All hell breaks loose…can he say that in a blog post? Yep, and I am not talking about the Eminem song featuring Dr. Dre. I am talking about the phone call you receive from your spouse in the middle of the day and you just hear in their voice that something is wrong. You want to help out, but frankly you are in the middle of putting out fires at work. What can (or should) you do?
This means you and your spouse should openly talk about “bothering” each other. In my marriage, my wife has often said that she does not call me because she is afraid of “bothering” me at work. Whereas, I have a different expectation: I won’t let you bother me. Sounds harsh, but let me explain that a little better. I often have told my wife: “Call me any time. If I am busy or not there, I won’t answer the phone. If I can talk, I will answer the phone. If it is an emergency, text me and left me know it is an emergency.” Over the years, by airing our expectations, we have gotten better in communicating about emergencies.
Answer if possible.
If you can answer the phone, then answer the phone. There have been times (… I hope she is not reading this…) that her number came up on Caller-ID and I did not want to answer the phone. I may not have been working on something at that particular moment, but I was sure that I did not want to talk to anyone. You’ve been there…I know. Anyway, it just takes a minute to answer the phone and ask them if you can call them back. If you are kind with your words, then they will certainly understand. If it is something important, then you will be glad you answered the phone.
Avoid the minimizing.
Sometimes all hell breaks loose at home and, since you are not there, you don’t fully appreciate and understand the stress on the other end of the line. In fact, this happened today. I heard kids screaming in the background, but there was a chilling monotone in my wife’s voice, as she said:
“Can you talk?” Of course.
“I need help.” This sounded really serious.
“Your son bit himself and blamed his brother. That’s devious of him and I am so distraught.” I laughed.
That was the wrong response. I actually said the words, “Whew, I thought it was something serious.” In the end, my wife just wanted some encouragement and I (wrongfully) minimized her problem. I should have saved my humorous words for tonight’s pillow talk. But, I messed up. Don’t minimize your spouse’s feelings.
So what happens if the call is truly a family emergency? You need to do whatever is necessary to attend to the emergency. If you are in a staff meeting, they will excuse you. If you are on a client conference call, it can be rescheduled. Even if you are in a court hearing or in the middle of a momentous marketing pitch, they will (or should) understand. If they do not, then you may have to make a choice between family and work. And I suspect depending on the emergency, you will make the right choice.
Question: What do you do when all hell breaks loose?