Every working parent has experienced the difficulty of separating work life from family life. When the workday bleeds over into family time, everyone in the family experiences stress. Alberto Marante, MD, a Florida pediatrician, has compiled this strategy to disconnect from work and make your family time truly meaningful.
Ask for Help
First, it is worth asking whether it is truly necessary that you respond to work messages while you are at home with your family. Certain professions may be more likely to require out-of-office work than others, so keep this in mind when asking whether you can trim back your obligations. Ask your direct supervisor and ask your human resources department. It is also worth asking whether your direct supervisor can provide clear guidelines on when answering emails outside the office is crucial and when it can wait.
Employers in forward-looking countries like France and Germany have instituted policies where employees are not expected to answer work emails when they are not in the office.
Give Kids Your Full Attention
When you return home from work, your children will always be excited to see you. It’s understandable that you may need time to relax when you have just gotten home but remember that your children have been waiting all day to see you. Children can be upset when a parent spends all of his or her time checking emails, texts, and social media on their smartphones or at the computer.
Modeling good behavior for children is crucial. Don’t let your child see you depend on your devices at all times. This will keep them from using their own devices as often as you do. Explain to your children that unplugging is important and encourage them to put their devices down when you do.
When you have successfully unplugged, use the time you save to spend special time with your kids. Let them help make dinner or play a game together. Whatever you do, make sure it is something you and your kids can both enjoy.
Keep Devices Away from the Dinner Table
Family dinners are crucial to a child’s health and development. Restricting the use of electronics, including television, at mealtime is a great idea for everyone. A 2013 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating while distracted by phones or TV leads to overeating, which can cause excessive weight gain.
Start Special Family Bonding Time
Use the time you have saved by disconnecting from work to bond with your family. Take day trips on the weekends, visiting sites the entire family would enjoy. Plan the trips as a family, giving your children equal input on where to go. Pick up a family hobby together. You may find that doing a hobby provides a special type of closeness. Perhaps you could canoe, hike or ice skate.
Your Family Comes First
When we are busy with work obligations, it is easy to forget that family is the most important thing in our lives. Alberto Marante, MD encourages parents to think carefully about the message they are sending to their children. Try to reduce the number of work emails and phone calls you take while you are not in the office, and if you can’t, set a strict time limit when you are available for work tasks.
When you are careful with your scheduling, you can show your children that they are important to you without sacrificing your performance at work. Use these guidelines to make your life run more smoothly at home and at the office.