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Life on Call: Technology to the Rescue

Must-Have Parent

Oh, technology.

I love technology.

I'm horrible at making technology work, but I get giddy when I hear about new devices and apps that might make life easier or more fun.

Right now, I'm over-the-moon excited because I recently discovered a technology solution to a problem that has plagued my entire MHP life. But first let me tell you about the problem that needed solving:

Without a doubt, the most frustrating part of must-have parenting for me has always been the one-way communication I have with my husband.

It works like this:

He calls and, no matter what I'm doing, I have to answer because I do not have the ability to call him back.

I've been doing this for 12 years now. That means that for 12 years, I've been on call.

His job means that he's often out of the country for months at a time, and even when he is home, he is rarely able to answer his cell phone. He frequently works in buildings where he's not even allowed to bring in a cell phone.

Of course, and as you all are no doubt aware, this is the age of communication. People everywhere are always connected, through texts, calls, video chats, emails and social media updates. Literally, every other person in my life is more accessible to me than the person to whom I'm married.

So, my problem is two-fold:

1) The one person I have the greatest need to communicate with is usually the last one I can reach.

2) it's seems like many times when he calls or texts me, I'm in the middle of something and it isn't a convenient time for me to talk. With anyone else, I could just ignore the call and call back when I'm free, but I can't do that with him. Because I can't call him back.

Which drives me absolutely crazy.

Got great news I want to share?
-- Can't reach him.

Semi-urgent problem in the house that I need to ask him about?
-- Can't reach him.

Sad kid who needs some Daddy-love?
-- Can't reach him.

And yet ...

Trying to explain something complicated to one of the kids?
-- He calls and interrupts.

On an important phone call for work?
-- He calls and interrupts.

Friend is confiding something personal and emotional to me?
-- He calls and interrupts.

Waited in line for 30 minutes and now I'm in front of the cashier, in a store with one of those "Please do not use your cell phone at the counter" signs?
-- He calls and interrupts.

Really need to talk to him but I stepped away from my phone for five minutes to snatch a kid from the jaws of impending doom -- or to go to the bathroom.
-- He calls and I miss him. And I can't call him back.

If this were just a season of life, a temporary period of time with a beginning and an end, I'd brush it off. It's clearly a #FirstWorldProblem. Or maybe a #ModernMilitaryProblem.

(And, I swear, if anyone tells me that I should count myself lucky that we're able to communicate at all, I will ... well, I don't know what I'll do. I'll probably just mumble to myself that you're an a*%hole. I definitely won't think you're some wise sage.)

I mentioned this problem to him when he called the other day. I said, "With all the technology that's out there, there has got to be an affordable way for me to call you, at least some of the time."

"I'll try to figure something out," he promised.

A couple of days passed and then one day my phone rang, but not just any kind of call -- a call from him using WhatsApp, a text messaging app that we use because it's much cheaper -- much, much cheaper -- than sending international texts.

He laughed when I answered and he heard how happy I was. He told me to look at the little phone icon on the app and then explained how to use it to call him. Simple as that.

It's not a perfect solution. It really only works well when we both have access to WiFi, but there are quite a few moments each day when we both have access to WiFi.

So I'm still sorta living life on call. But if I miss a call, now I can call back.

Technology, you're a beautiful beast.

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Military Life Rebekah Sanderlin

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Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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