trick is planning ahead to figure out what are good project(s) to do given the inevitable time / space / Internet / attention limitations that arise when working during this kind of wait time.

  • Marina

    Judging from the few articles I’ve read by you, I’m surprised you don’t just pay someone to do it for you.

    • Holly


  • Emily

    If I had to spend 20 hours a month in my car, I’d be bored too. But – you’re the mom. If your personal or family life is taking a hit because of your kid’s activities, then it’s fine to cancel some (or all!) of them. I do not know how old your daughter is, but chances are, she’ll be OK without three simultaneous extracurricular activities. There is great value (developmentally, intellectually) in unstructured play, so take heart in that!

    • rebecca eckler

      No, my family life isn’t taking a hit. It’s just me! :)

    • Sara

      I would really, really encourage you to re-think the hour-long weekly voice lessons. There’s a thread under “Anonymous Mom” about a mom whose elementary-aged daughter is taking weekly voice lessons–that wasn’t you, was it?–and the comments include weigh-ins from a lot of professional singers and voice teachers. You might read them, if you’re interested.
      The basic idea–and I say this as a professional singer and voice teacher, myself–is that a nine-year-old is too young and immature vocally to benefit much from intensive vocal training. In fact, while her vocal cords, which are still very delicate at the age of nine, are still developing, it could actually do much more harm than good if she’s singing inappropriate literature that’s too mature for her vocal maturity. Does her school have a choir? If so, having her sing in the school choir would be a far better way for her to develop some basic vocal skills. Serious voice training is best reserved for after puberty.

      And Emily is right–unstructured play is greatly undervalued in our society, which may be largely why we have so many kids with horrible social skills who have no idea how to entertain themselves or be creative and resourceful without an adult telling them what to do every minute of the day. Spending her Mondays after school figuring out what to do on her own, maybe playing with friends, would be a great use of that time.
      Just my two cents, for whatever they’re worth.

    • CMJ

      I’m glad you said this about the voice lessons – I’ve been thinking this from the first time I read about it. I started my sophomore year in high school and my voice teacher would not accept anyone under the age of 13 for the reasons you describe.

  • Justme

    My brother is like you. He chooses to over-schedule his children and then complains about his family life being so busy and chaotic.

    There is an easy fix – have your daughter choose one activity per semester and cut your waiting time in half.

    • rebecca eckler

      I’m not complaining at all about being so busy because of my daughter. I’m complaining, I’ll admit, about the waiting time! And, this is just me, but I don’t think my daughter should lose out on the things she loves, just because mommy is bored in a car waiting. Thanks for commenting.

  • CrazyFor Kate

    Think of all the things you wanted to do in your free time…catch up on your reading, plan an upcoming family event/trip/something (easy if you have a computer with you), or for heaven’s sake, bring a pad and paper and doodle. That’s how I get through boring university lectures, and boredom is boredom. Or maybe bring the baby and take him to a park or something?

  • Michelle

    Can’t you hire a driver to take her and wait for her? Or you could just have your live-in nanny do it.

    • rebecca eckler

      Yeah, I don’t think that falls under my nanny’s job description.

  • K.

    …You don’t pen this column while you’re waiting? Reads like it.

  • jessica

    Try knitting? Its freezing outside where I live and you just can’t have too many sweaters or scarves ever. Lately I’ve even been wearing multiple sweaters. Start with the scarves though, way easier than a sweater. Scarves and sweaters for everyone!

  • Not That Rebecca

    Yeah, that’s my life too. I don’t think your kid’s over scheduled; the reality is, kids have more opportunities for extra-curriculars than ever, unstructured play in the communal back yard isn’t a thing in the 21st century, and we want them to have fun, develop skills, and enrich themselves, right? While we quietly lose our minds and spend way too much time in the car.

    My sort-of solutions:
    1. guilty pleasure reads. I tell myself I can’t focus enough to do serious or work reading, so load up on trashy novels that I oughtn’t read but want to.
    2. a KB for the iPad and get some writing done. Work writing sometimes, catching up on social emails other times. If I can deal with that while waiting for lessons to end, that’s less computer time that evening when I can be with my husband.
    3. go to that coffee shop, order decaf or a Perrier or something else without caffeine, and work there.
    oh and 4: try to figure out carpools!

