Blackberries and cell phones and laptops, oh my! When it comes to the virtual office, let’s face it, sometimes we’re too connected. Case in point: in “Sex and the City: The Movie,” working mom Miranda wants to know if there’s WiFi during a girls weekend away in Mexico! It’s apparent she desperately needs a weekend at the spa and is running in different directions. At. All. Times.
Just say no
According to Debra Dinnocenzo, president of VirtualWorks! and editor of the book Working Too Much Can Make You Grumpy, a compilation of wisdom from children under the age of 10 who were asked why it’s good to not work too much, “The message many parents are sending is that work is primary and their kids are secondary.”
“Smartphone orphans” are kids who sense the distraction from their parents because of all the interference from iPhones, Blackberry devices, Androids and other smartphones. “The real truth is kids just want to spend time with their parents.”
As for her advice? “Identify what times are sacred times and honor that time. Create opportunities to be together as a family for quality time.”
Although many jobs require people to be wired 24/7, such as a security agent or physician, many do not. She puts it into perspective: “Is it (your work) a life and death situation?”
Although it may be easier said than done, one little word may very well do the trick: No.
“Turn off your cell phone when you shouldn’t be interrupted,” she says. Screen calls, block out time when you will not be interrupted, use the delete button early and often, let voicemail screen your calls, and maintain your commitment to a work-free vacation.
“Work is boring and play is fun”
As illustrated in the Grumpy Book, some kids will say ‘Mommy is cranky’ or ‘Daddy can’t eat dinner with us,’ and they’re getting this message they’re not important. In addition to the guilt and the stress from being overwhelmed, sleep-deprived — and let’s say it together now: running out of steam — how can you get your mojo back to detach from the virtual office?
“So much of my life is a giant juggle these days…it’s simply about finding the balance,” says Carol Fitzgerald, a wife, mother of 11-year-old twins who play multiple sports, and co-founder and president of BuzzBack Market Research in New York City. Another way to create the balance is setting aside uninterrupted time just for yourself. That’s right: just for you.
Create me time
“There are two 15-minute slots I live for,” says Fitzgerald. “Every morning after I drop the kids at school and in the evenings when I get off the train. I tuck my blackberry into my laptop bag, take a deep breath, and walk. No emails, no telephones, no questions to answer, it’s me time.” And much needed time at that considering, like many working parents, she’s “on” from the minute she wakes up to make breakfast and prepare lunches to the countless people waiting outside her office to talk to her to the 200 emails in her in box calling for her attention.
She adds, “I can look around and think, the phone doesn’t ring, no one is talking to me – I actually smell the flowers and see what’s changed from the day before.”
Above all, for those of us who need to detach from work and reconnect with family (not to mention attend to mental and physical well-being), modern technology — from iPhones to laptops to tablets to the TiVo — is supposed to improve our lives, not detract from it.
Of course, used wisely, today’s techie tools can be a big help. For example, you can leave home without worrying you’re going to miss an important call or emergency notification — and if you’re stuck alone in a waiting room, you can get ahead so you have a little extra time to focus on your family when you do get back home. At that point, you can power that handheld down and immerse your senses in the real here and now.
“The only time I can’t truly be without my iPhone is when I’m not with my kids,” says a California mom of four. “When everyone is home with me, I can relax and don’t feel the need to check in with the rest of the world… for a little while, at least.”
Fitzgerald adds, “I am definitely addicted to my Blackberry, but for me, it’s also freedom. Freedom to let me leave the office to spend time with my kids and check in later… I don’t even bring my Blackberry to the beach. It’s awesome. And some of the best memories are being in places where there was no service.”