Our lives were supposed to be more flexible and family-friendly thanks to the technology at our fingertips. But in this age of BlackBerrys and recession pressures and when parents work from home after hours, family time may not be working out the way we thought.
Busy parents who envisioned more time with the kids find that more work hours at home don’t always translate into quality time with them. Some studies suggest that parents today do have more face time with their children than their counterparts decades ago but a growing number of researchers say that’s only part of the story. The technology that allows parents to spend more time at home – laptops and cell phones and mobile e-mail – blurs the line between work and personal life and distracts them from the family time they crave.
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Studies that show parents who spend more time than ever with their kids today don’t necessarily capture what’s happening between them, says sociologist Barbara Schneider. “If you’re not connecting with Mum and Dad – just because you’re in the house with them – what difference does it make?”
And even though an always-on BlackBerry mum may think she’s a master of multitasking, children know better. BlackBerry user Kathleen Prokesch, 42, a married mother of two and an events planner with clients worldwide, has created rules for herself. “It’s a challenge,” Prokesch says. “I have to make a really cognizant effort. It’s really turning it off when they’re here and I’m here. I stash the BlackBerry in a pocket.” And if she gets too wrapped up in work, Prokesch says, her seventh-grader, Emma, 12, will remind her. “She’ll say, ‘Mum, you said you weren’t going to return that e-mail until later,’ ” Prokesch says. “If she says something, I’ll put it away.”
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