We talked with a local parenting expert who did tell us that kids really need down time. Dr. Nathan Blum, from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said we should give kids the time for free play because that's when they learn to make up games and stories. They learn to be creative and negotiate rules with other children.
So, what's a parent to do? Here's my solution: I make the girls choose one sport a season. They can't do cheerleading unless they give up soccer. We had to just say "no" to Girl Scouts. I believe a child should always take music lessons, so I'm not cancelling piano. However, I got a new piano teacher who agreed to come to the house and now there's less shuttling around.
In order to make this work for my toddler, I leave the cell phone in the car when I'm watching the kids play. I use that time for one-on-one with my son. There's even a park right next to the soccer fields, so we can go and play together. It seems to be working out so far.
I've also bent my "junk food" rules and pick up a pizza once a week. I took the pizza to the soccer field and we had an impromptu picnic! The kids thought it was a blast. I even let the kids have fast food the other day. I really don't think that's a great idea. But, I've decided my sanity counts for something too!
So I took three pretty easy steps. I made the girls choose 1 sport a season. I use the time on the field as quality time with the baby. And I added a couple of easy dinners to the mix so I have time to play with them after soccer. See if it works for you!