It’s 8:30 at night when the phone rings. My daughter has been in bed and quiet for at least 10 minutes. I mistakenly think I’m safe in answering it — and I want to answer it! The caller is one of my best friends who I haven’t talked to in far too long.
But not 30 seconds into our catch-up conversation, I see a little head poke around the corner. There’s a wide grin across her face. Somehow, she knew.
I try to ignore her. All I want is to have this conversation in peace.
But she starts dancing. This weird little jig that is absolutely ridiculous and that I wish I could tape on my phone. Which I’m still talking on. She’s trying to distract me. She’s trying to make me laugh. She’s trying to ensure my eyes are trained on her.
I look away. It’s bedtime. I’m getting to talk to another adult for the first time in days. I refuse to acknowledge this behavior.
She takes my silence as permission to walk over to my bedside table and start shuffling through it. She pulls out a compact and blush. She heads straight to the mirror on my closet and begins liberally applying her own makeup.
Still, I ignore.
Then… she begins singing at the top of her lungs. Let it go, let it go!
I can’t. There is no letting this go. I can’t even hear what my friend is saying anymore.
“Hey, I need to call you back,” I say. “Right after I murder my child.”
I don’t murder her, of course. But I do give her a stern talking to about how Mommy being on the phone is not an excuse for her to jump out of bed.
Still, when I walk back to my room, I hesitate to make that call back. I don’t want her to hear me and decide it’s safe to run amuck again. I’ll wait until she falls asleep …
I fall asleep myself before I remember to call my friend back.
The next day, that same friend calls again. This time it’s during after school pickup. Immediately, I hear her kids screaming in her car.
“I swear they were perfectly silent 10 seconds ago,” She says. “It wasn’t until I hit send that they turned feral.”
I know the feeling all too well. It doesn’t matter what my daughter is doing or how peacefully she is playing by herself — the second I’m on the phone, something inside her seems to switch, and she’s all over me.
“Mom. Mom. Mom.” It’s incessant. And nothing I’ve tried — yelling, ignoring, punishing — seems to help.
Two nights later, another friend calls. I answer, hoping that maybe this is the sweet spot between dinner and bed when my kid is enjoying her 30 minutes of screen time and will give me some peace.
No such luck. About the same time, both my friend’s kid and mine start pestering us.
“This is why we never get to catch up,” my friend says.
I laugh and say, “Motherhood is the worst. Let’s run away to Greece.”
She agrees to this plan, and then we both hang up — turning our attention back to our attention-sucking, heathen children, and forgetting all about that trip to Greece.
Because the truth is, motherhood isn’t the worst. And we love our kids desperately. They’re really not crazy most of the time.
There’s just something about Mommy being on the phone they can’t seem to handle. Not even for a second.
I’d think this was just me (something I’m clearly doing wrong as a parent) if not for my wide circle of mom friends who all seem to struggle with the same thing. And as each of my close friends from that past pre-motherhood life has joined me on this motherhood train, they’ve seemed to get it too — the calls become less frequent, and texts become a lifeline to friendships we’re all still trying to hold on to.
We tell ourselves this stage is fleeting, when our kids are so demanding of our time and so aware of when our attention has been pulled. “Eventually they won’t even want to hang out with us at all,” we say. “And then we can talk on the phone all we want! We can maybe even plan a girls’ night less than six months in advance!”
We sigh, imagining the time when our friendships will flourish once more and those connections won’t seem so hard to make. And we strengthen our typing thumbs as we both vent and celebrate across infinite text threads in the meantime.
Someday, we may be able to talk on the phone again. But for the time being, our kids turn into monsters when you call.
So maybe just text instead?