I know I’m not the first to say this, but something clicked for me tonight. I feel more disconnected than my parents ever were. I feel like I can’t go through a day anymore without hearing about how kids are disconnected from humanity because of their reliance on technology. I really want to speak in broad terms here about adults as a whole, but I’ll stick with my own experience.
I get upset when my son wants to watch TV or play video games all the time, but I am just as quick to put something on or pull out my phone when I get bored. It is so easy for me to connect with everything outside of my home – work, sports, books, podcasts, any TV show I want – that I am constantly considering what else I could be doing. The same thing I worry about my students doing.
My parents worked different jobs than I do, and my mom stayed at home for most of my young life, but they never checked email (I know, they didn’t even have it), rarely watched the news until we all spent some time together. With five kids playing different sports most of the year, we rarely sat down as a whole family, but I know I had quality parent time most nights. They didn’t always go outside to play with me, or play games, or read books, but it felt like they did when they could. I need to make sure my son receives the same free time with his dad at home.
Frequently, my son asks me if I can do something with him and, frequently, my response is one of: “Give me a minute” (by which I mean 5-10 minutes or longer depending on the cycle of videos I get caught watching), “I’m sorry, I have work to do” (which is accurate, but rarely do I have to complete it at that moment), or “Can we do _____ instead?” (which is a game or activity that I like more).
I am not proud of these moments. I sometimes even regret them in the moment. The truth is that I do not think I am an exception, I think I am probably the rule. How often do we see families in cars with each person on a device or families out to dinner with at least one adult on their phone. Yes, sometimes it is for a good reason, but I would challenge you to consider how often. Is it worth the lost family time?
I’ve decided no. I struggle enough with my work-life balance. Educators bring work home; it is almost impossible not to. I know at some point every night I will be checking email, or planning activities for the following day. But I am also committed to being much more intentional about my time at home.
As a basketball coach, I am kicking myself out of the gym at 6:30 (practice ends at 6). And I let me players know that it is because I need to see my family and they need to see theirs (and do their homework). I am putting my phone down, eating dinner, reading books, playing games, and whatever else my son asks me to do until he has to go to bed. Then I can do what I need in the time left over.
I also know this isn’t going to be perfect. I’ll probably have more unsuccessful days than successful early on, but I am going to stick with it as best I can. How do you manage your time? How do you balance the teacher-parent life?