During the week Allianz Australia released their research findings into the driving habits of everyday Australians and it was no surprise to see the statistics revealing that we’re a generation of “taxi or uber driving” parents.
“Nearly two-thirds (61%) of Australian parents and carers report spending up to a full work day (eight hours) every week on ‘taxi duty’, with more than one in ten (12%) spending nine or more hours a week picking up and dropping off, according to the findings.
I would argue that this has always been the case as clearly remember my mum having a “Mum’s Taxi” sign fastened to the window of her lime green Mazda hatchback as she funneled my sister and I between netball, acting, softball and dancing in the late 80’s in Adelaide. There was no expectation for dad to help with the running around so this took up a significant amount of mum’s time which she juggled with part-time work and running a busy household.
The research conducted by Allianz “found that when it comes to splitting the parent taxi duties among mums and dads, both parents reported spending a similar amount of hours per week driving the children (29% and 32% report up to 8 hours per week respectively)”. It is wonderful to hear that these tasks are today evenly split between mums and dads and certainly this would mirror what I see within my social circle.
Today though our children are engaged in more activities than ever before as we try our best as parents to ensure our children are exposed to a variety of sports, hobbies, clubs or further educational activities to ensure their physical, emotional and developmental needs are met. We jump at the chance to enrol our kids into their activity of choice at the very first sign of them showing an interest or persuade them to follow activities we enjoy. I am guilty of both and have spent a small fortune on one of my children who with each new year is enthusiastically enrolled into a new activity, only to drop out a few weeks later. Who am I to deprive her of an opportunity and if her friends are doing it too, why should she miss out? That’s what I tell myself.
Many of us are struggling to manage work and family commitments as it is but when you throw in another 8 hours a week (which is the average) to manage drop off and pick up and the extra curricular activities our children participate in through the week, it really does add to the pressure of being a parent.
Allianz also reported that “the concept of a lazy weekend is clearly a myth for most parents”. Last year we spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday between football training, AusKick, match day, dancing and martial arts. Many of our friends were doing more than that. Add in birthday parties and play dates and the concepts of a weekend relaxing on the couch or at home with the family were not a reality. At times weekends were just an extension of the working week, robotically moving from one responsibility and commitment to the next – always watching the time. It was exhausting and unmanageable – something had to give. So we made the decision as a family to change things up in 2018 – spending less hours “driving taxis” and more time on what was most important to us.
Here are my top tips on making the juggle of children’s activities more manageable:
Share the driving
The national survey conducted by Allianz “found that parents could reduce the amount of time they spent in the car if they shared the taxiing load, with only one in three (35%) Aussie parents and carers carpooling with other drivers”.
Connect with other school parents and share the drop off and pick ups. Speak to other families and arrange to transport the kids to sports or lessons on a roster system – you don’t need to be at every violin lesson or netball game.
Limit the activities
Decide what is most important to your child and set limits around how many activities they will do. Don’t succumb to peer pressure – your children do not need to do what every other child is doing.
Schedule activities in your favour
We now have activities only on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and both kids learn the guitar as part of the after school care program which is a bonus. Plan the activities at times and locations that work best for you and make sure you have some “activity free” days.
Recognise when it’s not working
Tired children, sickness, no downtime, stress, the inability to keep on top of things at work, home or school are all signs that you’re probably doing too much. Reassess your priorities as a family and make changes to your schedule if you need to.