“Mom, Stop Calling Me”

The Wall Street Journal published the most recent in a long line of articles in the press berating today’s parents andannie their millennial offspring for remaining over connected as the younger generation emerges into adulthood. In “Mom, Stop Calling, I’ll Text You All Day” the author suggests that millennials should not use modern technology as a way to dump their problems on their parents or constantly seek help.  Mothers should not try to communicate too much with their grown children and families should sit down and establish communications boundaries.  After all, today’s parents spoke to their parents once a week, briefly, by telephone, and as is oft-repeated, that worked out fine for us…or did it?

Once a Week is Not How Humans Have Communicated, Ever.

ShoesAsk anyone over 45 how they communicated with their parents after they left home and out comes a tale of expensive weekly long distance calls, conversations cuts short by cost-conscious parents and the defiant independence that comes with finding yourself young, alone and living in a strange city.

But this weekly calling is a byproduct of the second half of the 20th century and does not square with the rest of human history.  For all of time families have lived in tribes, villages and, later, towns.  They lived in small collectives in which the younger generations saw their elders on an almost daily basis.  Even after families were dispersed it was not unusual for them to write letters on a daily or at least regular basis.  Technology allows us to go back to that village to the regular communication that kept families close.

Parents as mentors

Is it any coincidence that the decline of parent-adult child communications coincided with the desperate search for mentors.  Parents are our original mentors and in an earlier era they were lifelong mentors.  “Mom, Stop Calling” suggested that it is unfair for grown children to “dump” their problems on their parents.  But is that what they are doing? Sometimes our children ask little more of us that we listen to their troubles. Sometimes they are looking for a few words of advice or confirmation of a decision Nailsthey have made.  Just because they are sharing their problems does not mean they are asking us to fix them.  They feel better and we are closer when they let us into their lives, problems and all.

Twenty Text a Day?

The WSJ article made an example of a young man who texted his mother up to 20 times a day.  I have watched my kids text. Twenty texts would take them less than a minute. There would be no disruption in their lives, no damage to their workday.  Sometimes their texts do not even come with words.  They see something, know it will have meaning for me or simply make me laugh and they just send a photo.  For just a second it is as if are back in their strollers pointing at something new, and I am smiling and nodding.  A minute later we have all returned to our adult lives

Texting, and its communication cousins, seems the perfect way for young adults and teens to stay connected, but not over connected to their parents.  The format, with its short bursts of information, keeps us in their lives without interfering with their lives.  As long as our children are gradually taking on the trappings of adulthood, with the capacity for independent decision-making and income generation, I am pretty sure we should be happy that they just want to stay close.



  1. says

    Times have changed and I mostly communicate with my parents via text. Soon enough my children will be texting me. I totally agree that communication boundaries are needed but otherwise I see nothing wrong with the texting. Sure phone calls are nice as well but with all of our lives as busy as they are, sometimes a text can be much easier.

    • says

      I think we actually communicate more with texting and that it seems is a wonderful things. Thanks for commenting…

  2. Terri Kaminetsky says

    What a fresh and sweet way of looking at the evolving way that we communicate with our kids! I agree with your many good points!

  3. says

    Thanks for this. I think sometimes people just react against the way new generations do things because it’s different with no consideration of whether or not it’s actually good or bad. I hear a lot about how my generation lived with benign neglect and hey, it all worked out. But if it was so great, why did we grow up to do something different? Because there were things about it we didn’t like and we want to do better. Plus times have changed and many of the old rules no longer apply. I think it’s nice that parents and kids want to stay in touch. Does anyone really think a return to a chilly generation gap is healthy?

    • says

      Korinthia I so agree with you. Texting, it seems to me, leads to more communication and the maintenance of a bond that really does not need to be broken!

  4. says

    Lisa, I love the message here and smiled at your connection to that sending a brief snippet or photo kids know we’d enjoy to the moments they were pointing out something from their stroller. So sweet. Such a reminder that the years may fly but the communication and sharing are still vital – in any format. Richness in younger years and so it continues with our children as adults.

  5. says

    Thanks SO much for this post. I had read somewhere about a year ago about a mother who was regaling the positives about texting since it allowed her to stay in touch with her children using “their” form of communication device. I jumped on that bandwagon and have stayed in touch with my two kids (19 and 14) in a way that wouldn’t happen had I relied on the telephone or simple face-to-face interaction. This post validates what I was thinking. Thank you.

    • says

      Thanks for adding your experience. Sometimes it seems that they are happy to talk but so much of the time they just want to share a thought and be back in their own lives…as it should be.

  6. says

    I really liked this! I too have been guilty of judging teenagers and college students who text their parents frequently. When I was teaching college, I was always baffled by how much contact the students had with their parents. (I went to college in the early to mid 1990s; we had one hall phone for an entire dormitory of kids and I talked to my mom once a week for five minutes in the middle of the hallway). I love articles that point out the positives to technology that generally gets a bad rap in the media!

    • says

      Thanks Jessica. I think that talking to your parents once a week happened for about 50 years in all of human history, so why do we think it was normal??

  7. says

    Thanks for this positive spin! My kids are so different in this regard. I treasure every text or FB input I receive from my son. On the other hand, it’s a strange day for me not to hear from my daughter…multiple times. That’s just the way they’ve always been and I wouldn’t expect differently now that they are in college.

    This is another way media instigates guilt-inducing messages :(!

  8. says

    When I moved away from home it was half-way around the world. In those days it was not only expensive (therefore forbidden except in extreme emergencies) but you had to make a reservation with the overseas operator to put a call through. A letter home took 10 days and the response another 10. Whatever I had to say was old news before I got to the post box.

    I love getting texts from my kids – it’s a way for them to say, “I was thinking about you.” If they had to take the time to write or call the spontaneity would vanish.

    • says

      You are so right about how texting preserves the spontaneity and makes us really feel present in their lives….

  9. says

    I love the analogy of the days when our kids were in a stroller and pointing out new and exciting things. I absolutely love texting with my kids. It lets us touch base in a quick “I’m thinking of you” kind of way. With their busy work schedules there just isn’t time to have daily, lengthy phone calls. My 83 year old mother is a texting fiend – keeps in touch with her children via daily “nighty night” texts. I treasure every one.

    • says

      I love that. It is a great way for us to all bridge the gaps created by busy schedules and geography. Good for your mom!

  10. says

    I can’t recieve a cell signal in most of my worksites, so my text messages with my grown sons all occur past 5 or so. Interesting how they’re not so inclined to text with me in the evenings when I’m free, but there will be plenty of daily “urgent” messages for me at the end of my work day!!

  11. says

    unless you’re a lunatic parent and certainly none of us are, it finds it’s own level. and the day i take parenting advice from the WSJ is the day i hang up my mommy label.

  12. says

    Hi! I found you via my post on Scary Mommy today. =)

    I love this and I really look forward to being able to communicate with my kids… even when they’re “grown and flown.” 😉


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    […] Lisa writes: The Wall Street Journal published the most recent in a long line of articles in the press berating today’s parents and their millennial offspring for remaining over connected as the younger generation emerges into adulthood. In “Mom,…  […]

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