    • rebecca eckler

      Thanks for sharing!!! I agree. I can barely even make playdates because all her friends have activities too!

    • Sara

      I have to ask–why can’t unstructured play be a thing? I have lots of friends whose kids still have time for unstructured play, and part of the reason is that unstructured play is so important for kids to develop a whole host of social and creative skills that they’re not going to get in structured activities. One of the biggest problems I have in working with kids who DON’T have unstructured play regularly (and admittedly, these are becoming more the majority) is that they tend to have no idea how to do things like entertain themselves, solve interpersonal problems without needing an adult to do it for them, compromise, share, etc. These are all skills that kids USED to learn by playing with one another without Mommy always being ready to step in and solve any tiny problem that might come up. I don’t understand why we’re automatically assuming that unstructured play is unnecessary and/or nonexistent. It’s neither.
      I would actually argue that, rather than “missing out” as she puts it above, Rebecca’s daughter would benefit from having fewer lessons, dance classes, etc. and having more time in her schedule to just figure out how to entertain herself.

    • Justme

      But just because there ARE all those opportunities for extracurricular activities doesn’t mean that your child has to be involved in all of them, nor does it mean that it is healthy for your child or family life.

    • Not That Rebecca

      We pass up on a lot of things because we don’t want the schedule to get more crowded than it currently is. Every individual thing my kids do is great for them, and taken together it’s a good balance for them – enough down time to do what they want, and some really great sports, fitness and cultural activities to enrich them now and for the rest of their lives.

      But it’s exhausting for me. I’m coping, obviously – if mum’s going nuts, that’s its own problem for the family – and I don’t begrudge them a minute of it. But it’s lots of time driving, or sitting in lobbies at a dojo or conservatory, or on a bench at the pool. Not only is venting or bitching about the unglamorous side of being a mother ok, I believe it’s healthy, and sometimes necessary. Some of Rebecca Eckler’s columns have driven me nuts, but this isn’t one of them, because that’s exactly what she’s doing: venting about one of the drags of motherhood that, unlike childbirth and the early months of no sleep, a lot of us didn’t see coming.

  • Naomi1988

    When I found myself with too much idle time, I went back to school with University of Phoenix to get a masters degree. They even have apps for smart phones and iPads so you can do your work anywhere. The textbooks are online so I can read anywhere and since it’s online I can work it into my schedule anyway. I realized after my 200th online jigsaw puzzle, that I needed to do something more constructive with my time.

    • rebecca

      love this idea

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=592188905 Bran Chesterton

      I would love it if it weren’t the University of Phoenix. There are some serious problems with the for-profit college game, for both taxpayers and students alike. Many community colleges have online classes these days; as someone who has watched others earn degrees from UofPhoenix only to default on their loans because the degrees aren’t regarded well at all, I would highly recommend looking at cheaper, perhaps slower, options.

    • Naomi1988

      You make an excellent point, and if community colleges offered advanced degrees I would be all over that. I already have two bachelors degrees, and since I work full time to support my family, taking 1-2 years off for in person classes is not an option. Also, UofP offered the masters degree program that I wanted, and I’d rather pursue a degree I want instead of a degree I don’t want at a different school. I get a tuition waiver and I am fiscally responsible, so while I appreciate the part about defaulting on loans, it doesn’t really apply here. University of Phoenix has actually come a long way; they have the same exact accreditation as the brick and mortar universities around me have and they have passed the same audits by the higher learning commission.

      Also, I’d hate to say it, but after attending both public and private universities and both in person and online programs, just because something isn’t a for-profit college doesn’t mean they aren’t trying to rip you off for every cent they can and aren’t afraid to blindside you with hidden costs. At least the for-profit universities are upfront about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/njegannn Njegann Njai

    For your sake and your child’s, I want you to stop your waiting outside in the car habit. Wait inside the facility your daughter is in or at a nearby coffee shop etc and read good interesting book/s for a change. Waiting in a car on a lonely parking lot or on the street is perhaps not the safest and smartest thing to do. There are just too many criminally minded and/or deranged people with loaded guns out there these days. Remember that your safety and security is paramount and sitting alone in a car all these hours is perhaps not a good/great idea. Be safe !

