Oh man. The weekend ended up being the perfect storm for this post. Part III of Notes from a Blue Bike is all about Work. Mr. Thistle started the weekend putting out fires at work and it continued in 30 minute increments for the rest of the weekend. One phone call after the other. Emails, texts, phone calls. Missed shipments, additions to orders, technical questions, blah, blah, blah. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Oh, but life didn’t stop while he was crazy busy. No sir. In fact it sped along ahead of us while we spent most of the weekend trying to catch up to it. We took the boys to sign up for hockey, caught a youth game while we were there, hit the sporting goods store afterward, made a pit stop at the grocery store, grabbed a bite to eat and headed home. Everyone was tired, overstimulated, and ready to be back home. Too bad we still had one flat tire on the side of the highway to change, one trip to the tire center, and a lot more money than we planned to spend left on the agenda for the day. Never mind the ice cream we had bought the boys as a treat for handling our busy day so well that was melting in the back of the car while we waited on the mechanic to change our tire.
All the while, work demanded attention. There was one “crisis” after another to tend to. And let me go on record saying that I can be rather difficult when it comes to work/family balance. But, in Mr. Thistle’s defense, it is probably true that I have lost some perspective of the outside “business” world after being a stay-at-home mom for so long and answering to only myself during the day. And, the man is really just very responsible and dedicated to his work. And he really loves what he does.
But his work can be demanding. It’s just the nature of the entertainment business.
And the nature of the entertainment business doesn’t exactly coincide with the “slow” parts of life we are trying to live in our family.
So it gets tricky this life/work balance.
And technology doesn’t make it any easier. When you’re connected ALL. THE. TIME. you can’t exactly tell your boss you missed his call because you weren’t home. Or you missed his email because you weren’t near a computer. When your computer/phone/camera/map/one-million-other-gadgets is in your pocket there are few excuses people are willing to accept for your disconnection.
“Checking out” for family time isn’t always an acceptable excuse for a lot of companies these days. Plus, if you work in an industry like Mr. Thistle’s it’s just a given when you enter the entertainment workforce that you will make yourself available.
So yeah. Tricky.
The beauty is that he typically doesn’t have to go all the way to the office outside of typical business hours to tend to the tasks demanded of him.
But Tsh points out the ugly part.
“Many of us work hard to play hard, but we often have to set our own rules. Where to work? When to work? What to wear to work? Well, it depends. While this freedom allows for unprecedented creativity to truly live according to our deepest-held values, it also grants us permission to never leave work, to always have one more thing to do, to never feel caught up. To finally understand some newfangled piece of technology, only to find it replaced by its 2.0.”
“But, the downside is that my work is always, forever, only a click away, and it’s never done.”
“There is no “The End” to the internet. Never before in history have we been given the keys to be able to work and earn money doing what we love. And yet never before have we been so eagerly invited to work 24/7, without ever a chance to feel done.”
While her experience is from a work-from-home, self-employed standpoint, I feel like it still applies to any job that feels free to call you/text you/email you. It’s part of the world we live in now. We are always connected.
So it makes it hard to ever completely unplug. Disconnect. Leave it.
But Tsh isn’t saying that we have to leave it all behind and go off the grid to live slowly or with intention. She’s simply pointing out that we need boundaries. There needs to be a way to find balance or we miss what’s most important. Real life.
So, Mr. Thistle and I came to a compromise this weekend after a mild, first-world tire crisis combined with an on-going work crisis sent me into a downward spiral of anti-technology ranting.
Our balance is similar to Tsh’s. Mr. Thistle may unapologetically focus on work from home when it is a necessary evil. That means “treating [his] art–the work [he] loves to do and just happens to get paid for it–like something worthy of [his] dedication, practice, focus, and excellence” and will be a thing to be supported in this household. But it’s also knowing that these crises use up a significant amount of “device” time and, in return, things that are not worthy of focus and excellence, like checking Instagram or Facebook, need to take a backseat to work and family life to allow for more focus on family life. If our time is so divided between the things that MUST get done and family time then there is little time left for social media. That goes for me too. Blogging is my art and so it is something necessary to me. If I have spent a chunk of time doing that I need to put down the computer, reconnect with my family and live in the real world for a while so that I’m not missing out on real moments. The same goes for my real-life art. If I’ve been stowed away in my craft hole for hours I need to connect in real life to those around me that truly need and want my focus. Facebook, Instagram, and my beloved Pinterest can wait. If our work and family are top priority we have to be careful about gorging out on our devices. Because work isn’t an option to cut back on. So, ultimately if we’re taking time away from anything it will be family life.
We are going to treat our life like a food pyramid of sorts. Social media, internet browsing, and screen time need to be our “sometimes foods” like sweets and fats. The meat is work and the veggies family life. A healthy balance of all of those things. We’re not going Atkins over here and completely cutting something out. It just isn’t realistic. Technology is Mr. Thistle’s job and it’s so tightly woven into our society that it would be extremely hard to cut it completely. I know I would go through withdrawals pretty severely if I couldn’t connect with my friends on the internet now that we’re in a new place with few real-life friends.
“But just because the thing in my pocket vibrates doesn’t mean I need to stop everything, bow down in worship, and see what it needs.”
How do you achieve a work/life balance? Do you think technology makes finding that balance easier or harder?