I’m sitting in an important meeting and my cell phone goes off. It’s my son, Nick. What does a sixth grader need on Friday afternoon?
Do I pick up?
This time, I do. (Trust me, I ignore my share of calls from home, but this meeting wasn’t that important.)
The purpose of the call? Nick wants to use my credit card to purchase Rick Riordan’s latest book on his Nook. He complains that it will take about six months if I force him to continue on the waitlist at the library.
I can’t believe he is interrupting me for this! Doesn’t he know I have more important things to do?
I am relieved it’s not an emergency. But I’m also annoyed at the disruption. Yet I don’t yell at him. I can’t yell at him. After all, I haven’t done a very good job at setting guidelines as to when my kids can and cannot call me at work.
Some working moms I know have a hard and fast rule with their children: “Don’t call me at work unless it’s an emergency!”
I can’t blame them. But this doesn’t work for me. I don’t want my kids to get home from school and think, Gosh, it would be really nice to talk to Mom. But it’s not an emergency, so I’ll have to wait under later.
I’m smart enough to know that “later” is often forgotten. As parents, we must seize the moment.
At the same time, I am in desperate need of some boundaries (especially since my 6-year-old memorized my mobile number last year)! It’s usually the same old story: “I forgot my homework”; “Can I buy a new song on iTunes?”; “What are we having for dinner?”
But I also get calls that I don’t want to miss – like when Abby got her feelings hurt last week, or when Anna proudly finished her first two-mile run.
So I’m thinking about my own set of guidelines. Here’s a first crack.
#1 Only Call Repeatedly If It’s An Emergency
My children tend to call me again and again. When I don’t pick up my work phone, they call my cell phone and vise versa. And when I don’t pick up my cell phone they try back – one minute later!
We need to save multiple calls for an emergency. If I don’t pick up, it probably means I’m busy!
#2 Text or Leave Me A Message
Often, I check my messages during long meetings and calls. So while I might not take a new call, I’ll likely read a new message. Which means I’m likely to get your message faster if it’s in writing.
My son doesn’t have his own cell phone yet (a bone of contention in our home at the moment), but if he sends me an email or text from our home phone, I am often more likely to respond and respond quickly, especially if it says, “Call me ASAP, it’s important!”
# 3 Set Expectations and Plan Times to Talk
Certain days I am quite inaccessible. Other days I am quite accessible. Unfortunately, my family doesn’t know the difference unless I tell them. For example, if I announce in advance, “Today, I’m going to be on an airplane for five hours” they understand when I don’t pick up on the first ring.
I also know moms who have set times every day to touch base with their kids. My schedule changes like the wind, so this could be a challenge, but it’s still on the table.
What would you add to the list? Do your kids call you at work and if so, how do you set boundaries?