I’ve been kidnapped. Stabbed twice – in unrelated incidents. I’ve performed CPR on a person who never made it back. I watched my friend flip his car off of a bridge and was a first responder to the aftermath. I pulled a man who was being stabbed by gangbangers to safety. These are some of the easier ones to talk about to you.
One thing I can say with confidence, is that these and other experiences have made me much more aware of the fragility of life. They’ve also improved my focus.
A few weeks ago, I took my daughter to swim lessons. She can’t swim yet, but we’re a family of swimmers, so it’s inevitable, in time. I was dealing with some hectic work issues that were bleeding over into my time with my daughter. I wanted to watch her learning to swim, but my phone was vibrating every other minute.
It would be a lie to say I’ve conquered the tension between work and family, but in fairness, I’ve been becoming pretty good at the “balance.” So, I realized I was being distracted and decided to focus on watching my daughter.
Her instructor had her at the other side of the pool, working on her kick. It was such a joy to watch her improvement over the weeks, and I smiled with a sense of pride. During the time of her class, there was a local swim team practicing at the other end of the pool. At some point along the way, the swim team decided to arrange a few impromptu races.
Whistles were blowing and kids were shouting and screaming. My phone continued to vibrate in my pocket.
My daughter had made it back down the lane with her instructor, and was laboring towards the other side again, this time working on her backstroke. As she neared the end of the lane opposite of where I was sitting, joyful screaming erupted with the racers and I looked aside to see what was going on. When I looked back for my daughter, she wasn’t with her instructor. She wasn’t on the pool deck. She wasn’t in the lane. Wherever she was, something was wrong.
I rose without thinking and instinctively started running to the other side of the pool, scanning the water for a sign of struggle. The pool was filled with kids from end to end. However, I was able to spot her head just under the surface about five feet away from the side of the pool, only a few feet from other children playing and about ten feet from her instructor. No one saw her struggling. No one was looking for her. I later learned that the instructor had lifted her out of the water and released her to go home on the other side of the pool. The instructor had no reason to be concerned.
I jumped in, fully clothed, with my iPhone and electronic car key in my pockets. It didn’t matter that I already knew those things would be destroyed. I had one focus – keeping my daughter from drowning. And that’s what I did. When I pulled her up and brought her out of the water, parents on deck were surprised. The instructor looked over with horror. There was not a single person aware that she was in danger. No one, except me. And it all came down to focus.
When we think of balancing work and home life, we tend towards harmonizing tension to give here or give there. Bringing the laptop on vacation so we can “check email” in a lounge chair while we “watch” the kids play in the pool. Writing a report while we watch a movie with the kids snuggled next to us. We’ve all been there, right? Trying to find the balance between getting our work done and giving time to the family?
If we’re honest, each time we do this, we’re not giving either the proper attention. We’re distracted by our kids and their activities when we’re trying to get work done. We’re not really engaged in time with our family when we try to get work done at the same time. Either way, both sides will suffer. When we don’t fully engage, we don’t fully focus. When we don’t fully focus, we give less than our best efforts.
The vast majority of our time spent working is designated by schedule or deliverables. The 9-to-5, or “I need this by next Thursday.” When you’re working, focus on your work. When it’s time to sign off, sign off. There’s no other way to do it. Even when you encounter that occasional boss or supervisor telling you that the road to success is paved by those who burn the midnight oil, research demonstrates otherwise. Rest and rejuvenation won’t be obtained if you never fully disengage from work.
On the other side of things, when you tell the family that you’ll be home for dinner and a movie, engage in being home for dinner and a movie. Your family will recognize the focus and feel valued. That’s what they need from you.
The alternative is an ongoing cycle of telling them that you’ll catch up and always feeling like you’re never doing enough at home. When you’re with the family, be with the family.
I think we all struggle to balance work and family. Stop balancing and start focusing. That’s where the magic happens.
Photo credit: Pixabay