Entrepreneurs and business people I work with often ask me for help “being a better dad,” or “being a better partner/spouse.” These high-energy, on-the-go people want to find ways to have more connection with their children and spouses.
I asked one owner of a mid-sized business, “Do you have any chance to talk with your son in the evenings?”
My client responded, “Some, but by the time I get free he’s getting ready for bed.”
Another dad told me his daughter “wasn’t that interested in talking.” And a third sighed and reported that he was treated like a stranger by his kids.
When I followed up with specific questions I discovered that each of these men brought major work home with them every night and on weekends. I’m not talking about the traditional briefcase full of papers, I mean responses to be made to emails and phone calls – Blackberry jam – you know the sticky stuff that gets all over your family time. Though they didn’t intend it, their kids were relegated to (and likely felt like) second class citizens.
My suggestion is pretty simple, unplug!
I’ve encouraged these successful men (and women) to experiment with 5-10 minutes of being unplugged from their Blackberries— shut it down or put it far enough away that you will not here it. Yes, ignore it. It doesn’t work to just set it for vibrate – you’ll probably keep checking to at least see who called.
You need time to look into your children’s eyes and say (with words or your attention), “Nobody’s more important than you! How’s your life going?” Or in the case of young children, “How’s Elmo doing?”
I get laughed at when I suggest 5 minutes. My high standard clients think 20 minutes is a more realistic time, until they get home and try it. After 5 minutes they start feeling the “gotta check it” withdrawal symptoms. You know the signs—hands in the pocket, Blackberry being played with or quick glances just to see who it’s from.
If you’re really going to “be there” with and for your children, then you need to create a strong motto for your home life, something you can use as a touchstone when the going gets tough. Something like, “My kids deserve this uninterrupted time with me alone.” “My email isn’t more important than my kids, wife or husband.”
Most of my clients quickly adjust and keep themselves free, well, for at least 6.5 minutes.
Szifra (Shifra) Birke