I’m a graphic designer. The nice part about the job is that I can work from home, on my own schedule. But the hard part is that I work from home, on my own schedule, which means that I’m never away from work. I can’t just leave the office and be done for the day.
When my kids were younger, and up around the clock, I often worked with them in the background, but as they get old enough to excitedly tell me what they’re seeing on the screen, I feel like it’s time to change things.
The computer is a distraction, both from interacting with them and from being on top of what they’re doing — and they’re always into something. If we’re being perfectly honest, it’s sometimes a welcome distraction, an escape of sorts.
But aside from the computer’s effect on me, I don’t want them to see the computer as a toy or something desirable. It should be a boring “Mommy’s work” type of thing, not a cool way to check out the latest winter styles or browse cooking sites.
My dare role model
Someone I work with who never, ever replies to e-mail outside of work hours. It can be frustrating, but I really respect the fact that she maintains her boundaries. Is that why she manages to work while raising a large family, and I keep thinking I can’t manage anymore?
The Challenge: I’m going on a weeklong tech fast when my kids are around.
I know that if I just turn the monitor off, it’ll be too easy to turn it back on, so I plan to actually shut down my computer before my kids come home from school, and not turn it on again until they’re asleep. My baby is an exception, because if I waited for him to fall asleep, I’d be out of a job. Plus, pom-pom hats from AliExpress don’t excite him much yet.
I don’t expect my family to pose a challenge, but there are the people who use me as their Internet goy, calling me at random times to check an e-mail, print a boarding pass, or research something of immediate importance, and I feel bad refusing. I practice saying “I don’t use the computer when my kids are around” so I’ll be ready.
How It Went Down
The first day, I’m careful to tie up my loose ends several minutes before my kids come home so I don’t have any urgent work hanging over me once they’re here.
Over the course of the afternoon, when my mind wanders, I have an urge to check my e-mail. Whenever there’s a lull in the noise and action, I realize, my instinctive reaction is to want to sit down at my desk.
A pimple on a cheek? Quick, let’s check what an MRSA pimple looks like! The neighbor swears that lavender oil will make my kids fall asleep — what are the side effects? I must be quasi-addicted, because it turns out to be a real effort to push the Google impulse away.
Yet at the same time, things move more smoothly when I’m focused on what’s happening: suppertime, bath time, bedtime. For a change, I even reach my new year’s bedtime goal.
Once my kids are asleep and I’ve had supper with my husband, I log in. To my shock, the sky hasn’t fallen, and nobody called 911 in my absence.
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 614)