Better than Email.
Making parenting a top priority.
My dad recently sent me an article from The Journal of Clinical Oncology about the potential danger of smartphones. The article didn't discuss possible links between cellular phones and cancer. Surprisingly, the article wasn't even about medicine. It was an op-ed lamenting the fact that so many people are addicted to repetitively checking their email to the detriment of their lives at home.
Articles published in academic journals yield alarming statistics detailing how smartphones are enslaving a generation. Multi-tasking while checking email is associated with a loss of control and increased stress. Pressured by the intensity of a cutthroat business world, some people check their email more than 30 times an hour. Freedom from email increases productivity and decreases stress. Yet if you went to a local little league game, ballet recital, or middle school musical, you'd find more parents glued to their smartphone screens than watching their kids.
The best advice I ever heard on parenting is to be present. For example, don’t read the newspaper when sitting together with your kids at the breakfast table. Nor should you negotiate a contract while playing tag at the park. Most importantly, there is never an excuse for checking your email when you're at the beach building sandcastles.
I advise my friends to come home early to spend time with their kids in the afternoon, eat dinner together as a family, and tuck their kids in every night. Finishing up a presentation, signing documents, and checking emails can happen after everyone is asleep. For people who tell me they need to stay late to make some extra cash, I always tell them the same thing: being present with your kids will save you money in the long run; at least you won’t need to spend money on a psychotherapist because your kids are hurting from having an absent parent!
Letting your kids know that they’re your number one priority is not something you can fake.
The best father I know is my own dad and the key to his success as a parent is always letting his children know that we’re his number one priority. This is not something you can fake. It's the sum of coaching every little league game, reading us stories every single night, taking us hiking every summer and countless other acts of love.
I didn't figure it out until I was already in college, but my dad used to return to work every night after putting us to sleep. He had to do this in order to complete an unfinished day's work because he’d left the hospital early to make it home in time for dinner with us. I never even knew that he was the world's expert in his field of medical oncology until I saw him speak to a packed house years later when I was in medical school. To me he was just my dad. I couldn't imagine him doing anything else because he was too focused on being a parent to have had any time to build his career.
In the end, everyone has to figure out what is most important to them and to try their best to do it right. Hopefully most people will make parenting a top priority.
Dedicated to my dad, Chanan ben David.