Deaf Dad: The digital world vs the real world

Posted on June 21, 2012

I’ve been combining looking after my two beautiful daughters with freelance writing for nearly ten months now. Looking after my kids on my own has been a learning curve at times (not least when I couldn’t find a darn thing) but what it’s given me has been priceless.

I wouldn’t say Toddler and Baby see me as an equal to their mother, by any stretch of the imagination. She’s still their number 1. But occasionally, just occasionally, by virtue of my three days a week with them, one of them will fall over and run to me first. That never, ever used to happen.

Through day-in, day-out contact, I’ve learned to keep them fed, clean, occupied, and happy. On the way, I’ve learned multi-tasking skills I never knew I didn’t have.

I’ve also enjoyed the two days a week I get to do my writing. In those two days, I run this site, write for numerous other publications (well, several of them) and do some copywriting too. It’s a juggling act that’s often spilled over into my evenings and weekends, but considering that I worried at first that I wouldn’t be able to fill up my time, I can’t complain.

Combining the two, however, can, at times, feel like a weird mind-twist.

After two days of writing, it can feel strange to suddenly find myself back in the real world, which is markedly different to the digital sphere.

The real world of childcare requires patience, calm, and canny judgement. It’s all about face-to-face communication, in our case both spoken and signed. It’s more physical, whether you’re walking around pushing a pram or getting the kids dressed. Sometimes it gets a tad manic (spend a morning at a playgroup and you’ll get the idea) but most of the time, the day demands steady routine, with the biggest challenge being the fact that even in the quiet moments, you can’t switch off.

The digital world, by contrast, is much more fast paced. You find yourself darting in and out of numerous conversations, receiving regular updates on the issues of the day, and occasionally managing to get a bit of your own work done too. It’s exciting in that respect, but it’s also sedentary. You’re sitting down most of the time. The walls around you don’t change. Plus the web gives you information overload – and bothers you with permanent distraction. Such as emails telling you how you’ve won an iPad when you haven’t.

I digress. Both worlds have their pluses and minuses, but what I find really tricky is going from one to the other.

When you suddenly drag yourself away from your computer screen with all its updates and status alerts, you can feel like you’ve just lost your rhythm, the pulse that’s been constantly beating away all day. It’s the same when I get back to my writing work on Mondays. By then I’ve effectively been with the kids for five days straight (including the weekend) and at first, I feel like I should be downstairs, doing stuff with them.

My way of coping with the initial adjustment, either way, is to block the other world out.

When I’m writing, this means shutting the door, turning the music on my headphones up, and resisting any temptation to get involved in the world downstairs. When I’m with the kids, it’s about keeping technology away from me, leaving my laptop upstairs and keeping my iPhone on the other side of the room so that I’m not tempted to start looking at it (this is why you won’t see many tweets from me between Wednesday and Friday!).

Travelling between the two, yet simultaneously keeping them as separate from each other isn’t always easy, but to do the best job I can with both the kids and my work, I find it’s the only way.

Thankfully, there’s a payoff to both worlds. When it comes to writing, it’s obvious: getting an article published. When it comes to your kids, it’s knowing you’ve given them something that’s a little less easy to quantify, but far more important: your time and attention, without any distractions.

Charlie Swinbourne is the editor of Limping Chicken, as well as being a journalist and award-winning scriptwriter. He writes for the Guardian and BBC Online, and as a scriptwriter, penned My Song, Coming Out and Four Deaf Yorkshiremen.

The Limping Chicken is supported by Deaf media company Remark!, training and consultancyDeafworks, provider of sign language services Deaf Umbrella, the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Look, Smile Chat campaign, and the National Theatre’s captioned plays.

The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.  Find out how to write for us by clicking here, how to follow us by clicking here, and read our disclaimer here.

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