The Eighth Deadly Sin: Email at Dinner

Technology is an amazing thing. Because of technology, I can sit at my kitchen table, eating Pirate Booty while I write this, one eye on the computer screen and one on my happy puppy digging up the lawn outside. I can take a break and pick up my kids from school. I can be there for their games. I can chaperone field trips. I can save two hours in commute time, using that time instead to walk them to school and then get my day started with a nice venti latte, all with time left to fold the laundry before my work day starts (as if that ever happens).

I can do all this amazing stuff because of technology. But I can also check email because of it. And that’s where the whole thing goes wrong.

I can check email when my kids are doing their homework. I can check email while they are in the shower. I can check email at half-time. I can check email volunteering at the library.

And everytime I do this, one of my children sees me and says, “You aren’t listening to me. You aren’t watching me. You’re obsessed with your phone.”

It all came to a head when we created some stricter device policies around our house. No video games, electronics or TV Monday through Thursday; two hours per day Friday through Sunday. This edict was mostly given because my six year old had begun sucking on his shirt in a fetal position watching Stampy Longhead videos all day long, only uttering a sound when he starting raging when it was time for bed. Charming, I know. Needless to say, it was a rough transition but now everything is good.

Except for when I check my email. Especially at dinnertime.

Case in point: One Sunday night soon after our new rules were in place, I was emailing back and forth on a work email which really could have waited until Monday a.m. But my client was online, I was online, so no big deal, I was kind of listening to the dinner table conversation (OK I may have said “that’s great” when someone told me their friend’s fish died). And I was kind of eating the dinner, which my husband had spent a long time cooking. Then I happened to laugh at a text from a friend and the gig was up. My phone was banished from the table. I was branded a traitor to the cause by one and all. Mommy was seen as not caring about being a part of the conversation at hand or the people looking at her expectantly to share their dreams. And, worse part, she hadn’t even complimented the chef. So everyone was mad.

And of course they were right. One of the biggest problems with “having it all” is trying to “do it all” all at the same time. There was frankly no need for me to be on that Sunday night email. (The text from a friend–of course that was important, but could have waited until the kids were asleep or I could sneak my phone to the bathroom). Working from home is awesome and the fact you can blend family and work time together is great, but it can’t be at the expense of actual family time.

So, my advice?

  1. All devices down on Sundays, except for a quick email check after everyone is asleep.
  2. No checking email at games or kid activities; if you have taken the time out to be with your kids, be with them. Plus, when you email at an event you may go into “resting bitch face” over an annoying note, not realize your kid just missed a basket, and scar him for life with your apparent disapproval. Not that I’ve ever done anything like that of course.
  3. When you are alone in the kitchen, put both eyes on the email (don’t worry about the dog and the lawn, you can always replant someday). Get through all that you can. And then when the work day is done, be done. And enjoy some family time before the whole cycle starts again.

Originally published by OptBackIn, visit their blog at for great content and advice for women re-entering the workforce.

Like what you read? Give Eileen Stanley Conway a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.