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You Can’t Parentshift

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I’m a loving dad to two amazing kids. They rock my world, and while I love visiting new places (I travel a lot every month), I hate being away from them.

Technology has not only made working from anywhere possible but also empowered those of us who live the workshifting lifestyle to stay in touch with our families while we are away.

But, as great as it is to be able to catch up over video chat or to send text messages from the road, nothing can replace being there.

Recent current events have made it even clearer to me that the best parent is an engaged parent – and that requires quality face-to-face time. Hectic schedules, big presentations and client visits will always get in the way of this, but it is crucial to make the time.

I promise you that if your family life is not happy, it will affect your work life.

One area I hope to focus on as I begin writing for this site is how to find this balance, providing tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.

Make sure the next time you return from a trip that you sit down with the family. Set the phone to the side and leave the laptop powered down. The first night I’m home, I completely turn off work because it has had me for the last few days/weeks, and my family now needs my time.

I know that the work will be there in the morning, and if an emergency does arise where anyone would need to get a hold of me, they could.

Since we work whenever and wherever we are these days, I’ve found that many people have a hard time turning everything off. The sooner you learn to do this and spend quality time with your family, the happier you’ll be.

Workshifting is an amazing way to live a life. But, no child is ever going to be happy about their mom or dad trying to parentshift. It can’t be done, so please don’t try.

Photo credit: CC Chapman

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C.C. Chapman is a leader in the online and social media marketing space. He is an avid photographer, author and keynote speaker. His most recent book (with Ann Handley) Content Rules, is a best seller that explains how companies can create remarkable blogs, podcasts, webinars, ebooks and more. C.C. is an advocate who speaks about building passionate consumer communities, and the strategic values of content-based marketing. He is the host of Passion Hit TV and the founder of Digital Dads. C.C. is a graduate of Bentley University and happily lives in the woods outside of Boston with his loving family.
  • Dan Gorgone

    So true, man. At the very least, when I’m traveling, I try to respect the schedules and routines in place at home. You should know when a good time is to call or FaceTime. Your kids will react differently to your absence, and when they’re younger, it’s a bit unpredictable. The least you can do though is maintain communication, whether you call, send a picture back, get on a video chat, or even write them a note they (or someone else) can read.

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      I agree fully. It is hard some times with time zones, but I always find a way to make it work.

      You are right that it is extra hard when they are younger, so I feel for you since I know you are in that spot right now.

  • http://www.providentpartners.net/blog Albert_Maruggi

    My perspective is my own and not advice for anyone.  This post got me thinking.  I jumped the career treadmill when I was at a conference in LA, away from home on 9/11/01, I was supposed to get a plane back home that night.  i drove home, and started my consultancy within the month.   Sure I have travelled for Biz, but so rare that I don’t have milage status nor any miles on frequent flyer. 

    To those that have successful practices I see how hard you work, I see your check ins, bless you.  I learn a lot from you.  I love conference twitter streams and ustream talks.  My trade off is I’m not there, shaking hands, bar hopping, making in person connections, etc etc. I get that.   I’m here, where I should be.   I don’t believe in “balance” it’s a crock made up by authors making money on those that believe they can achieve balance in “real time” 

    Sure there may be balance, but for me it’s not within a 24 hour period, a week or a month.  It’s in a lifetime.  I needed the tragedy of 9/11 to see where I belonged and the disconnect for me and what this society expected of me.  And this is only me, not lecturing, advising or anything. 

    The last 11 years in the time frame of my children’s life can never be repeated and my impact (for good or worse) would be different if experienced in any other way than where I chose to be, here.    Did I write a book – no but I can in fact have been quoted in some, written chapters in others.  Do I speak, well yes and have, and some have even tweeted they dig the things I’ve said.  But am I on the circuit, no.  the thought of being on a plane makes my hair stand on end.  

    Do I give clients good advice, well yes or I wouldn’t have clients for years I’ve been in this business.  But this lifestyle I chose has cost dollars, no question.  That’s what choices do, yield results and hopefully it’s the result you intended when you made those choices.   Today, as I read this piece and reflect on the choices I made September 13, 2001 on my drive across the country, I thank God for the results and for opening my eyes to where I should be.  

    Now I have to go rebound for my son’s basketball shooting workout.  

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      Glad you found what works for you. That is awesome and most people never do.

      I know I’ve found mine as well. It is a great feeling.

  • http://www.facebook.com/daddyclay Clay Nichols

    Great post, C.C. As you point out, getting unplugged is the key to reconnecting with family after a work trip. And Family Dinner is the secret weapon. Sitting down to a meal after a time away has a significant impact. I’m sure you’ve seen the studies. And if you want to score major points, bring a flavor back from your trip — some spice or ingredient (no live chickens or anything to get in trouble with TSA) from where you’ve been and incorporate it into the meal. Also a great conversation starter. My next trip is to Detroit. Suggestions on local flavors?

