Deep Work… for Parents?


A working mom and productivity app publicist Tweeted, “How to do #DeepWork even when you have deep responsibilities (spoiler alert: that means kids) – by @lvanderkam.”

The accompanying image was Vanderkam’s right-on-the-money critique of Cal Newport’s Deep Work, which held up Carl Jung as an example for shutting himself off to do “deep work.” Translation: he neglected his kids?

Newport starts by writing (in a laudatory fashion) about Carl Jung secluding himself in a tower so he could ponder his breakthrough ideas. Newport notes that there were sacrifices involved in his decision. For instance, it “reduced the time he spent on his clinical work.” Not mentioned: when Jung bought this retreat property in 1922, he and his wife had five children. It’s safe to say locking himself off from the world locked himself off from those responsibilities. And while perhaps that was par for the course for a man in 1922 (and maybe especially for Jung, who was allegedly an unfaithful husband), someone had to be around the family.

Newport is a working father, but as journalist Brigid Schulte suggests in Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, working fathers don’t carry the same load at home as working mothers. Maybe Newport has this all worked out with his family and work in a fair and agreeable way. But as I’m reading it, Schulte’s work is making a strong case that the ability to perform deep work is a gendered phenomenon. Culturally (in the U.S., at least) it’s still easier for dads than moms to get away and carve out large blocks of uninterrupted, focused time.

Be that as it may, “deep work” for any engaged parent can be hard to come by. Working from home is a beautiful thing, but how often have I felt tinges of guilt as I told my children I couldn’t play right now because I was working, barely glancing up from the computer to let them know? In that case both the work and (more important) the child receive less than what I would hope to give.

Someone needs to write a Deep Work for Parents book. Who knows? Maybe that will be Newport’s follow-up. And Vanderkam has great ideas here. (Her website is sub-titled, “Writing about Time Management, Life, Careers & Family.”)

How about you, working parents who read this blog? How do you get focused, high-level work done when your “job” isn’t your only job? How do you handle interruptions if you work from home? How do you find energy to cook dinner and do bedtime routines after working all day outside the house?

All ideas welcomed in the comments below.

Congratulations to…

David, the winner of a new copy of The Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting.

You can read more about the book here. I highly recommend it, whether you’re a parent or not.

To choose a winner, I assigned a number to every entry (both a comment on this blog and a share of any kind qualified), then used a random number generator to select the winner.

Congratulations, David, and enjoy the new book! I wish you the best in your toddler adventures.

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway. You can subscribe to this blog using the “Follow” button on the right sidebar, or follow me on Twitter.

Honest Toddler: Free Book Giveaway (last day)

HT book cover

Today you can still leave a comment here for a chance to win a copy of the new Honest Toddler book.

To enter, simply comment on this blog post with the best (brief) parenting tip you can come up with. Or just say hi. For a second entry, share the link to this post on FB, Twitter, via mind meld, etc., and let me know in the comments section that you did.

I’ll announce the winner tonight. In the meantime, my review of this wonderful, creative, hilarious, and therapeutic book is here.

The Honest Toddler: A Book Review

Being a parent is very simple. There is no reason for you to constantly go to other adults who do not know your toddler for advice or conspiring. What happens at home stays at home. …When it comes to being a good parent, the most important resources are the words that come out of your child’s amazing mouth. If your child is too young to speak, guess accurately on the first try.

–Honest Toddler

Honest Toddler, under the supervision of mom Bunmi Laditan, has now added a full-length book to a popular and cathartic Twitter feed, Facebook page, and blog/Website. I’ve posted quite a bit about HT at Words on the Word already.

Real-life Honest Toddler is a girl, but HT is “asexual,” which makes the whole thing more universal.

And now, s/he has written a parenting guide. The chapter titles alone produce enough laughs to make the book worth the price:

  • Chapter 1: “Why Did You Do That?”: The Ins and Outs of Toddler Behavior and How to Leave It Alone
  • Chapter 5: Sleep: Weaning Yourself Off It
  • Chapter 18: Potty Training Simplified/Eliminated

Bunmi has tapped into the psyches of Every Parent because HT, in all the quirky specifics of his/her behavior, is Every Toddler. (“Give a toddler a rag and a spray bottle, and your house will be sparkling before you know it. First it will be soaking, and your mobile phone may have water damage, but after a thorough wipe-down, the results will please you.”)

This Child’s Guide to Parenting is thorough–HT includes everything from media recommendations (music, books, TV) to hygiene (“leave well enough alone”), from restaurant behavior to grandmas and grandpas (“you should learn as much as possible from your child’s grandparents”). Interspersed between chapters are letters from parents to HT and homework assignments (sample: “Visit the toy store and get all the things. Next, go to a field. Run until nightfall”).

The Honest Toddler is hilarious, brilliantly written, and often pointed in its humor (see: HT’s disdain for Pinterest). I was impressed by how much this little toddler had to say. Although, now that I think about it, my toddlers have always had a lot to say.

The open parent who reads this book will be perhaps re-conditioned: temper tantrums are just “loud responses,” toddler ignoring is simply “selective acknowledgement,” and whining is “a legitimate form of speech.”

Honest Toddler, for all his/her impossible demands (duh), has some great advice. Facebook, for example: “Toddlers are tired of hearing Facebook notifications during story time. We’re sick of having to sit in parked cars, fully strapped in, while you make sure you get the last word on a virtual dispute with an acquaintance. This website is a distraction. Log off. Permanently.” 

Communication: “Did you know that there are more than four hundred different meanings for ‘no’ in Toddler English?” (with a sample chart). Packing for vacation: “There’s no such thing as minimalism when it comes to packing for a trip with small children.”

Readers of HT’s blog, FB, and Twitter feed will recognize some material here (the “toddler-approved recipes” and physics breakdown of car napping), but not much. This is 256 pages of sheer, highly original, creative genius.

There are occasional moments of dark-ish humor (“There’s nothing special about a child [i.e., infant] who can’t go anywhere without a blanket over her legs”), but, then again, this was written by a toddler.

And, HT, if you’re reading: make sure your mom lets you watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. You’ll like it way better than Caillou.

If you’re a parent of a toddler or know one, The Honest Toddler is essential reading, if only to relax and laugh enough to keep one’s head in the game of toddler parenting. (If you’re interested in the possibility of a free copy, I’m giving one away here.)

I have to stop now; my own two-year-old just woke up to join us in watching the late-night basketball game and blogging, and now is requesting–you guessed it–Daniel Tiger and some water.

Many thanks to Scribner (imprint of Simon & Schuster) for the review copy, given to me for the purposes of an honest review. Find the book’s product page here. It’s on Amazon here.

And thanks especially to Bunmi/HT for making me a better parent. Or at least a parent who is able to laugh a little bit more and cry a little bit less as I raise my little ones.

Honest Toddler: Free Book Giveaway

HT book cover

Honest Toddler, under the supervision of mom Bunmi Laditan, has now added a full-length book to a popular and cathartic Twitter feed, Facebook page, and blog/Website. HT’s mom blogs here.

Thanks to Scribner (imprint of Simon & Schuster), Words on the Word has a copy of Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting to give away.

To enter, simply comment on this blog post with the best (brief) parenting tip you can come up with. Or just say hi. For a second entry, share the link to this post on FB, Twitter, via mind meld, etc., and let me know in the comments section that you did.

I’ll announce the winner right here some time next Monday.

And tomorrow I’ll post my review of the book on the book’s official release date. UPDATE: Review is here.