I’ve often read about parents’ constant struggles to achieve work-life balance. Living in a 24/7 society (as the cliche goes) is challenging when you are (a) trying to keep your job and on top of all of your work and (b) trying to set a good example for your children. My husband, Adam, is often asked how he achieves this balance and makes it seem so “seamless.” If you follow his tweets (@akeats) or see his pictures on Facebook, you know that Adam is a great cook. You also know that he spends a lot of time online–posting pictures of his food and commenting on it. So how does Adam balance his online status with staying tuned in with the happens (literally) at the dinner table? The answer is embedded in the following Dove Men+Care interview with Brad Powell from Dad Labs:
Remember those New Year’s Resolutions we made a month ago? You know the resolution that Lulu asked Adam (and me?) to put down the smart phones and have a conversation with her? No one believed that Adam would do it–including me. In the past few years, I can’t tell you the number of times that dinner (whether at home or at a restaurant) has been disrupted by Adam’s phone buzzing with some social media urgency–be it business or personal. Each time it happens, our family discussions are totally derailed by Adam needing to either look at his phone and texting someone or by his actually leaving the table to respond to a tweet or text.
Fast forward a month and guess what? Adam took Lulu’s suggestion to heart. Now, when he comes home from work, unless he know that there is something going on and he needs to be “on point,” Adam typically goes upstairs to our room, plugs his phone into a charger and then returns to the kitchen/family room to help with dinner sans (without) phone.
The change in our family’s social dynamic was subtle. I am not sure that either Lulu or I noticed what he was (or was not) doing But looking back over the past month’s dinners together, I can honestly say that there has been a definite difference in how our family communicates and relates to each other. Where there once there was a fourth “person” at the table–Dad’s phone, now there are just three of us. I’ve noticed Adam asking Lulu a lot more questions about what she is learning in school and interacting with her in a way that he couldn’t when his phone was constantly buzzing. Now, Lulu knows that she has her father’s undivided attention for at least 30 minutes. I think that the time has also helped strengthen their relationship. She even saves some of her best stories for dinner–when both Adam and I can both hear them for the first time.
Adam has even extended this non-social media bubble for ten additional minutes post dinner. He makes a point to listen to Lulu’s (often out-of-tune) cello practice and comments on what he liked and didn’t like about her playing. (I just learned that Lulu taught herself “Ode To Joy” on the cello because she knows that her father loves it and not because she has to play it for a school concert! Now that’s L-O-V-E!)
The point of this post isn’t to brag about my exceptional spouse. (Really!) If you don’t believe me, take a look at our Today Show piece. Adam’s plenty flawed. But he has succeeded in doing something that many of us complain about wanting to do but are still clinging to habits from the past: He figured out how to disconnect (at least for 30 minutes a day) and invest that time in his relationship with his family. And he has seen significant return on his investment–he has stopped being a “weekend” dad and is now much more of a “day-to-day” one. These are precious times in our children’s lives and they go by really quickly. I am so glad that Adam’s not going to miss them.
What do you think of Adam’s methods for investing in “family time?” Would you be able/willing to put down the phone, iPad, close the laptop and turn off the TV for 30 minutes if it meant you might be able to connect with your kids? It’s a lot harder than it sounds. But…if Adam teaches us anything, it can be done. Trust me, your kids may not vocalize their gratitude but they will notice the improvement in their relationships with you.