A RECENT US Census Bureau report tells us that parents are more involved in the lives of their children than they were 10 years ago: Parents and children read together, eat dinner together, and participate in more extracurricular activities.
Not this parent. I represent the uninvolved parent – a stay-at-home mom who stays at home. I don't do travel sports, I don't dress up at school Halloween parties, and when a call is put out for room moms, I'm nowhere to be found. Sound selfish? Maybe. But "extracurricular" is not a word I want to remember anymore.
For those of you who feel your life is slipping away standing on a soccer sideline, don't panic. It's not too late to reclaim your life – to pursue your interests and your hobbies and not those of your children. It's easy if you're willing to follow these five simple rules.
Rule 1: Don't buy a van. If you already own one, sell it. A van-less mother is a useless mother. Not having a van eliminates most opportunities for carpooling, travel sports, and play dates. If you can't fit the kids in the car, you can't take them anywhere.
Rule 2: At all costs, avoid "meet your teacher" night. If you must attend, stay away from the volunteer sign-up table manned by The Moms in the Gym. If the table is blocking the exit, here's what you don't sign up for: room mom, junior high coordinator, or assistant librarian. Instead, sign up for "paper goods:" Your only job will be to purchase paper plates for school parties.
Rule 3: Don't do sports. After dumping your van, this is the most important rule. Don't, under any circumstances, let your child join a sports team – especially a travel team. No matter how talented your child is. No matter how many friends are joining Pee Wee soccer. And don't listen to those dads who say your 3-year-old will someday be a corporate titan if he knows how to be a team player. Forget thoughts of college scholarships, too. In all likelihood, your child won't be good enough to qualify.
Rule 4: Use younger siblings as an excuse for avoiding extracurricular events: "No, I can't do Environmental Awareness Day because I'm taking my youngest to the dentist." Stuck with only one child? Adopt. The free time you will gain is worth the extra kid.
Rule 5: Buy a car without air bags. You might need to scout used-car lots, but your efforts will pay off. Better yet, buy an old Volkswagen Beetle. Then you can whimper, "Sorry, I'd love to do the pick up on field trip day, but my vehicle has no air bags and no room."
The Census Bureau findings were presented in laudatory terms, but don't let that bother you. When you are stretched out in front of the fire reading poetry or pursuing some other guilty pleasure, remember, you simply can't get more involved in your child's life and it's not your fault. Your car doesn't have air bags.
• Janine Wood is a homemaker and writer in Deerfield, Ill.