Ethix Forum – Issue 15

What do you do to maintain balance and boundaries for yourself and your family in this fast-paced, always-connected economy?

I say no to a lot of things. I sometimes have days where I’ve just said no to things all day, which feels kind of crummy at the end of the day. All I accomplished was saying no to everything. One day I decided to start writing big, time-consuming trips that I said no to on my calendar. Then when I come to that week on the calendar I see that I could have been in Korea this week, and Illinois and Japan next week if I’d accepted all these invitations. Then I feel really good about saying no, because the time is filled with plenty of other good things. And the invitations keep coming so I guess it hasn’t killed my career.

I have wonderful flexibility with my job. It is rare that I can’t cancel or move things to be home with my child when he’s sick or to be there for something he needs. MIT is wonderful about letting me work any hour of the day (as long as you work all hours of the day). I feel like one of those people who stands up in one of those AA meetings and says “I am an alcoholic even though I haven’t had a drink for ten years.” I am a workaholic even though I think I keep it under control. But it’s an unstable equilibrium; everything is constantly trying to tip it out of balance and I have to pull together every resource I have to keep my values and priorities on top.
Rosalind Picard
Associate Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

My wife and I each own and run a business. My wife is a graphic designer and I’m a consultant in the field of pharmacy automation. Each of us has had a home office. However, we find the added expense and inconvenience of our out-of-home offices actually benefits our time together. Two or three days each week, we meet for lunch at a restaurant halfway between our offices. Generally, we are home by 6 p.m. Discipline required.

Last year I traveled 150k miles. Several times, she met up with me at the end of a trip for an extended weekend together. Finally, we attend church on Sunday evening. The worship, prayer and sermon give us cause for reflecting on the week behind and prompt discussion over a quiet dinner before rushing into the week ahead.
Mark Neuenschwander
President, The Neuenschwander Company
Bellevue, WA

I’ve tried various approaches over the years to balance work/family time, including job-sharing and other part-time work arrangements. What has worked for me most recently
is to do contract work six months of the year (January – June), reserving the last six months for a stronger focus on my family. This seems to give me more energy to apply to
both of these important, demanding areas of life.
Karen Frisbie
KMF Consulting (formerly Vice-President,
Bank of America)
Concord, CA

The issue of balance and priorities is an age-old question and I do not think that technology fundamentally changes the issue. The invention of the wheel undoubtedly changed the way people lived, including new problems of balance and boundaries, and I expect that electronic technology will do the same. But the wheel did not satisfy our deepest needs or answer our biggest questions, and neither will electronic technology. It is those needs and questions that are at the heart of “balance” and “boundaries.”

I am deeply skeptical of the popular, individualistic notion that we can all self-regulate our own lives. The most important factor for me is attending church, where I find guidance and community accountability. The question of balance and boundaries is really about the choices we make, not the technology we use.

Balance/boundary decisions depend a lot on the specifics of one’s life and personality so generalizations are difficult. With regard to the new tools of the electronic revolution, it
is largely a process of screening out the hype and looking for the substance (one of the reasons I like Ethix). Do I really need this? When will I use it? What does it cost (monetarily and otherwise)? How am I going to pay for it? Will this help me be what God intends me to be?
Mark Frisbie
Walnut Creek, CA