Finding Work-Life Balance By Taking A Break From Social Media

Finding Work-Life Balance By Taking A Break From Social Media

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:

Video streaming by Ustream

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.

The "Real" Adam

The “Real” Adam

Here's the image on the back of his phone.  Get the point?

Here’s the image on the back of his phone.
Get the point?

 

 

Being On The Today Show Leads To More Togetherness

Being On The Today Show Leads To More Togetherness

I experienced my first real 15 minutes of fame today.  It was on the Today Show.  My husband and I were asked to participate in a story about couples experiencing struggles in their relationship when one partner is overweight and the other is not.  We were supposed to represent the “average” American couple.  We taped the clip last night in Chicago and it was included as part of a larger story in this morning’s broadcast.  Here’s the clip if you missed it:

http://video.today.msnbc.msn.com/today/50573203#50573203

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Wow!  Right?  I mean I actually went on tv and admitted that my husband can frustrate me when he orders a hotdog and has (once) recommended that I consider ordering a salad!  Was it very brave…or really quite stupid to tell the world this anecdote? Well, I revealed something really personal and…common.  In this era of Jerry Springer, Oprah Winfrey reveal-all shows and “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo“, telling 3.1 million people that you and your spouse are human and can frustrate each other seems like a pretty boring revelation, don’t you think?

Some of my friends disagree.  They’ve told me how much they admired our honesty and my willingness to open up about something so personal.  To me, going on tv may be hard but it could also be the best way to continue on my path to better health.  I’m not hiding.  I admit that I have an unhealthy relationship with food and want to be healthier.

If you are in a relationship with a woman who is overweight, you may be wondering what to do to help her.  Here are a few of my (very unscientific) suggestions:

  1. Admit it, you may be part of the problem and you can be the key to the solution:  No, you did not tell her to eat those candy bars or stop off at a fast food restaurant for lunch.  But is there any chance that are you sabotaging her plans?  When was the last time that YOU made healthy lunches for both of you?  Have you ever eaten something in front of her that you know she really loves and justified it as “well, just because she shouldn’t have it doesn’t mean that I should deprive myself!”
  2. It’s okay for you to go without too.  Yes, I know that you are healthy/skinny/worthy of having that bowl of ice cream.  But how do you think she feels while she watches you enjoy that tasty treat and she is drinking a cup of hot water with lemon?  (Answer: Not good.)  Hey guy!  Stop being so gosh-darn selfish!  You don’t need to eat dessert, really.  If the roles were reversed, trust me, she would go without for you.  It’s time that you did the same.  And she’ll notice–and reward you for your selflessness.
  3. Want her to exercise?  Then get up and do it WITH her!  Don’t just ENCOURAGE her to go to the gym by saying things like “What are you doing today? I’m sure you have time to go to the gym, right?”  Instead, be proactive and make a date to do something active together.  (And, yes, walking the dog at night together counts as some exercise.)  Not only will you both get some much needed exercise but you will probably relish the time together rehashing your day, thoughts or opinions on who you think will win the Super Bowl. (Note: I’m from Baltimore..it’s the Ravens.  Just saying.) If you love to run, then sign both of you up for a 5k and work with her to train for the 5k.  (Yes, even if you can run a marathon and she can barely run around the block, your running with your wife/partner and keeping her company is a huge investment and will help her achieve YOUR (collective) goals.
  4. Plan meals (here we go again) TOGETHER!   Yes, she may need to count calories, track number of steps and pay attention to carbs, not you.  But you are eating at the table too.  Rather than abandoning your partner to find recipes and healthy choices, carve out 15-30 minutes to go over the weekly plan with her and come up with some options of things that you both will enjoy for dinner.
  5. Want her to feel sexy and loved?  Tell her that you love her… a lot.  A lot of women struggle with their weight because they feel like something is missing.  Showing your partner that you want to be with her and enjoy her company goes a long way.  Everyone wants to be cherished.  If you want to help your female companion to stay on track with her weight loss goals, then don’t withdraw affection.  Instead pile it on–hugs, kisses, holding hands…even if it feels weird at first.
  6. No one accomplishes their goals alone.  Can you honestly say that you succeeded and relied only on yourself to get where you are?  Well?  How can you expect her to do it alone.  Here’s your chance to be the knight in shining armor that she always dreamed of having.  And the best thing about it?  It won’t cost you one red cent!  All you need to do is listen, encourage and DO IT WITH HER!

A very wise and beautiful woman, Andrea Metcalf, once told me that “to make any change, you have to want to do it.”  She was right.  When it comes to getting healthy and losing weight, the key to success for women (if not for everyone) is having a cheering squad…not a “throw reality in your face” one.  Your female companion doesn’t need to you to ask her whether or not she should have a cookies after dinner.  She needs a PARTNER who will not eat cookies after dinner too!  Whether you know it or not, she is looking to you and following your lead.  She will be less inclined to order dessert if you don’t.  And there doesn’t have to be a reason that you don’t have it–you just don’t want dessert tonight.  If she does decide to have a sweet, then don’t make it a big deal.  It is what it is.  Ask her if she might be willing to share it with you.

I have struggled with my weight for all of my adult life.  And I have found the greatest success was when my friends and partners encouraged me by doing something with me.  For instance, when I was in college, I used to rollerblade for hours with a buddy.  I never looked at our outings as exercise because we had so much fun together!  It wasn’t until school ended for the year that I realized how fit I was .

Looking at the suggestions above, it’s clear that there is a common theme: if you want your partner to lose weight, then you need to put your some of your needs aside and invest in her by doing “it” together.  Maybe that means your getting out of bed early and working out with her?  Or taking some time out from watching “the game” to plan the week’s menus.   No one wants to be isolated or feel that she is alone in her struggle to lose weight and get healthy.  Just like any other addiction–the best way to beat it is to have a partner and a community.  The more that community can positively invest, the easier it will be for goals to be achieved.