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Whatcha Doin’?
by Charles W. Dowdy


My wife is a stay at home mom. While I’m at work part of me knows I need to call home and check on her, perhaps providing some moral support. And the other part of me knows this phone call will only further demonstrate why she is going insane.

Her trip down the slippery slope to insanity can’t be held against her. There is a big difference between the parental stress levels when I keep our children and when she keeps them.

First and foremost, I don’t have to do it for as long a period of time or as often. Second, my criteria for measuring success are totally different. If we can find all the kids and there’s not too much blood on the floor when she gets home, then I chalk this up as a successful daddy-sitting venture.

But my wife is a former teacher. And a good one. When on duty I might keep one eye on the kids and one eye on, say, the Masters. When she keeps the kids, class is in session almost all the time.

There is a simple hardware issue, too. My home may be the only one left in America with just one phone. And that’s saying something since we live in a two-story house.

We have had a series of cordless phones, all of which met a pre-warranty expiration demise. My youngest son dumped our first cordless phone in a bathtub full of water. Our next cordless phone went to Mobile on top of my mother-in-law’s car. Our last cordless phone died when my daughter used it as a gavel on a concrete floor.

Now the one phone we have left is on the ground floor and we had to put it on top of a tall piece of furniture lest sticky hands get it and call the fire department again. So not only do you have to run through the house to answer the phone but it is impossible to sit while you talk, not exactly factors that endear us to phone conversations, especially considering the tribe of screaming two foot monsters running around our feet.

As a father calling a stay-at-home mom I can tell you calling home will almost always fill you with guilt. The background sounds like an amusement park on steroids taken over by little pirates with plastic swords. Most of our calls seem to end the same way. Here are two typical phone calls:

Call #1
Charles: Hey, I just wanted to check and see how your morning was . . .
Wife: THE CAT CAUGHT A MOUSE! AAAAH! HE’S CHASING ME WITH IT!
Charles: He’s proud. Stop screaming and praise him. Where are you?
Wife: IN THE CLOSET!
Charles: Who’s watching our children? Hello… Hello…


Call #2
Charles: Hey, I just wanted to check and see how your morning was . . .
Wife: I CAN’T HEAR YOU! GET OUT OF THAT CAT LITTER!
Charles: I just wanted to see how . . .
Wife: TALK LOUDER! HEY! STOP PAINTING ON YOUR SISTER RIGHT NOW!
Charles: I JUST WANTED TO . . .
Wife: WHO’S BEEN DIGGING IN THE GARBAGE CAN AGAIN? LOOK, CHARLES, I’M BUSY. DO YOU NEED SOMETHING?
Charles: JUST WANTED TO SEE WHAT’S FOR LUNCH. HELLO… HELLO…

My wife also has to field calls from our respective older sisters. Being an oldest sister apparently means you have to call your younger siblings at least five times a day. I’m not sure if these calls are necessitated by actual concern for our family or if they have a betting pool on the exact date my wife will go into the funny farm. Both sisters are stay-at-home moms with two children, so maybe they put their disorganized lives in perspective by calling and hearing the reassuring chaos at my house. Perhaps for them, calling my wife is the audio equivalent to slowing down to see a car wreck.

The worst is when one of the older sisters calls on a cell phone. What did we do in our cars before cell phones, you know, besides paying attention to the road? It’s almost like all of us are now scared to be alone with our thoughts. Let’s see, I’ve got to drive for three minutes and it’s five-thirty at night, I think I’ll call my younger sister who has four kids.

Every night one of the older sisters calls and asks that all too common cell phone question: “What are you doing?” To which we don’t reply: “Trying to survive,” or “Digging through diapers.” We use the all too common cell phone response: “Nothing, what are you doing?”

I guess that’s better than asking what’s for supper.

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Charles Dowdy is the father of four and the husband of one. He’s a freelance columnist for several Mississippi newspapers. Editors may contact him at cwdowdyjr@yahoo.com.

Charles Dowdy's web site is not to be missed! He has to be one of the funniest, most irreverent writers in the South . . . or anywhere. Go see!

For more stories by Charles Dowdy, visit these USADS pages:
Goodby, Debt; Hello, Ricecakes
The Waiting Room War Zone
Small Towns & The 3 Second Intersection Rule
President Bush, Sponge Bob, and a Banana
The Twins Journal


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