Mobile phones have revolutionised work-life balance
Martin Stewart (pictured) is the owner of London Money
One of many recently heated debates on social media has been how to find the ideal balance between the arch enemies of work and life.
This particular issue is more clearly identified by advisers who are parents with young families. If you are fortunate to be young, free and single then do yourself a favour, stop reading and get yourself down the pub! Life is too short.
If, like me, you are none of the above then read on. We are all trying to find the Holy Grail of the perfect ratio between family time and having to work to pay for that family time. In this day and age the problem is acute, clear and ever-present. I know this is true for many people in the industry and it is a 21st century phenomenon perpetrated by the 21st century itself, with all its gadgets and downloads.
For all the apps, games, storage and music the modern phone affords us, which can provide endless hours of entertainment, they have also single-handedly removed the physical walls of an office, the receptionist to lie about your whereabouts and the answering machine which clicks on at 5.01pm every evening.
As with most things in life, the answers to everything are behind us somewhere lost in the mists of time and it was with this in mind that I sat down for a moment and compared my son’s childhood to mine to see what, if anything, has changed with me now as the father.
Quite a lot as it happens, but not in the way you may think. I am just going to address these points as a dad to the dads, as I can only speak about what I know. So, those of us from a certain generation whose childhoods were defined by the late 70s and early 80s, ask yourself these questions:
- How many times did your dad undertake the school run?
- How many school plays did he attend?
- How many hours did he spend watching you in a draughty soft play warehouse?-
- How many school inset days forced him to take a day off work?
- How many sneaky “I’ll work from home on Friday” wild cards did he play to take advantage of a cheap flight, a birthday or a to get an early start on a weekend away?
I can’t answer for you but I can for me. For each and every question the answer is a big fat zero.
Why? Well he was working and that was how people worked back then. Leaving for work before you I got up and home just before I went to bed. No contact throughout the day, you just hoped and assumed everyone was okay. There were probably 28 days holiday each year and anything else was taken unpaid. There was certainly no wriggle room or flexibility that today’s technology allows us and we don’t seem to be recognising that fundamental change.
Let’s compare that to today. I can’t remember the last time I worked on a Friday. I’ve also lost count of the number of school runs, school plays and school illnesses I’ve had to cover. I am rarely in the office before 10.30am and you’ll struggle to find me there after 5pm.
And, as controversial as you may find this, one of the main reasons I can do this and other fathers do this is because of our phones. Trust me, I’m no fan of these things and fully expect them to kill us all eventually but, until that time, I am going to embrace them and acknowledge the good they do. They don’t suck time out of your family life, they are creating time FOR your family life.
Yes my son does say “ can you stop working and have a wrestle dad?”. At worst I might say “give me five mins to finish this off” but once I have he’ll get 10 minutes of full-on WWE . He won’t remember the conversation that led to that but he will remember me slam dunking him on to the sofa.
I checked my diary. From the 1st August until 6th September I was in the office for just 13 days and without doubt I’ve had the best family summer I can remember. Endless days of cloudless skies, crabbing, candy floss and caravans. Hard-earned money spent winning cheap amusement arcade tat and more ice creams than I care to remember. And laughing, lots and lots of laughing. And guess what? I was on my phone throughout but at night when tucking in the bed and talking about the memories we created it was the fun stuff that is recalled and never the five minutes out of every hour where I did something work-related.
I might be controversial and I like nothing better than to take a contrarian stance but I actually believe that we are now spending more time with our kids BECAUSE of your phone and not less. We all like to bemoan our bad luck whilst blatantly ignoring the good.
So dads, try and avoid feeling guilty about the workload you carry because your children do not perceive your life the way you do. Use technology to ease the workload and delegate what’s left. Then you can start to get the balance right and in doing so stop putting yourself under pressure to be the next Mrs Doubtfire!