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?

 

 

In Oprah’s LifeClass, the Real Woman Comes Out

In Oprah’s LifeClass, the Real Woman Comes Out

Oprah & Some of Chicago's Finest Bloggers

I was skeptical when I learned that the great “O” had scheduled a new show after a 3 month hiatus.  But this time she’d be on with a twist–she was going to harness the power of the internet and social media. And then I got the call, um, tweet: ?Would I be interested in coming down to the studio and tweet, blog, update my Facebook status (whatever) while she holds her live show?” Me?  Little me?  From Baltimore?

If you were to ask her, Oprah would tell you that her true calling is as a teacher.  She prefers smaller, more intimate groups instead of the larger, syndicated audiences.  So she decided to create an hour long life “class” to embellish upon her greatest “take-aways” from talk shows, interviews and her own personal experiences over the past 25 years in the business. Who better to share her insight into these shows, guests and unexpected outcomes than the hostess herself, Oprah Winfrey? And one feels as if she is talking to her friends and closest confidants during the show.   The viewer actually gets the “behind-the-scenes” scoop about what Oprah was really thinking during specific shows and how some of them actually impacted her life.

Oprah can actually interact with her audience via Skype, Facebook, twitter and the OWN site. The experience, this time, is actually personal.  And guess what?  Oprah’s real personality shines through.  There’s a feeling of “hey, let’s just kick off our shoes and discuss what’s important!” And, of course, while she is reflecting, she is funny, a bit irrelevant and not as politically correct as she was on syndicated television.  (Yes, she even swear a bit.) She comes across as a friend and mentor not the billionaire talk-show diva, producer, actress, etc. etc. with whom we are all familiar.

I had the privilege (yes, I said it) of attending one preview show and two “live” shows: one addressing the impact of anger and the power of letting it go and the other entitled “Joy Rising.”  While I tweeted and commented until my little fingers thought they would fall off with exhaustion, my mind became more and more invigorated and, dare I say it: Alive with excitement.  I caught what I can only assume is something akin to “Oprah Fever!”  And no, I was not jumping up and down, making a crazy “O” sign with my hands or singing her theme song (I had a computer on my lap, people!), but I did leave the classes a changed (for the better) woman. And I think that it had more to do with Iyanla Vanzant’s presence.

Iyanla was Oprah’s guest on both of the shows and she basically took them over.  When guests described their challenges, one could see that Iyanla was truly listening and received their comments with calm affect and grace. Her responses, while also graceful and her words profound, had a realistic component to them.  Rather than allowing the callers to dwell in self pity, she encouraged them to  address their issues straight on and use the following mantra”Ommmm, what the heck….Do it anyway….” to get through whatever was holding them back.  Great advice.  I could spend another blog post just writing about this insightful and forthright life coach. Needless to say, the majority of my tweets were direct quotes of some of the “kernels” or “nuggets” of guidance she shared with the audience.  If you are interested, email me and I will send you some of the things that I posted and learned.

It was clear that Iyanla and Oprah are good friends.  She disagreed with, argued and coached Oprah while they sat together in front of the smallish live audience.  Iyanla did not hold back on her comments to and about Oprah and the outcome was extraordinary.  At some point the celebrity stopped being OPRAH and reverted back to being just another person (one certainly adept at interviewing and inspiring) but also just another woman struggling with image issues, life’s disappointments and its joys.  And I think that’s what she really wants to show her audience.  Yes, she is OPRAH and is influential blah, blah, blah but she is also just another person who has to get up in the morning and face herself in the mirror.

There is a lot more to say about my time spent with Oprah and Iyanla and I promise to discuss more of the moment-to-moment activities in an upcoming blog post. But for now, I need to “bustle my hustle” and straighten up my house.  My sister is coming to Chicago with her boyfriend and I don’t want her to report back to my mother that I am completely incapable of keeping an organized home!  Oh! The horror!