Before I had kids, I can remember calling my sister who lives about an hour away from me to catch up. My sister has two children, a three year old and a six year old and she has always worked from home as a free lancing graphic designer. Before I even begin here, I just want to point out that anyone who works from home while taking care of kids must be a multi-tasking saint, because I can barely get a load of laundry done while I’m at home with my son, much less attempt any actual work. Anyways, I can remember calling my sister and without fail during every conversation, one of the kids was talking to her, somebody was crying, or someone needed something. I can remember feeling bad that I was holding her up on the phone when she clearly had her hands full and trying to offer her an out, saying things like, “Do you want to call me back?” But she always replied no, she handled the situation with whatever the hell was going on the background, and we’d get back to talking. Like I said, people who are home with children all day (and work from home on top of that) are literally incredible.
Yesterday, as I was trying to talk to my mother about our plans for the weekend, my son was crawling all over me, crying and whining for my attention. My mom asked me if I wanted to give her a call back after he was calmed down, and all I could do was laugh, remembering saying that same thing to my sister. Now that I am a mother who’s home with kids during the day, I have even more appreciation for my sister’s ability to chat with me on the phone while wrangling two children at the same time. For the most part, trying to have a phone conversation without constant interruptions is pretty much the same as trying to leave the toy store without any tears. It’s nearly impossible.
This morning as I was getting ready for work (nannying for two children in my neighborhood), I was trying to talk to my husband who was out of town on a business trip. Picture me brushing my teeth in the living room, loading Sesame Street on Demand for the baby, and trying to talk to him about what time he’d be home (hopefully sooner rather than later……). It wasn’t pretty. The baby was crying and I was spitting toothpaste all over the carpet. Needless to say, I hung up on him rather quickly.
After feeling a little guilty for getting off the phone so fast, it occurred to me that there is an entirely separate set of phone etiquette guidelines for people who are trying to converse while caring for kids. It’s perfectly normal and acceptable to hang up at any moment due to the severity of whatever mayhem might be happening in the household. If you’re talking to me on the phone, you should probably just expect that I may interrupt you to scream things like, “Stop eating the dog food,” or “Get off the kitchen table.” If you hear my son throwing a tantrum in the background because, god forbid, I stopped entertaining him for two seconds, don’t bother asking me if I want to give you a call back. I don’t. I want to keep talking because sometimes a quick phone chat is the only social interaction I might have with an adult for several hours at a time. There is no way that a little crying or screaming is going to stop me from enjoying that. And one last thing – my son is totally obsessed with my phone (wonder where he gets that from…..) so if you’re talking to me, you’re obligated to spend at least three minutes talking to him, too.
Last week, I replaced my iPhone for the second time. My husband wonders how it’s possible that in the last sixteen months, I’ve dropped and cracked two phones. Honestly, based on what kind of shit I’m dealing with when I’m trying to talk on my phone, it’s actually amazing that I haven’t broken several more. If you are expecting a child, I’m going to ahead and advise that you invest in the $10/month to get insurance on your phone. Between trying to give your kid a bath, feed the baby breakfast, or change a shitty diaper while chatting on the phone, you’re bound to break it at some point. And just remember; don’t feel bad about hanging up on your husband because when you’re a mother, phone etiquette is totally irrelevant.