Here’s something a bit different. This contributed article is written by Valerie Woo, Executive Creative Director of The Woo. It’s her take on the delicate balance between being both an advertiser whose constantly on the job and a dedicated mother and where the lines get drawn when it comes to technological connectivity.
As a parent, it’s our joy to love our kids. But it’s our job to prepare them for the world they will soon inherit. Today, that means raising a tech-savvy, socially-balanced individual equipped with a black belt in multitasking. Simple, right? Our kids have lived a “connected” life virtually since birth (baby’s first Facebook status, anyone?), but a growing tide of us are yanking the tech blanket away and untethering kids from their devices.
Fearing the “bad parent” label when my two daughters (ages 7 and 9) invariably are seen, eyes glued to their cell phones, snap chatting their brains out, I joined the legion of you saying, “No more! Put it away!” Typically by the fourth time I ask and my voice has gone from neutral to shriek, they’ll put down the phones and tablets for a few moments of family time. However, lately, I’ve gotten this gem in response: “Mommy, why do WE have to put away our phone? You’re always on yours too.”
I think we have all been there. Somewhere between guilt and annoyance, we fight the urge to just say, “Do as I say, not as I do!” But, that would be ignoring what the parenting books would call a “teachable moment.” When our children hold a mirror up and we’re able to see the unvarnished error of our oft hypocritical ways when demanding they unplug whilst we (albeit sometimes begrudgingly) succumb and immediately respond to every email, text, and call from the office.
Well, we do have options to consider. We can hold firm and unleash countermeasures to thwart our children’s guilt bombs… or we can collectively acknowledge the simple truth that we’re all plugged in and there’s little chance of ever going back.
The integration of technology in business has indeed made the world feel much smaller. Globalization touches more than government and multinationals. As the executive creative director of my agency, I’m involved in dozens of projects at any given time and working with demanding global clients who expect our attention around the clock.
The moment I sit down for family dinner or to watch my kid’s soccer game, a situation arises that calls my attention to work. I’ve tried to put black out times on my own technology use, but the anxiety of possibly missing something important can be all-consuming. Which begs the question: how mentally present am I for my kids during these tech black-outs when I’m stressing about what I might be missing by not looking? Whether its necessity or just ambition, I freely admit the light from my cell phone’s screen has become a comforting beacon; much like it is for my kids.
On the flip side, I know my kids are being taught to have a strong work ethic, to be incredibly driven, and to do their absolute best when others are depending on them. I worked my butt off to start my own business, and I want my kids to approach their careers with the same tenacity.
Rather than wallow in guilt for having to constantly multitask between being a mom, a wife, and a boss, I am going to embrace our “new normal.” Times have changed. Gone are the days of leaving work at 6 PM and leaving the job behind. Until the next counter-culture revolution, with what little energy we have left at the end of day, let’s not waste it arguing over cell phones at the dinner table. Perhaps we’re actually doing our kids a favor by teaching them how a “new” work force operates so it’s not a complete shock once they join in on the “fun.”
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my girls will grow up to be motivated to succeed based on what they have learned from me. I imagine you all do as well. From here, I guess we all just have to hope our kids don’t require years of therapy because mom looked down at the iPhone and missed the game-winning kick.
Image credit: CC by Chris Ford