busy

Dear Family, I Love You But I Can’t Talk on the Phone

old fashioned phone off the hook

Dear family and friends,

I love you. I think about you all the time, every day. Those of you who live far away–I miss you like crazy. I wish we all lived together in one little communal village. I wish I could bump into you on the street when I walk my kids to school. I wish we could sit on the stoop and share a coffee while my toddler throws rocks.

It’s so cool that we can stay in touch via social media. Do I post too many pictures of my kids? That’s only so I can show them to you. I bet you think they’re as cute as I do. And when you share pictures of your kids, your vacations, your new running shoes, the mouth-watering meal you’ve just eaten, I get super-happy. Because it’s you. And I want to see you, connect with you.

But you’re going to have to make peace with the fact that I just can’t call you very much (read: hardly at all) for the next… I don’t know how many years. If something momentous happens, you know I will drop everything and get on the phone with you. And we can connect other ways besides social media. I’m totally good with texting. Even emails work, though I’ll admit I’m a little slower in that department. (Why do emails, even short ones, feel so much more like writing a novel than texting does?)

READ: I’m the One Who Ruined Facebook With All These Photos of My Kid

Phone calls, on the other hand? How can I put it? Having kids in the house makes them pretty much the biggest pain in the ass you can imagine. It’s not you–it’s my kids. I swear: Once they’re off to college (OK, maybe a bit before then), I will totally put up my feet and chat away with you on the phone.

Here’s why making phone calls = hell on earth right now.

1. Yes, my big kid is watching his favorite show, and my little kid is sitting on the floor happily playing with his cars. But the minute I pick up the phone to call you, my little kid will unload the biggest, messiest poop ever, and my big kid will be dying of hunger–all before you even pick up the phone. The kids have a sixth sense when it comes to phone calls. They just can’t handle knowing my attention will be divided, even for a few minutes.

2. So why don’t I wait until they are out of the house or asleep? I’m not sure how to put this. If you’ve ever spent every waking second of your life caring for miniature people–much of which involves shredding your vocal cords giving out instructions that won’t be listened to–then maybe you’ll understand: Any time my house is empty or silent, the last thing I feel able to do is talk to anyone, even those I love the most.

READ: Note to a Mommy Friend

3. Sometimes miracles happen, though, and I do manage to call you. Maybe there was a 15-minute window where I felt rested, happy, and chatty, and the kids were occupied. So I called you. Pretty much 90 percent of the time this happens, you aren’t home, or you don’t pick up. I get it: You have a busy life, too. But if you call back, even a few minutes later, there’s almost no chance that I will be able to talk then. Someone will want something. That miracle moment of peace and silence will have vanished into thin air, never to be found again. I’m sorry, but it’s the truth.

4. Technical difficulties: My toddler has my phone. Or my phone is low on batteries. Or I lost my phone (meaning one of my kids lost it). And forget the home phone–my 2-year-old is convinced it’s a toy phone and I have no idea where he put it. I think I should probably call the phone company at some point and cut off service to our landline—but I feel too nostalgic about the good old days to ditch it.

5. OK, now here’s the serious one. Here’s the one where I’m going to sound like a bit of a jerk. I don’t have the mental space for your stuff. Or my stuff, for that matter. We know each other so well. If I call you, even if it’s just to say hi and catch up, one of us is going to spill some serious stuff. We bring that comfort and ease into each other’s lives. And, well, most days I just can’t go there. It’s too much. I’m literally just trying to get through my day without losing my mind. Yes, I’m probably repressing stuff. It’s probably just going to come back to bite me in the foot someday. But I need to choose the right time for those heart-to-heart, tear-gushing moments.

READ: Time-Saving Tips for Extra Busy Moms

All that being said, I know that sometimes phone calls aren’t just about chit-chat, or mini-therapy sessions. I will always be there for the big stuff—the crises, the milestones, the losses and surprises. And as annoying as my kids are, they get when Mommy needs to talk to someone she loves. I want to teach them that people like you are the most important people on earth and nurturing these sorts of relationships means everything.

But for everything else? Give me a few years, and we can chat for hours like no time has passed.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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