Phone calls can be an important link between kids and working moms

At the import store where I work parttime, I answered the phone the other day and a little voice said, "Is my mom there?" Scanning the staff, I realized all three of us were moms. I asked, "Which mom did you want to speak to?" The little girl answered, "MY mom."

When mothers work, the telephone is an important link to home. Most employers understand and are tolerant of a quick call from mother to child or child to mother.

It lets the mother know her child is home from school safely, or a big event at school -- a concert or speeling bee -- went smoothly, something she wants to know as soon as possible.

Children should have a clear understanding of what constitutes a legitimate call. For example, I won't let my children call me about lost baseballs or coax me to break our preset rules about playtime and homework time.

Conversations of that nature leave parents feeling helpless and trapped at work, thinking nothing at home is going smoothly. Children rarely call you back to say they've worked out their problems!

Constant calling reminds children that mother is not there and suggests that they are not capable of handling their own situations.

A child's quick call cheers not only the mother but everyone else. Where I work, our calls come in at 20-minute intervals. At the end, with all children present and accounted for, our work goes on happily until closing time.

Remember that your work-related concerns are foreign to the child. Always make an effort to sound cheeful, regardless of what is going on at work. They like to hear you say things such as "I was just thinking of you when the phone rang," or "You're just the person I wanted to talk to." It makes them feel they are part of your working day.

My children don't call their dad at work, although they have his phone number posted, but he often calls them. Fathers, too, like to be in touch with their children and are cheered by phone calls. Their work places aren't always attuned to this, but they should be, particularly with so many mothers and fathers both at work.

At one point the responsibility for after-schools calls fell naturally on my 11-year-old son, Joshua. Since I did not have time to speak to each of the three children, we agreed that Joshua would give me a quick call each afternoon. The 8- and 6-year-olds felt left out, however, so we amended our rule. Now each can take a turn.

Now Autumn, 6, is thrilled to be allowed to dial and make some of the calls. The first time, she was so excited that she quickly rattled off everything she wanted to say to me: the cat had been fed, her room was clean, and she had a reading sheet to work on from school.

When Kathy, who had answered the phone, said, "That's nice, Autumn. Would you like to speak to your mom?" Autumn laughed at herself and said to me in a little voice, "Do I still have my minute?"

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