By Shara Lawrence-Weiss, Mommy Perks
I’m honored to have been invited back to the abcteach blog for another guest article. I was encouraged to write about computers and parenting. I’d like to share some balance-keeping tips that I’ve learned over the years.
1. Before running my own online business, I worked outside the home (in a Preschool). I was also attending college (Elementary Education courses). I had one son at the time and had been a single mother for 3.5 years. My son did not understand my need to spend so much time on the computer after I made the shift. I had always told him, “Limit your screen time!” So he called me out on this and wanted to know, “Why do YOU get to be on the computer so much?” I had to explain to him that there is a difference between working online to earn money to pay bills, and playing games online for fun. While some parents work outside the home during the day and play on the computer for fun, I’m the opposite. I work online, and when my day is done, I walk away from my computer. In fact, I run!
2. Eye contact is needed. One of the biggest issues I had at first was my sense of focus when at my computer. I wanted to focus on my work, my writing, my clients and so on. My son would come over to chat with me and I’d say, “Hold on! Not yet!” This really hurt his feelings and he started to feel angry at me and at my computer. I quickly learned to pay more attention to him and to look at him and say, “Yes, honey. I hear you. I need ten more minutes to finish this and then my attention is all yours, okay?” Or I would simply stop working, look up, make eye contact with him and say, “Okay. Ask your question and I’ll take a break from work to answer you. Then I’ll return to work when you are done.” This helped a lot!
3. Take breaks! As most of us know, if we work online or engage in social media, it can be a huge time suck. Hours can go by and we don’t even realize it. I’ve learned to balance this over the years. I work, take a break, work, take a break, etc. I have four kids now (13, 5, 3, and a newborn) and I often have to walk away in order to play with Legos, bake with the kids, nurse the baby, snuggle someone, patch a boo-boo, start dinner (unless my wonderful hubby is cooking that night), go for a walk, run errands, play outside on the trampoline with the kids, host a play date, do laundry or dishes, etc. I need breaks and my kids need to SEE me taking breaks. This keeps everyone happy and healthy.
4. Pay attention to possible unmet needs. When my kids really start to act up, or speak to me in angry tones, I ask myself, “How much time have I been working/online lately? Are they needing more attention from me?” If yes, I give it to them. My clients and work can wait. Very few things have to be done RIGHT THAT MOMENT, and almost no issues have to be addressed that very second in order for the world to keep spinning.
5. Community service. Our family is actively involved in community service. I currently serve as the secretary for our town charity group and the treasurer of our library board. My husband is involved with the small business group in town and is running for school board this year. We often volunteer at the school, around town, at children’s functions and more. We want our kids to see that although we both work on our computers, we also know how to walk away and engage with the people in our community. We mentor teens in our town and host dinners for them or game nights, etc. We run our town news website, also, and go into town to find stories to write about. We attempt to show our kids that you can actively earn a living online but there’s life to be lived away from our computers, too.
Shara Lawrence-Weiss is the owner of Mommy Perks, Personal Child Stories, Kids Perks, Early Childhood News and Resources and Pine Media. She is the mother of four and the wife of one. Shara has a background in education, early childhood, freelance, marketing, special needs, nanny work, and business ownership. She’s secretary of her town charity group and a Board member of her local library. Shara and her husband run children’s events for their small-town fundraisers and in their spare time, mentor various teenagers in the community.