Most working parents who do any portion of their work at home can share stories of ridiculous circumstances around business calls. I have a friend who recently confessed that she does all her most important meetings in the bathroom with one hand holding the door closed as her children try to bust their way in. She seemed to think I'd be shocked, but my only reaction was a nod of agreement.
On one particular day, the tables were turned. I was on a business call with a colleague who was working from home. His two children were home too, and he seemed unfamiliar with the reality of kids and business calls. I only say this because although I couldn't care less if his kids popped in and asked for this and that, he was downright aggravated.
"Hold on," he said. "Let me just put on Frozen."
Oh, Elsa, household helper to us all! If any one has changed the nature of work calls at home, it's Elsa.
Elsa is the very nearly ideal babysitter. She's dependable, enchanting and (let's be honest here) I love her, too. I've been an Idina Menzel fan since the Wicked and Rent days -- in fact, I jog to Idina's songs. Elsa's a strong woman, struggling to be accepted by society. She has a rough relationship with her sister (as siblings can have), but her deep love for her ultimately saves them both. She's powerful, independent and even artistic! Like I said, nearly the ideal babysitter.
Except, of course, that she's not a real person. And although I feel pretty good about Elsa and her influence on my kids, I have to admit I've been turning to her more and more. And it's gotten me thinking about my own use of screens in the house.
Let's be straight about it: Using iPads, iPhones and TV as babysitters and distractions is something I think most parents struggle with these days. The devices are right there in our purses and pockets, and they're just so easy to pull out when the need arises. Even more, I'm in front of my computer and phone all day, and my kids don't entirely understand that I am working. I use my devices to run my business, maintain friendship and engage with extended family, but as far as they know, I could just be watching movies.
So, how am I trying to solve this dilemma for my 2, 5, and 6-year-old? Here are some boundaries we're experimenting with lately.
1. On school nights, I've decided to put all devices away from school pick up until bedtime. Although it means I can't work during that time, it also stops me from mindlessly looking at my phone when my kids are around. It also gives me some much-needed down time from working in the day.
2. I allow the kids to watch cartoons or movies on weekends. This means a little sleep-in time for me, and they can get their special cartoon time on the weekend.
3. I only load musicals onto my phone or iPad, so if they grab my device, that's what they'll find there. I have a passion for musicals, so I'm happy for The Sound of Music or Oklahoma! over a cartoon. And that way, they're watching the classics.
My kids are little, and I know it will be more difficult to control what and when they watch as they get older. But I also know that we can all work on developing good screen habits in the mean time. And in moments I really need her, I'm thankful to have Elsa, my nearly ideal babysitter.