Drowning In A Sea Of Childhood Expectations :: The Struggle Of The 21st Century Parent

I’ve said the statement “I’m drowning” more times than I’d care to admit since the school year began. I am currently being swept under by the wave of school pressures that come with having a first and third grader. To be frank, I’m utterly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of homework and test preparation they both have on a weekly basis. Tack on speech therapy, tutoring, sports, and owning my own business to that, and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. Half the time, we are in bed much later than I’d prefer, which leads to a slow, grumpy start to the morning. And inevitably has us running (literally running) up to school just in time for the bell. (If you’ve seen me, you know I ain’t lying.)

And for what? So my husband and I feel like 2 ships passing in the night? So that my kids are sleep deprived, sitting inside doing more work even though they have been sitting inside doing work for the past 7 hours at school? So every evening is a fight to get work done? Surely, I am not the only one on this particular struggle bus?! And then I think to myself “If this is stressing ME (a grown adult) out, I’m sure it’s taking a toll on the kids.” Just this week, my daughter (who I have never had to really help with homework) was hysterical that she got a B on a math test. When I asked why she was upset about a B she said, “it’s not good enough.” Mind you, she had gotten a significantly worse grade on the math test prior to this one, so I thought she would be ecstatic about a B. But no, it “wasn’t good enough.”

My son, who has auditory processing disorder and ADHD, works his adorable little butt off week after week, but still struggles to get higher than a C (and sometimes it’s D’s that are coming home). And before you think “Why doesn’t she move him to a different school,” just know that we have thought about that option, but that is just not what we feel is right at this time. And to be completely transparent, I don’t think a school change would matter, because many schools these days have “accelerated programs.” Many schools are teaching things that are just beyond what’s developmentally appropriate for kiddos. Many schools have crazy amounts of homework, and test schedules that would give seasoned students anxiety. Let’s not even get started on the unjustly unfortunate pandemic babies who learned phonics from behind a mask. (That is another personal tirade for another day.)

What happened to the days when you spent hours playing outside after school? Sure, there are organized sports, but there are crazy amounts of pressure to be the best in that arena as well. That’s not to say that you can’t just play outside or play sports as an average kid, but there certainly are many kids my children’s ages who are already practicing their sport 3-4 hours a day, multiple nights a week. So what happened to being able to be a carefree kid? When did the narrative become “you have to be the best at everything?” There is so much pressure to do it all and do it well. Be an A+ student and all-star athlete. Be involved in your community, decide which sport you want to do competitively, and then do practice, private lessons, travel tournaments, and anything else that might give you a competitive edge. Then we have social media telling our girls that happiness means being perfectly skinny, with no blemishes, stylish clothing, lots of makeup, beautiful, and “popular.” Again, another rant for another day. My point to all this is, it’s all too much.

I, at 38, well established in my career, successful by many “standards,” feel like I am drowning. The inner dialogue often goes something like this: ”You don’t have the kids in enough sports. Why haven’t they found “their” sport yet? Why isn’t the tutoring working? You really need to get them to bed earlier. Maybe if you do more outside of just homework, it will click. You should focus more on your business. You’re never going to be successful at this business if you don’t invest more time.” It is exhausting, and I cannot imagine how my kids feel. I feel like they are being robbed of their youth in some ways, and it breaks my mama bear heart.

I don’t know the answer, and I don’t know that things will ever change. But I do know that I’m feeling the pressure, and I doubt that I am alone. So to all you parents out there feeling the weight of the world … I see you, and today I am tipping my hat to you.


  1. Put your oxygen mask on first before trying to help anyone else. Healthy, happy, balanced parents raise healthy, happy, successful children. You’re picking up on all the “Anxiety” and you need to find healthy ways to digest all the extra “stress”. Your kids will appreciate and follow your lead. I know from experience!

  2. Great article!
    Thank you for writing.
    I hope you get some stress relief and see the consumerism in all these extra activities for children.
    Look at it from both sides you will feel better!


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