Full disclosure: I need to get better about calling home.
I like to pretend that I keep to a pretty rigid schedule about dialing my mom or dad. I like to pretend that I consistently call home every other day, at least. In reality, it’s more like once every three days, and when I’m at my busiest, I can barely be bothered to call home once a week. It is all too easy to get swept up in the rush of my work and social life that, though I’m ashamed to say it, I completely forget the people who are waiting for me back home.
I need to do better. And, although my experiences are entirely my own, given the jam-packed schedules of many students on this campus, I’m certain that I’m not alone in my struggle to carve out time to talk to mom, dad, or whatever friend, relative, or support system we have at home. Although sometimes it might feel as if calling home is an unnecessary drain on time, it’s important for our well-being and our parents’ state of mind to stay in touch, and to call even when we don’t have a problem that needs to be fixed or complained about.
At Penn, it is astoundingly easy to get lost in the heat of the moment and be consumed by the triple pressure to succeed in academics, extracurriculars, and social life. It’s easy to let ourselves be entirely derailed by setbacks that might seem major now, but will be completely irrelevant a year or five years down the line. Parents are a great source of this perspective, and can provide comfort and reassurance when things here at Penn don’t go exactly the way we planned. In the meantime, most parents are usually pretty amenable to listening to their kids whine, especially if they haven’t talked to them for a while. Whenever I need to vent to someone, I know that I can always count on my parents to lend me an ear, whether it's about that last exam that didn’t go well or that homework assignment that took forever to complete.
However, parents can do more than just listen — they’re pretty good at giving advice, too. Although it’s easy to forget that one’s parents were young once too, our parents once grappled with many of the same problems that we’re working through right now. Whether it be dating advice, filing taxes, or acing a job interview, parents are a resource that too often go untapped. Our parents are human just like us, and have made plenty of mistakes in their pasts. By talking and listening to them, we can learn from their mistakes and make sure that we don’t repeat them ourselves. And, although their nagging can sometimes be annoying, it’s good to be reminded from time to time that it’s important to get enough sleep, eat well, and go to Van Pelt every once in a while.
Even from a purely biological perspective, calling home can provide tangible benefits. According to a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, hearing mom’s voice strongly correlates with a significant reduction in the stress hormone of cortisol, and causes a significant uptick in the presence of oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that can help combat depression and anxiety. Regardless of what she actually says, just hearing your mother’s voice can be enough to brighten your mood and make your problems seem just that much more manageable.
More important than anything else, however, is that I know for a fact that I make my mom’s entire day when I call her. After living together with me for some 18 years, I’ve come to the shocking conclusion that she and my dad miss me just as much as I miss them. A phone call, even if it is just five minutes, probably makes their whole day so much better; whether it be just to catch up, to complain, or to ask for help, most parents like to be involved in the lives of their children and know how things are going. Something that takes so little effort for me can have such a huge, positive impact on the people whom I love, and yet I still struggle to force myself to pick up the phone.
For whatever’s left of this semester, I’m going to make a promise to myself: I’m going to call my parents at least once a day. I’m certain that my parents will appreciate it, and I’m sure that yours would, too.
JAMES MORRISON is a College freshman from Pipersville, P.A. studying English. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.