  • Dee

    Who else skipped the article and came straight to the comments?

  • Jessie

    I wish I had 5 hours a week to be by myself! Usually I’m trying to entertain a younger sib while waiting for an activity. Talk about one of Dante’s circles…..

  • jennifer check

    20 hours a month isn’t too much try having children who play sports. Thats 40-60 hours a month for you.

  • Kate

    Crazy thought, but can’t go you inside and watch what your daughter is doing?
    Or arrive half an hour later?

    This just sounds like a very non-problem.

  • bluebelle

    Bring. A. Book.

  • Momof22012

    Wow – talk about First World Problems! I have a daughter the same age as yours, and I also have an infant son. Unlike you, however, I don’t have a nanny, and my husband works several nights a week, so I have to bring an 8-month-old with me to soccer practice, piano lessons and Girl Scouts. We could not afford to pay the fees for these activities by ourselves, but we have been fortunate to receive help from my daughter’s grandparents (the gift of a class or registration fee in lieu of toys or clothes for Christmas, birthdays, etc.). It’s sometimes quite a challenge to keep my son occupied during my daughter’s activities and, frankly, I would love the chance to zone out reading a magazine or playing a game by myself. Consider yourself lucky!

  • pnutbrittle

    Wow, first world problems.

  • OMFG

    It’s “Boggle,” you moron. Christ, you used the name 4 times, incorrectly. I cannot BELIEVE you get paid to write for a living.

  • Monica

    I can’t believe people flipped out over this article! She invests in her daughter’s future. She lets her daughter explore her interests and sharpen her skills. And she has the audacity to not ENJOY spending twenty hours per month waiting around? OMG! Alert the authorities! Call CPS!

    Or, you know, admit that you wouldn’t enjoy it either. I spend sixteen hours per month invested in my daughter’s activities. She has one hour of dance on Wednesday and another hour on Thursday. She has one hour of soccer practice on Monday and one hour for a soccer game on Saturday. Her schedule is not overloaded. She is not exhausted. She has plenty of free time to enjoy unstructured play and to hone her executive functioning skills. And I get bored out of my mind waiting for her.

    Let’s be serious. Any parent/guardian who has experienced a crowded dance studio has to have an idea of what I’m talking about. Forty parents, an array of kids coming and going, shuffling teachers, company kids getting ready for competition, and more are all hustling and bustling around while we sit at the table nearest our kids’ studios and wait for the hour to be over. That’s not a serious work time. I read sometimes, but it’s still hard to concentrate (and I am an avid reader). I also write, but every time I open a document I find some wide-eyed child reading over my shoulder. I can watch my daughter’s practice, but there’s only so many times I can watch “passe, first position, plie, and again” before my mind gets a bit numb. Soccer is different when it’s a game (I don’t do anything else while watching the game), but soccer practice is a lot like dance rehearsal: drills and more drills.

    I’m thrilled that my daughter gets to do these activities. I am forever grateful that we have been blessed with the time and money to let her do these things. God knows I didn’t get to do hardly anything when I was a poor kid growing up in a bad part of town. But that doesn’t change the fact that, as her mother, I can still get bored. I get bored watching Sesame Street. I used to get bored watching The Wiggles. Today I get bored during dance rehearsal, and in a few years I am fairly certain I will still be getting bored during her more complicated dance rehearsals (if she chooses to continue dancing). Instead of lambbasting me or the author of this article for getting bored, why not admit that you might get bored, too?

  • Mary

    Wait… you get 20 hours a week to read a book without feeling guilty and you waste it playing boggle?! What kind of writer doesn’t read??
    Perhaps reading will help you with your penmanship.

  • WMV

    Why not go in and watch your child do these activities? What have you got to lose, you’re already bored. And your daughter would probably love that you are there watching.

  • sfphilli

    Buy a 3ds or bring a laptop, play a game that requires more investment. enjoy the free time.

  • msf

    I take it you only have 1 child? I have 3, and this would not be possible; financially,
    logistically, and time-wise.

  • I.

    My kids have a rule that if they can’t get to the activity by themselves they should find something else. I don’t know your daughters age, and I live in Europe, but I would never regularly drive a kid older than eight anywhere.

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