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Thinking Parenting Blog

Parents, step away from the emails

If you have recently received an Out of Office from me, I hope it made you smile. It probably said something like ‘Gone Surfing’, or ‘Gone Camping’, or ‘Currently dragging a reluctant teen up a mountain’.

After struggling under an extreme workload during the pandemic, I decided to start practising the self-care that I preach and carve out more time away from emails.

That’s not easy to do when you run a business. The pressure is always on to be, well, always on. To respond to customers instantly, to go the extra mile, and take on more than you can handle because you can never be sure the work will keep coming.

So, when I can’t respond to your email instantly, I want you to know that there is a good reason for it – and that family and wellbeing are legitimate reasons to be unavailable.

I want to be a role model to the working parents I interact with, to signal that it’s OK to step away from the emails, and that not responding instantly because you are doing something with your family is just as valid as not answering because you are ‘on training’ or ‘at a conference’.

And, if I’m honest with myself, I also figure that if I have explicitly told you that I’m with my family and won’t be responding, I’m a lot less likely to try and sneak in some email time because then I would look like a crap Mum (which is not a great look for a parenting guru!).

However, I’m starting to challenge myself on that one too. Because working parents shouldn’t need to use family as a reason to cut ourselves a bit of slack and step away from the emails. We should be doing that because it’s good for us, because (as the advert says) we’re worth it.

Out of office notification which reads "Gone Hiking! It's my husband's birthday so we are heading off to a remote cottage in the Welsh mountains with no phone signal. The teens are in charge of the house, what could possibly go wrong?"

So, for those of you who may have fallen into the trap of always looking when the phone pings or putting time for yourself at the bottom of the To Do list, I want to give you permission to stop. In fact, I insist you stop.

Whether it is five minutes to breathe deeply and feel the sun on your face, an hour to take a walk just because it’s a nice evening, or a long weekend away with your partner or best friend – invest some time in you this summer.

Lie on the grass and listen to the sound of birdsong. And maybe allow your children to clamber over you, if they’re around.

Because, of course, if we were to rest, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing for our kids, would it. To have some downtime with us, with no particular agenda. To ease through the moments rather than driving through them. To play with them without our minds whirling with thoughts and tasks (and emails) we haven’t yet done…

Put on that Out Of Office and give yourselves permission this summer, as much as you are able, to create a bit of space just to be. To breathe, to relax, to laugh. To be slow, not always on. To recuperate.

If you like this, you’ll love my book The Work/Parent Switch – it has lots more details on how to manage the demands of working and parenting in a way that is good for your wellbeing and good for your children. 

Photo of a woman's legs wearing jeans lying on grass to illustrate article urging parents to step away from the emails this summer

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The Work/Parent Switch.

By Anita Cleare

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