“I’ll go brush my teeth,” I said through my end of the phone, “and then I’ll come right back…”
I had a land line and my very own phone number that rang straight to my bedroom – the coolest two things to have as a 13-year-old kid in the early 1990s. On the other end of the call was Nicole, my childhood bestie since first grade. We had learned to talk on the phone around third grade, and by 7th grade we had perfected the art of the multi-hour phone conversation. There were a few times we would talk for hours on the phone at night, whispering under our covers so our parents wouldn’t hear us. We would fall asleep with the phone call still live and wake up in the morning to say, “See you at school!”
Now, in my mid-thirties, I look back on my life and one thing has been a constant: Nicole. If I had to do the math on how many hours we’ve spent talking on the phone up until now, a conservative estimate would be an average of 3 hours a week for 30 years, or 4,692 hours of phone time. The phone was really the only way for us to connect, as we haven’t lived in the same city for over 20 years.
Yet, when we both became parents, our time became so much less flexible. So many other things took priority over talking on the phone. Things like working, kids, homework, dinner planning, bed times, taking a shower, etc. Not only that, we had a time zone against us. Early in the evening her time was late for me, and late in the morning my time was early for her.
When you are so used to something for so long, you make it work. We would text each other to set up ‘phone dates,’ but even then those would get cancelled due to kid illnesses or parent-teacher conferences or my crying infant… And if we could keep the phone dates, the conversations were often punctuated with a lot of “hold-ons” as we simultaneously tried talk on the phone while wiping noses, making dinner, or putting a doll head back on a body. Our short conversations often ended with, “I’ll call you back later, if I can… Sorry.”
Then, thanks to magic of modern technology, we found a fix: “The ultimate Mom Hack,” as Nicole called it.
We discovered an app called Marco Polo*. This app is essentially a way to record video messages whenever you want and send them to whomever you want. Sounds simple enough, but it’s amazing. There is no social media element, there is no posting to public groups. It’s not busy and noisy like Facebook. It’s just sending and receiving video messages, as long or short in length as you would like them to be. Through Marco Polo, I was able to record a little video of myself in the hospital room where I delivered my second baby. I recorded an update about life while driving home from work. I’m able to record while I’m making dinner, and also show her what recipe I am making that night. I can send her videos of my girls, and they can say hello to her on the video, too.
The beauty is that she can watch the videos whenever she wants, on her own Mom Time. We don’t have to carve out space for both of us to be on the phone at the same time.
She can watch my video an hour later, or a week later, or a year later if she wanted. She doesn’t have to watch it continuously. She can watch it while going to pick up her kids from school, pause it mid-video and watch the rest while she is in the bath later that night. Then, she can record a response at 10:00pm her time, while I am sound asleep in my bed in another time zone.
(*Note that this post is not in any way sponsored by Marco Polo. They have no idea I am writing this. There you go, free product placement, Marco Polo. You’re welcome.)
Since finding this Mom Hack, Nicole and I are able to send each other a Marco Polo almost every other day – and for us, that means that all is right in the world. We don’t have to lose time with our families to chat, but we still have plenty of time (endless hours a day if we wanted, there is no limit on how long or short the videos can be) to be able to catch up with each other.
… I press the green ‘record’ button on my Marco Polo app for my nightly message to Nicole. The camera focuses on my face as I start telling her about my daughter’s allergies, my big deadline at work, and my brilliant discovery of coconut oil as a face wash. I study my own face on the screen as I speak. I have small lines on my forehead, and dark circles under my eyes from so many nights of waking up with an infant. But in my reflection I also see a 13-year-old girl connected to her landline, with hours of free time to talk to her best friend.
As a mother, time seems to pass so quickly. Minutes speed by almost imperceptibly through the ups and downs of adulthood – through baby snuggles and ballet classes, through marital strife and making up again, through homework and housework, through loving and laughing, and everything wild and wonderful in between.
Thanks to the magic of technology, with the press of a small button, I can send a recorded message to my forever constant companion any time I want; I can see her face and hear her voice every day, even in the midst of all of my competing adulthood moments. As I watch my own aged reflection in the smartphone – juxtaposed against the memory of my teenage self – I realize the value that this app truly provides: giving tired mamas everywhere the gift of precious time.
In this high-speed, high-tech modern age of motherhood, where time seems to pass in the blink of an eye, it’s comforting to know that some things never change.
I yawn into the recording, it’s getting late. I still want to ask Nicole about the rest of her day though, and I have more to tell her about my day.