By E.J. Gordon
The other night you were in such a bad mood. You were helping me with dinner, and you walked into the kitchen and asked me for a large cutting board. I was on the phone, and I whispered, “We don’t have one.” You then proceeded to look through EVERY cabinet while I kept telling you, “We don’t have one.” I got off the phone and we got into it about how I keep forgetting to buy one, and I asked you why YOU didn’t just get one last time you were at Bed, Bath & Beyond (or, as your Mom calls it: “Bed, Bath, and Beyond’s”), and then we fought …
A few days later, when we were talking about that fight, I told you that I had just been stressed because the kids had been out of school and camp hadn’t started, and I was wiped and cranky from being Camp Mommy all week. You said to me: “I was annoyed because you were on the phone. You’re ALWAYS on the phone.” And then I got upset.
I couldn’t articulate why this hurt me so much at the time, so here’s my best explanation:
Being on the phone is part of my job as a parent. YES, I said it.
As a Mom, regardless of whether I work outside of our home or not, I’m in charge of a lot more than you realize.
It’s not just about getting the kids to school or getting them to bed. It’s about ALL of the other duties that you’ve never even thought of.
I do spend a lot of time on the phone. Sometimes it does feel like it’s attached to my ear. But a lot of that time, I’m working.
I’ve compiled a list for you of tasks I accomplish on the phone:
1. Make Plans For Our Kids
That night in the kitchen, that’s exactly what I was doing. The week between school and camp is the time when I have to fill their time or you might come home to find that we’ve all killed one another. So I was making plans to take the kids to a forest preserve with some friends. There, we would play at the park, play at the beach, and go paddle boating. And though that might sound like a dream to you because you were at the office, when you’re taking three kids to a beach, it IS work: I had to pack lunches, pack bathing suits and towels, pack bike helmets in case we rented bikes, go buy sand toys, and that’s just before we left! Don’t even get me started on trying to deal with kids at the park who kept insisting that we take pictures of them on each piece of equipment, or managing the power struggle between the kids who wanted to keep paddle boating and the ones who wanted to go eat lunch.
2. Parenting Research
While some parenting might come easily, other times I’m at a loss for what to do. I have a very small group of Moms to whom I go to for advice, and sometimes I can’t wait until the next time I see them, so I call and ask my quandary of the day: “Hey, what do I do about this? My kid absolutely refuses to play with this one boy, but the boy keeps asking and so does the Mom – what do I do?” I’m certainly not going to ask you, because you don’t understand the social structure of the Playground Moms, so you might not realize that if I just tell this person that our son doesn’t want to play, I might be “playground punished”. Don’t laugh — it’s a real thing. We don’t want our kid to be the one left out because I upset a Mom and her gaggle.
3. Making Appointments for the Kids
Do you know the pediatrician wellness appointments book THREE months ahead of time? And if I don’t want to pull the kids out of school for their dentist appointments, I have to make sure I call well in advance for the coveted Casimir Pulaski Day appointments. And I still have to get our big one into the ortho, and the littles’ hair cuts.
4. Activities Research
How do I know which gymnastics program is the best if I don’t ask my friends? How do I know where all of the kids are going to be at camp, if I don’t find out from their friends’ Moms? How am I supposed to make sure they’re in activities with people they know, if I don’t ask? And all of that research, dear, is done on the phone.
5. Cultivating Relationships
You know how our Buddy Bob works in “client service” and goes out for fancy dinners and calls them “Client Dinners”? You know how he’ll take his clients to box seats at the Stones’ concert and Blackhawks’ games, and we’ll say things like: “How is that a job?” And Bob says to us, “I’m in the business of relationship building.” And then we laugh.
Well, the joke’s on me, because I’ve realized that as a parent, part of my job is Relationship Building.
From the time our kids were little, I’ve participated in this. Our kids’ playgroups came from conversations I had in our baby class. The birthday parties they attended were because I was the queen of making friends at the pool. Their neighborhood carpools were born from reaching out to anyone who walked by me with a stroller.
In fact, I believe that is how you met one of your best friends: from ME making friends with HIS wife on OUR driveway.
These relationships are not just the kind of natural, I like you, you like me friendships. Some came easily, but others I put my time into. For example, when our son’s friend Jon came over after school, his Mom would call on her way home from work to give me her pick-up timing, and rather than say, “Ok, thanks,” and then get off the phone, I took the time to get to know her. We’d chat for 20 minutes or so, and then she’d come get her kid. Sometimes I’d even convince her to stay and have a glass of wine with me. And now she’s one of “My People”. Our friendship is real, but it was not automatic.
Time is limited for so many of us Moms, so multi-tasking is very useful. I can’t just drop everything and run out for a coffee date, and neither can most of my Mom friends, so I talk on the phone while putting away laundry or doing dishes.
Not only does this help with the mind-numbing boredom that chips away at my soul while I make lunches or fold the 22 outfits that our daughters wore while playing “Family” with two of their friends, but also it serves to grow and maintain my relationships. And these relationships give our kids and us a community to rely on. So when you call me from your meeting in Milwaukee that ran late and say, “Sorry, you’re going to have to take him to hockey,” and that rink is not only a half hour away, but also it’s freezing, and our littles haven’t eaten dinner yet, I can call upon one of my friends (whom I have just listened to for an hour telling me about a fight with her daughter), and say, “Can you take the girls for the evening?” Without me building that relationship with her (and doing the same for her kids at other times), I’d be totally screwed, and you’d come home to a very cold bed.
Try to think of my time on the phone as a “Meeting”.
If I called you in the middle of your meeting and got mad at you for not listening to me, would it bother you? That night in the kitchen was the only time “my client” could schedule “our meeting”.
When you criticize me being “on the phone” — and you make it seem like I’m being disengaged or gossipy or lazy or disrespectful — you demean ME.
So please try to understand that the phone enables me to be really good at my job: being a Mom. BUT, I really do appreciate your help in the kitchen, because I really do have so much on my plate, so I promise to work on trying NOT to schedule my “meetings” when you’re trying to help me get dinner on the table.
Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: E.J. Gordon is a freelance writer, a regular contributor to GIRLillaWarfare, and “Sexpert”. Have any questions or topics that you would like her to address? Remember: No subject is taboo, and Anonymity is accepted. Contact E.J. at: EJGordon529@gmail.com.