I was in the shower this morning when my older daughter wandered in. From behind the shower curtain (we do have SOME boundaries), she asked how old she had to have a phone. I said it was less about age and more about when she would be without a grown-up able to call me.
When she’s at camp, she has the counselors. At school, she has teachers. At friends’ houses, she has parents. So I told her any of those people could call me if she needed me, and I would always pick up. She replied, “Even if you’re in a meeting?” With a very surprised voice. And that made me stop. Right there, in the shower, water everywhere, my heart sank.
So I peeked out of the shower curtain and looked her right in those big brown eyes, and as strong as I could, I said, “I would NEVER ignore a call from you, even for work.” The smile she broke into lit up her face and shattered my heart.
In this new world of remote work, I’ve had a blend of both in-person and at-home working. In that way, I’ve been lucky. But it also means the kids sometimes get a front-row seat to how long I’m sitting in front of a laptop taking meetings and finishing paperwork. There is sometimes a blur as to when the work ends and family time begins.
But our shower conversation made me realize I need to emphasize those boundaries. I need to remind my girls and myself that they come first and work can wait if they need me. The work/life balance often gets blurred, but I have to keep remembering to make sure there’s time for everything and that my girls always know when they call, I’ll always pick up.
And to that point, here are a few things I’m doing to try to separate work and home life, especially when working from home.
1. When the workday is over, I’m turning off my laptop, unplugging it, and putting it away.
When you’re in a traditional office, “finishing work” is easy. You stand up, walk out of your office, and go to see your family. But on those days when my kitchen table is my office, there is no clear divide. Closing up my tech and putting it away helps signal my children that work is done (mostly) for the day.
2. Check my work phone less after hours.
My therapist recently mentioned that checking my phone has become a compulsion, and she’s right. I am always tapping the screen to ensure I haven’t missed anything that needs to be handled. But in the middle of dinner or on the weekend, I’m probably not missing much. I need to remember to be present at the moment and check my work phone periodically and not constantly when I’m not “on the clock.”
3. Take a vacation.
I’m actually writing this from a beach vacation right now. It will never feel like the “right time” to take time off, but our family deserves to make memories, and isn’t that what vacation days are for?