You don't have to text back right away

You don’t have to text back right away!

In Be Happy, Self-Care by Punita Rice

Happiness Hack: You don’t have to text people back the second you get a text message.

Ever since I became a much, much slower text-responder (motherhood, man), I’ve been thinking about how people tend to assign meaning to the amount of time that passes between their messaging you and your responding. It got me thinking about the ~rules~ around texting people back quickly.

Anuja‘s soon to be sister-in-law, and my new friend, Dr. Roopa Mathur is a psychiatrist and an all-around cool woman who thinks taking our time to respond to texts is a good thing. In a conversation we were having (over text, incidentally), she said that there should be…

“No pressure to respond right away at all, ever. That’s too hard of an expectation to live by, and perpetuates having to always be connected to the phone.”

Dr. Roopa Mathur

That’s so good. I think for so many of us, especially because we tend to see our phones as extensions of ourselves, we feel the need to address all the notifications and requests for our attention right away.

We don’t!


So when should you respond to texts?

I know the question of when should you respond to your texts sounds kind of weird, as though I’m suggesting we should make people wait for our response, like we’re playing some kind of game. That’s not what I mean. Obviously, if something important needs to be addressed right away, by all means, respond (e.g. your friend is coming over, and needs your address; do not ignore her!)

But if you’re just having an ongoing conversation with someone, respond later. Maybe you pre-designate a window of time (5pm everyday, or right before you go to bed, or whatever works for you) for responding to your messages. That helps you be more intentional about it, instead of just letting the weight of unanswered texts bug you all day.

Or, if you’re having a real conversation with someone, respond when you have something real or useful to say. Roopa suggests that we should respond to texts “when it feels right.”

love that. And though she meant when it feels right logistically, it also applies to the other kind of feeling right:

When you have something meaningful to say.

After all, do you always think about your responses carefully when you text? — probably not.

And have you ever rushed to respond to a question that perhaps deserved more thought? — I know I’ve done this.

So consider this your permission to be off the hook. You don’t have to respond to your texts every time your phone buzzes.

You’re welcome!


Psst — make sure you join the Happy Mom Guide Community. It’s a Facebook Group for moms to exchange words of wisdom, inspiration, gratitude, support, and joy. Join us!

P.S. – Here’s why stay at home moms don’t pick up your phone calls, and here’s a 3-question quiz for determining how long you “should” wait to text someone back. Also, texting while walking. And while we’re talking about using our phones, here are some Instagram accounts for you to follow.

A version of this post originally appeared at punitarice.com.

(Featured image found from this post on the “unspoken” rules of texting.)

About the Author
Punita Rice

Punita Rice

Punita C. Rice, Ed.D is a mother, educator, writer, and founder of ISAASE. She is the author of Toddler Weaning: Deciding to Gradually Wean your Toddler & Making it Happen, and the forthcoming South Asian American Experiences in Schools: Brown Voices from the Classroom, and blogs about motherhood and being intentional about being a happy mom at Happy Mom Guide. Her education work centers around multicultural education and equity, and South Asian American experiences in school. You can read more about Punita and her work here.

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