This is excerpted from the book, "Becoming the Parent You Want to Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Years" by Laura Davis and Janis Keyser, the ParentsPlace.com Parenting Experts.
Between kids and step-kids, Paula is a mother nine times over. She is also a professional fund-raiser, writer, and film producer. One afternoon, in a rare moment without children, she talked about the conflicts inherent in having a career and being a mother. Paula mentioned an interchange with her three-year-old son, Sam, which had shifted her perspective irrevocably. "I'd put in the better part of a year working full-time on a stressful job that kept my mind filled with deadlines and details and efficiency, not on the daily needs of my kids. One day while I was madly rushing around the house trying to get things done, Sam stopped me and asked, 'Mom, is there a law against wasting time?' That stopped me dead in my tracks. For Sam to ask that question, I knew something was wrong with the way I was living."
Kids need unscheduled time at home when they don't have chores, family expectations, or friends over; when the TV isn't on, when the video games are put away, when they're not being entertained. Kids need open space, free time, time to choose or to flounder, to be faced with, "Gee, I don't have anything to do now. What am I going to do with myself?" If children don't have the time to figure that out, they become more and more externally motivated and outwardly focused.