Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Question from My Eight Year Old

My eight year old asked me a question this evening that really reflects how my home life has evolved in my six months on this new job.  Time was, seven months ago, when I was "just" a faculty member that most days I would wrap up between 5 and 5:30, be home my 6, have dinner on the table by 6:30, participate in getting my youngest ready for bed, and then have a bit of time with him--only to do dishes and more work afterwards.  And for the most part my "work work" at home came either very late at night or very early in the morning.  When my youngest was younger, he would tolerate my working (particularly on email) while talking with him or doing something else with him.  I didn't have to give him 100% of my attention.

In the time that I have held my new job (since April 1), I have worked later many days, but when I work later I tend to be "done" when I get home.  I do some work in the evening.  I do some in the early morning (particularly now that my youngest doesn't tend to get up quite as early as he used to).  The key has been that I have not had to make a choice between work and him while at home much in the past six months.  While being at work longer is disruptive, the pattern of not then making the choice of what to do at home clear to him has really taken hold.

So, this evening, I happened to be home early.  I had a meeting away from the Business School in the middle of the afternoon and decided to go home next.  That allowed me to have dinner on the table so we did not need to spend money on an unnecessary meal out before my wife and middle son went for his first livestock lesson as part of a 4H activity.  I told my youngest that after I ran to the grocery story, I could read extra to him.  We are reading a book that flows nicely and reads easily about a middle school kid playing football.  And this is a chapter book that is really holding my son's attention.

When I got back from the grocery story he was sorting rubber bands for his loom.  He really enjoys that activity and thought we could wait to read until he was done.  Not a bad idea.  However, when he was ready, he expected me to be ready.  I was working on an email or two and he asked me, "Who are you emailing who is more important than me?"  I was surprised to hear that but it did make me realize how different our rhythm of life has become over the past six months.  And while I may have fewer hours at home (particularly in a week like this one with two dinners and an evening class to teach) the expectation is that when I am home I am home.

Interestingly enough, my son's attitude actually matches my boss's attitude in two ways.  First, my boss claims that he doesn't carry much to and from work because he likes to separate the two.  I believe him for the most part.  And second he likes to always remind us, "More, Better, Faster".  My sons is super competitive and focuses on all three of those all the time.

So, maybe with my son and my boss sending the same signal, the key will be to continue to work on the question of how to get work done at work and have home time at home more of a reality while trying to balance things in my life.  Not simple.  But a good aspirtion.  

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