Why I Don't Call My Kids From Work

Since my children were babies, there's one habit I've had as a working mom that has never changed: I rarely call them during the workday to say hello. This may make me seem like a really crappy mom, but hear me out. 

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I always knew I'd return to work after my first child was born; I never knew just how much I would need to. Max had a stroke at birth, and doctors told me and my husband that Max might never walk or talk and that he could have cognitive impairment. We were devastated. My maternity leave was spent rushing around to doctor appointments and crying my eyes out. 

Returning to the office was a relief. I enjoy what I do (I'm a magazine editor), and I needed the distraction and immersion that work brought, not to mention the income. Constantly worrying about Max's future wasn't doing either of us any good. Two years later, I had my daughter. 

Our sitter jotted down daily happenings in a notebook -- what the kids ate, where they played, when they pooped (highly critical info when you have little ones). Once in a while, I'd call her to check in on the kids, typically at the end of the day, but more often than not, I didn't. I found hearing my children's voices more distracting than refreshing. Suddenly, I'd ache to hold them, even though my working mom reality had me at the office. Hearing how Max had done during his latest therapy session typically left me really anxious, so much so that it was hard to return to the tasks at hand. 

Staying focused on work helps me plow through so that I leave at a decent hour and get home to the kids. (I rarely talk to my husband or friends at work, either.) I also think my no-call habit teaches my children about the value of work -- this is something Mommy does during the day that's important to her. Kids tend to be ego-centric, and making them aware that a career is a meaningful part of life helps them better understand that, whoa!, there is a world that exists outside of them. 

That said, the second I get home, I am all about the kids. I may check my iPhone a bit too much on weekends, but I have a no-electronics policy for school nights. They tell me about their days; Max is doing really well and has a speech app to help him communicate. We do homework. Sabrina does a magic show or gymnastics performance. We read stories. We make plans for the weekend. We enjoy each other's company.

Now that my children are older, they occasionally track me down at the office. The sitter will call because Max wants to inform me that he would like a firefighter-themed birthday party (his birthday is three months away). My daughter will phone and, in a quavery voice, tell me about some emergency -- say, that she can't find the book of nail art that I got for her a few months ago. I talk with them for a few minutes, then say that I need to get back to work so I can get home to see them soon.

I don't lack for stuff to guilt myself over, but this is not one of them. Every working parent has to come up with their own family/work balance, and this does the trick for me. 

 

Image via Richard Stebbing/Flickr

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