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Too Many After School Activities for My Teen: A Carpool Mom Quits

Am I a horrible mother if I’ve begged my teenage daughter not to join marching band? Another mom told me that I’m selfish and that it’s not about me–it’s my daughter’s life and I have to be supportive.

I want credit for being supportive. I have driven her back and forth to practice three times a week for three and a half years (an extra three hours a week of driving for me). I have brought her lunch and dinner during band camp each summer. I fundraise with her. I come to some of her shows, where it’s either freezing or too hot and they’re always too loud. I have to volunteer so many hours for the one activity–it’s a parent requirement. I’m now on the executive board of this band and doing all their publicity.

I ran and got special socks for her, took her for uniform fittings and to have it all dry cleaned, woke up at 4 a.m. to take her to the bus for band trips, etc., etc.

Other parents warned me when my daughter first auditioned to join the band. They told me it takes up way too much time for the kids and their parents. They told me how expensive it is. (Between band camp, a band trip and winter percussion trip, uniforms, supplies and the band participation fee, we’ve shelled out thousands of dollars each year.) They told me that playing the drums would hurt my daughter’s ears, neck and back.

I was worried about her and I didn’t want her to have this much pressure. So I tried to talk her out of it. And this mom–the mother of my daughter’s friend–is still holding it against me. She said that “Emily” will resent me.

“How would you feel if your family always told you that they hate what you do?”

“I don’t think I ever told her that I hate what she does.”

Band Practice, Band Trips, Band Fundraisers…

I am proud of her. It’s just that this band is a huge burden on both of us. The parents are asked to do so much, “Emily” is not getting enough sleep and she never has any free time – she didn’t have time to tour colleges during the year, let alone take an SAT class. And now college applications are due and she’ll have no time to do them. Band requires at least 31 hours a week, year round. I would have preferred jazz band, for instance, and then she would have been able to continue to play basketball and stay involved in our house of worship. I know it’s not my life, but isn’t it OK if I share my feelings?

I guess I could lie and pretend I am thrilled with the path she has chosen. But is it better to be honest but not 100 percent supportive, or gush over it while not being true to myself?

I’m sorry if I hurt her feelings, but I hope, when she looks back, she’ll see that my actions really did support her. Yes, there are mothers who go to every single show and have always heaped tons of praise on their kids about every detail of band. I’m not one of them. And I don’t  think that makes me a horrible mother.

Valerie Newman

Valerie Newman lives in Connecticut with her husband and two kids. When Valerie started mixing up her kid’s college applications with her mother’s nursing home applications, she knew she was part of the sandwich generation.