There is a national epidemic afflicting American parents: Chaotic Family Syndrome (CFS). It starts around the time that their first child enters elementary school and intensifies steadily as their children get older. In time, it takes complete control of their lives. The symptoms? Fatigue, tension, crankiness, and total loss of perspective. My wife and I are suffering in spades.
The disease starts innocently enough. When we were first married — long before we caught the bug — we imagined a family of three or four kids who would hang around the house reading, organize pick up games with the neighborhood kids, and engage in thoughtful discussions around the dinner table each night. Our fist two children were born in 1997 and 1999 and for a long time it looked like we would be able to pull it off. But when our oldest entered elementary school, we were exposed to a variety of opportunities. Should we enroll her in Brownies? Soccer? Gymnastics? Maybe an art class? We have always respected “well-rounded” people and wanted her to be one of them. And all the new friends — how stimulating! There were birthday parties, field trips, play dates… What wasn’t to like?
Fast forward five years. We now have four kids, three of whom are in elementary school, and we are suffering mightily from CFS. My weekend was probably a lot like yours: three soccer games, two birthday parties, Sunday school, lunch with their grandparents, a couple hours of swimming with friends (each of our kids invited one) at the local pool. By the time Sunday night arrived, we were completely exhausted. By Monday morning, I could hardly remember what we had done over the weekend. It was a blur.
Family life in America has become chaotic, exhausting, and extraordinarily difficult for parents to manage. Have you ever felt like selling your house, moving to a farm, and growing your own food? Have you ever met a parent who didn’t feel completely under water most of the time? Who has enough time to take care of themselves or pursue their own interests? I probably have — but not more than once or twice.
CFS wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t eventually affect our kids, but it does. I conceived SchoolPulse as a solution to this problem, the hope being to buy back a few hours of time each week by streamlining the process of managing all those children’s activities. Consolidating all those schedules, permission slips, and discussions in one place will certainly help, but none of us will ever be cured of CFS unless we are willing to admit that our lives are out of control and rationalize the number of activities in which our kids are involved. A little more downtime, a little less stress, a little more family time would be healthier for all of us… and for our kids.