Family / Kids / Parenting

Balancing work and family

Guitar HeroesMy daughter, Zeca, likes to play a little game in which she tries to trick me into admitting that I love one of my kids more than the other. She’ll ask a question when I haven’t had coffee yet or when it’s late and I’m tired or when I’m trying to work. She thinks that by catching me by surprise, she will somehow expose my deepest feelings about her and her brother.

One question that she asks repeatedly is “If Miguel and I were both falling off of a cliff, which one of us would you save?” I always give the same answer, “The one who was closest to me.”

She hates that answer.

On one occasion, I was cuddling a friends’ kid and Zeca asked, “If Georgia and I were falling off of a cliff, which one of us would you save?” I gave the answer I always give, “The one who was closest to me.” She was outraged and I explained it logically and she amended the question, “If Georgia and I were falling off of a cliff and we were both equally close to you, who would you save?”

The girl is persistent.

Then, one day, she asked, “If your iPhone and I were both falling off of a cliff, would you save me or your iPhone?” 

I was stunned.

“Why would you even ask that?”

“Because you love your iPhone and you spend a lot of time with it.”

I nearly cried at what her question and follow-up explanation implied about my priorities.

My partner, Luisa, travels for work but, when she isn’t traveling, she works from home. She participates in conference calls and does the rest of her work via the computer. Since quitting my job to write, I too work at home. I blog, work behind the scenes here at VillageQ, and continue to work on my book. As someone who works primarily online, a great deal of my work involves my phone. I answer emails, text, tweet, and post to Facebook. In a traditional sense, most people wouldn’t consider texting, tweeting and Facebook work but I communicate with VillageQ editors and contributors via text and promote my work and our work here on social media channels.

The fact is that work is different for many parents these days. Going to an office is not as common (or necessary) as it used to be and more and more people work from home. This flexibility is good but it can also lead to the blurring of boundaries between work time and family time. Technology allows us to quickly respond to a work-related issue and I suspect that I’m not the only person who feels compelled to do so.

When my daughter asked about my beloved iPhone, I told her that I loved her more than anything but I know I need to be better at showing that.

This past Friday night, we played Wii as a family and left our phones in another room where we couldn’t hear the pings and chirps of notifications. We bowled and played basketball and table tennis and Guitar Hero and, when the games were over, we cuddled in bed before saying goodnight. I know we need to do better and we will certainly try to be more mindful of those blurred boundaries.

So, how do you balance work and family? How do you manage your use of technology?

FEATURED PHOTO CREDIT: LUISA BRANDÃO

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16 Comments

  1. Last year I started doing Technology Sabbath – trying to stay away from iPhone and computers all day on Sunday. I rarely make the whole day, but even if i make it until 2 pm, it’s made a difference. Now that my kids are both teens I want them to see that it’s possible to go six hours without a single electronic interaction.

    Some days I fail miserably and am checking email by 9 am. But I feel guilty about it. And most Sundays, I look forward to the mental break.

    PS. Oh, these kids know just what buttons to push, don’t they? If mine were to ask about the cliff, it would be a tradeoff between them and the members of Crowded House.

  2. Yes, to the button-pushing and – no lie – my daughter has said since she was very little, “I just love pushing buttons.” I take it to mean the figurative kind. Also, I can understand the Crowded House dilemma.

  3. For a while, I was putting my phone in my room from dinner time until Roozle was in bed. I think I need to start doing that again. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Pingback: My Phone Problem - Up Popped A Fox

  5. Well……first this might explain why my bestie isn’t at my beck and call as much. She may be trying to “unblur” the work/family boundaries.

    Second. I have a serious problem with my phone. My kids have made similar disturbing comments (you love your phone more than me! And so forth). I have some major personal challenges coming my way, and AS USUAL, your post is uncannily resonant.

  6. My friend just posted some tips about more mindful cell phone use: http://dharmatraveler.wordpress.com/2014/01/08/mindfulness-and-your-smartphone-three-principles-to-building-a-healthier-relationship/

    Unfortunately I haven’t had the self-discipline to use most of them yet, except for putting my phone in airplane mode sometimes.

  7. Thank you for this! And I sure feel you, Vikki. Particularly for anyone working in social media (for a living or as a key location to share valued work), it is extremely challenging to draw a line between work life and social life. And for all the valid reasons you enumerate. Research, promotion of issues/ friends/ organizations, forging networks, you name it. Finding the edge is veeeery hard.

    But I’m with Nancy. I have been a convert to vividly clear, very regular, mindful digital breaks, ever since I heard Gwen Bell and Tiffany Schlain Elisa Camahort Page talk about them. Gwen takes a month-long “sabbatical” away from online engagement, or did; Tiffany Schlain does a weekly tech “sabbath” (even signs off Twitter each time to clarify the line); Elisa talked about a regular “email amnesty,” where she gave herself some time to not reply to folks (was it a day? a weekend? more?), complete w/ an auto reply that said the email was being returned unread; if it’s critical, write back again after her break. Then after archiving critical work email, she cleared out the inbox – entirely. For years I haven’t known what a double-digit inbox would look like, so I am in awe.

    Of all these bright ideas, I have only implemented the weekly “digital sabbath” but am THRILLED by it. Sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday, no digital nada, for anyone in the house (w/ exception of work crises, which can & do happen, but we keep that exceptional). We answer our phones, but that’s it. The kids are HAWKS on us because they realize they have our undivided attention.

    To top it off, I also make a custom cell phone cover that has my kids’ faces on it (mine’s been a Case-Mate). So then when it’s time to focus on my kids, I turn the ringer off and put the phone face down somewhere. What’s looking back at me is them. A potent reminder.

  8. Ouch, those kids and their honesty, huh?

    I sit here having just sent my kids upstairs to do SOMETHING, because even though it’s a snow day and I’ve said I’m not coming in to the office, I know work still expects that I’m available. I am a little better on weekends but that’s when we also have all of our errands and household work to catch up on.

    Sigh. Could we lobby for more hours in the day?

    • I know. There is the work of work and then there is the work of the household too! SO MUCH WORK. Instead of more hours, could life just slow down a little bit?

  9. I am really struggling with my new year’s goal to plug in IPhone when I get home and then not touch it til she is in bed except for skyping family members with my daughter. Hard. Really. Hard.

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