At 5:00 pm on a recent weekday, I stood in a messy kitchen among scattered backpacks and half-finished homework assignments, preparing dinner for a house full of restless children, when I suddenly received a text alert from my father. "JACKIE WHERE ARE YOU?" he screamed in all caps. "Are you ok?" I nervously replied. "Yes," he wrote, "but I have a question and you don't answer your house phone or cell phone and your mailboxes are full." And several hours later, when I finally returned his call, he was still annoyed. "Don't you hear your phone?" he asked, genuinely confused.
Well, here's the thing, Pops. I heard my house phone and I heard my cell phone too. But I'm a mom, and while I hesitate to speak for all moms, I'm confident most of us agree that phone calls are pretty annoying. Like, between us, when my phone rings, my first thought is "ugh" and my second thought is "stop calling me." So unless you're my mother or husband (to whom I can rudely grumble "Can't-talk-now-call-you-back-bye") I don't want to answer the phone. And I know that might sound mean, but please let me explain.
As a mom, I'm usually knee-deep in kid stuff and/or surrounded by screaming children. And during those times, the absolute last thing I want to do is chat. With anyone. About anything. So unless you're calling to offer a playdate at YOUR house, I'm not answering the phone. Yes, I want to hear about your fight with your mother-in-law, but you can tell me in person at school pickup.
And when I'm not suffocating in kid stuff, when I finally have a little time for myself, the absolute last thing I want to do is chat. With anyone. About anything. I want to eat without someone stealing all my bacon and use a bathroom without someone watching. I want to search Facebook without a child demanding to see the kid in his class. I just want to breathe, and I don't want to waste any of those breaths on a needless phone call. Let's have lunch so we can talk then, ok? Just text me for plans.
I'm usually knee-deep in kid stuff and/or surrounded by screaming children. And during those times, the absolute last thing I want to do is chat. With anyone. About anything.
So now you're asking, but what if it's a doctor calling? Or school? Or someone really needs you? Well, here are my rules: If my children are with me, I don't answer the phone because I know they're all ok and nothing else matters. If I don't know the number and it's important, you'll call again, especially if you can't leave a message. If one of my kids is not with me, I answer and get off as quickly as possible. And if I'm missing the opportunity of a lifetime by not answering, well, that's a risk I'm willing to take.
But honestly, when my phone rings it's usually a bill collector, someone telling me I won a Disney cruise or a relative looking to catch up. And if someone I know really wants something, they'll text me, and I can text back with no long-term commitment that requires I stop chewing or not use the bathroom.
"Well if you're not gonna answer, at least clear out your inbox so I can leave a message," my defeated Dad said. Mmmmm, not gonna be doing that either Pops. See, I don't really want a message, because then I'll have to listen to it. And I already have a long B-list of to-do items, like finally googling what OG means and throwing out old toiletries, so listening to messages isn't a priority right now.
But despite all of this, I want you to know that if you ever really need me, you should feel free to call me. I mean it. If anyone out there ever has a problem or a question or just needs someone to talk to, pick up the phone and dial my number.
I'm just not gonna answer.