The title is a phrase that every parent has uttered to someone on the other end of a phone call or text message. Especially a parent of three or more kids, all who want or need something anytime during the day. Add in a new cell phone for Elizabeth, our almost 13-year old, and the nonstop texts informing me about things, sending Bitcoms or random Tik Tock videos, (I have no idea if I even wrote those out right!) and it never ends. But in actuality, what I mean about the above phrase is using it to those you love the most, your family.
Have you ever thought about going away? Tried and failed? It’s a hard thing to do as a parent because they find you. Any parent, and to be honest, as a mom, they always find you. To be fair, we let them find us too. We check in. We promise ourselves that it’s time to disconnect and that our phones or emails will be off for an hour, a day or gasp – a weekend. Yet, it’s hard to do. We still call or text making sure the cats have been fed, that all the homework is done and answer random questions about where so-and-so’s textbook is or why didn’t we tell someone that the milk was almost gone. It’s almost like it’s programmed in our DNA. Or is it?
It’s a question I certainly have struggled with over the last little while. In a noisy world, one where immediate responses are guaranteed, even expected most of the time, this constant communication has created a sense of panic if someone doesn’t respond right away. Now imagine disappearing for a day, or a weekend for some much-needed self-care. Be it a girls weekend, retreat, or a day at the mall, whatever brings you peace and joy and what is that huge thing standing in our way? Our own incessant need to be connected. To retain a sense of control of a situation, even when we are not there.
It has also created kids that expect an immediate response and then ensuing anxiety if that response isn’t provided. I can already see it, actually this afternoon, with my eldest daughter. I left my phone in the little cottage in the woods, choosing to join the other women on the retreat for a delicious dinner, sharing circle and chocolate tasting. No pictures. No texts home. Just being in the moment. I came back to 16 texts, most of them cute bitcoms showing her waiting and waiting to hear back from me. On one hand, it’s cute she’s thinking of me, and I even apologized for not answering. Apologized? Why? Because I understand that feeling when you are waiting to hear back, we all do and it has created an impatient sensibility at best and at worse, anxiety in a kid waiting to hear back from their mom. Neither good outcomes.
Don’t get me wrong in many, many situations being so accessible is hugely advantageous. It can help communication about a shift in schedules, emergency situations and even to let your partner know you need milk on the way home. But the question is, does the constant contact serve what we need? I guess that’s a personal question each of us has to answer.
Learning to be an advocate for my own self-care and taking the journey to carve out that space we all need to be silent and offline so we can reflect, and rest has enabled me to see in others that this is not just my struggle but a world we all share. The affects of always being available are real and damaging. It’s pressure. An added weight to already complicated lives and a burden we all carry. A burden that our children, no matter how well-intentioned we are or mindful about it, will have to deal with.
The answer may be different for everyone as everyone may have different tolerance levels to the noise of life. As I spend another weekend at a wonderful retreat with limited (not completely offline) access – I have space to think about other things. Things that I have pushed to the side, unfinished business. I have had time to take a walk through a snowy woods and curl up like a cat near a fireplace with the sun on my face. I have had time to read, to think and to dream. I also know, (Mr. L may not agree), time away allows me to let go of that sense of control we all sometimes carry while, building trust with my partner/support systems that they can handle parts of life. At the very least it reminds me that parts of life can wait until it’s time to return that call.
This retreat, whether guided or self-directed, will not be my last one. Yes, I am very fortunate to be able to go, and yes, I often have other parents, caregivers or anyone, wonder how I can do it. How do I walk away for a day, a weekend or even a week?
Simply put, I choose to say to my partner, friends, family, children, work or whatever is going on in life (and put this onto Text or Voice Mail too), I can’t take your call right now. All of it will be waiting when I return the call, but perhaps, by choosing to disconnect for a morning, a day, a week or a month, I’ll be in a calmer state to deal with what life throws my way. In the process, I hope it teaches my family to be more patient and self-reliant in a world that often revels in and promotes immediate gratification.