As a working mom one of my most “awakening” experiences was when my children were older and gave me their view of “the truth”. Let me step back to the days when they were young – playing sports, dancing recitals, music shows, etc. I was “always” at every one. And I was happy to tell them and anyone else that – I was a working mom but I was at almost every one of my children’s events. Fast forward – these two twenty somethings had the courage to tell me – “mom, you were there but you were always distracted with an email or a conference call. You were always on that phone.” OUCH – painful to hear but it was their experience…..their reality. Here I thought I was balancing work life well and I truly wasn’t fully present for neither work nor family in those moments. What was I teaching my daughter and my son?
I have had to work at creating an integrated life that ensures I am present in whatever facet I am focused on in that moment. One thing that worked well was to create an accountability partner to ensure you are managing those facets of your integrated life. I chose my husband and it stemmed from some of our dining experiences when I would have my cell phone on the table or in my purse at a restaurant – sneak peeking my email “just in case”. I am not an on call doctor so what could be so important that I couldn’t be with my husband at dinner for a couple of hours. So we made a commitment – I would not bring my cell phone into a restaurant anytime we went to dinner – and he held me accountable to ensure I met that commitment to him – to us.
I have now taken that strategy into meetings with others – I leave my computer and move to a table to ensure I am fully connected in that conversation. I leave my phone aside and check it only on breaks during meetings – people understand if they are trying to get in touch with you and you are in a meeting. We need to set and model those boundaries of instant connection – not everything is mission critical in that moment. If it is – someone will always know how to get in touch with you.