I spent the majority of my children’s formative years as a full-time career mom. It wasn’t a choice, but a necessity in our family, to have two incomes. During the school year, this didn’t pose too large a problem, but summertime offered its own challenges. Three teenagers. Home alone. All day.
The first problem I encountered was the fact my children knew how to use a telephone. I received calls at work to ask me everything from, “Can I have ice cream for lunch?” to, “Where do we keep the blasting caps?” I will admit I was happy to receive the second call, but the constant interruptions for nonsensical questions grew to be a huge problem for my boss.
We solved this problem by having a set menu. Every week, usually on Sunday, I would put together a lunch menu. We would make sandwiches in advance (leaving off the mayo so they wouldn’t get soggy) and place them in a specific drawer in the refrigerator. The first couple of weeks, they ended up with jelly sandwiches by Friday because they hadn’t learned to pace themselves. (I make a mean Italian sub.) Eventually, they became accustomed to what they could and could not do. The food and snack related phone calls stopped.
Our second issue was a bit more complex. The phone calls consisted mostly of complaints about arguments. As much as I’d like to think our children always got along, never fought and simply adored spending time with each other during those long, boring hours of summer break, I’d be lying.
To quell the phone calls, however, we had to come up with a few ground rules they could follow, even in the heat of the moment. They were assigned one hour per day each to watch television. The others could watch with them, but only one child had control of the remote. After the three hours of television were up, they had chores to complete. After that, silent reading until I got home from work.
Do I believe my children only watched TV for three hours each day? Do I believe they read the entire Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Mysteries Collection in one summer? Of course not. But they did learn to communicate more effectively and solve their own problems.
Exceptions to the Ground Rules
We can’t ban our children from calling us at work. There must be permission for calls during an emergency and when something important comes along. We have a general rule in our house: You can Mom if someone is bleeding or anything is on fire.
I did receive one heart-stopping call when my youngest needed four stitches in her head. It’s important not to scold your children when they disturb you at work after the rules are in place. If they are calling for something they should handle themselves (and they will, at least for a little while), gently remind them of the rules and tell them you can’t talk. They will either settle the matter themselves, or wait until you get home.
Thankfully, the house never actually caught on fire.
Source: Personal Experience
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