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      I LOVE that flavor idea and it is one I’m going to completely steal and use on my next trip.

      Dinner IS crucial. We sit down to dinner whenever possible. Gets hard with sports, drama and other events going on at night, but we always make a point to and it is a special (and usually hysterical time).

  • http://twitter.com/marktilbury marktilbury

    Great post – enabling technology has made work-life balance possible. If only our kids gave us an appraisal every year then the change may take sooner. The digital divide will be thoise that use technology to change their lives and those that maintain the same broken system

    http://digitaldivide.posterous.com/generation-desk

  • Lindumeconomics

    Wonderfully thought provoking, and all so true.I’m now on grandchildren rather than chilkdren, but the same priorities have to be set.

    I’m reminded of Stephen R Covey’s massive book on The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Managers, but I always thought, and still do, that he was too in favour of pre-planned rather than spontaneous contact with his family. I have always found surprise rather than routine is important, especially with children but it also works with adults. That cannot be done with one eye on a screen and fingers on a key board.

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      Surprise is a beautiful thing, but sometimes routines are needed. That is a WHOLE other balancing game :)

      • Lindumeconomics

        Interestingly, one of today’s newspapers in UK has an article headed “A loving father is ‘more important to children'” at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/family/9330961/A-loving-father-is-more-important-to-children.html which needs studying later.

  • http://bsoi.st/ bsoist

    Great stuff, C.C. “Quality time” is a myth. Your children need quantity time too. Time to just be with them, do with them what they want to do, etc. Dads need to make no excuses for working an providing for the family – your children will respect you for working hard – but they need time with you. 

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      I understand what you are saying, but to call quality time a myth I think is short sighted.

      For example, recently when I was in Ghana I stayed up late so I could video chat with them before they went to bed. It may have only been 10-15 minutes, but it was high quality hearing about their days, homework and everything else going on at home. I would have loved it to be longer, but we made sure what we couldn’t do in quantity we  made up in quality.

      • http://bsoi.st/ bsoist

        Agreed. Both are important. My problem is not with squeezing in quality time when you don’t have time for quantity, I do the same thing. This week my daughter is New Orleans (about 1200 miles away) and my sone is in Germany (a lot further), and I enjoy the few minutes I can chat with them. 

        The “myth” is that quality time makes up for *never* spending quantity time with your children. 

        BTW, work shifting is a great way to create more time with your kids. Travelling can mix that up a bit, but when I am in town I have the flexibility I need to be with my kids when they are around. As much as I can, I work around their schedules. 

  • http://www.williamcmurray.ca/ William C Murray

    As the dad of two young sons, I see the difference in them when they are not getting enough connection time. It can be easy to let the reason of “I’m working for them” to creep up occasionally and overshadow the reality that they need me, not my work or my success. Over the last year, I’ve frequently pushed back deadlines a little bit by confidently saying “my kids needed me”.

    We all need to shut down, turn off and connect with our kids. There is no greater gift to give them than our time, undivided attention and love.

  • Margo

    The world has changed since my childhood when my sister, brother and I spent summers working with my father who chose to take a job with the school district maintaining the buses and school facilities after being diagnosed with a life threatening disease.  We sang songs together, learned that quality job performance was more important than quantity, learned what commitment and responsibility entailed and the pride gained  by implementing all of these factors.   We didn’t have money.  Even that proved to be an asset in the long term.  I wouldn’t have missed one moment of being with my father during those summer months when other kids were out playing.  I think I was very fortunate.  
    My children did not have that kind of pleasure growing up as I was a working mom.  My husband and I spent all the time we could with our children however, weekend biking, skiing, hiking, fishing etc.  Times change and we have to adapt.  We can always do more, always.  And we often feel we don’t do enough but the thing about kids is that they adapt too and they do know if a parent cares.  That, more than anything is the key.  If you care and you commit as much time as you can your kids will know and will respond.

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      I couldn’t have said it better. 

      Thank you for sharing the story about your summers with your father. That sounds like some amazing days of quality time together.

  • Renee

    Quantity time is good, quality is better. I’m a full time mom, a full time student, and I run a business. My kids are in school and have friends and activities of their own. The best time of the day for all of us isn’t the quantity time we spend running around, but the 10-15 minutes of quality time we get at the end of the day when I can just sit down on the edge of their bed and chat before they go to bed.

    It’s easy to tell when your kids aren’t getting enough attention. 10 minutes of your undivided attn will do for them than two hours of distracted parenting.