Continued from page 1

Mimi Doe, a spiritual parenting consultant and author of the book “Busy, but Balanced,” says people, particularly parents, need to give themselves permission to unplug - or at least temporarily step back from the race.

“Many parents are not really conscious they are getting caught up in it,” she says. “They plunge ahead without taking control of the chaos.”

Leslie Sogandares is one parent who recently called a timeout. Mrs. Sogandares’ children, ages 10 and 13, are year-round competitive swimmers. They recently learned there would be swim practice during most of Christmas break - and a big swim meet on Jan. 2.

“I was surprised,” says Mrs. Sogandares, who lives in Reston, Va. “It was really surprising they were trying hard to get as many kids as possible to compete. If I had a kid who was heading for the Olympics, I would be there. But I don’t. So we are going on vacation and won’t be back for the meet.”

Ms. Doe points out that in today’s overscheduled society, it is quite common that winter break is not a break at all.

“December is the busiest time of the year for tutors,” she says. “For kids in high school, this is a time to prepare for the SATs and apply to summer programs. For younger kids, the holidays should still be a respite and take on a different tone. Many parents have trouble doing that. They feel guilty for waving the white flag and saying ‘we’re hunkering in.’ ”

In fact, Ms. Doe says some people feel a little lost without so much to do.

“It has become a badge of honor to talk about how busy we are and how busy the kids are,” says Ms. Doe, who has four children. “I was at Nordstrom the other day buying a pair of slippers as a gift for my mother. Another lady there says to me ‘Are those for your high school student? Where does she go? Mine are so busy!’ I just nodded. My daughter is an equestrian, but I just didn’t feel the need to talk about her schedule or how many Christmas parties we’re invited to.”