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How do I tell my mother that she can't keep calling me at work all the time?


Question:  I'm feeling very frustrated because my mother is constantly calling me at work and it is interfering with my job. My mother lives by herself since my father died. I think she may be bored and doesn't know what to do with herself. I have tried to explain that her phone calls are very disruptive but she doesn't seem to understand. Do you have any suggestions?  

Dr. Amy:  I recommend that you and your mother sit down and talk about the situation face-to-face. It is important to approach this conversation calmly, or your mother may become defensive. A good way to begin the conversation is by expressing empathy. You could say something like, "Mum, it's been six months since Dad died. With Dad gone, life must seem so different." Give your Mother time to talk about how she feels and how her life is different.  

It may be that she is feeling bored, as you suggest. If that's the case, perhaps you can discuss activities that she could pursue. For example, would she enjoy volunteering? Doing volunteer work that feels meaningful greatly benefits the person who is volunteering. Your mother might also consider taking part in activities offered at a local senior centre. You could also talk with her about planning activities with her friends so that she isn't just sitting alone in the house.  Sometimes people need encouragement and some creative thinking to help them think of new ways to spend their time.  

It's also important to understand if your mother is feeling anxious or depressed, and not just bored. If that's the case, she may need to talk to her doctor.  

Finally, discuss with your mother how frequently you can take her calls at work. Remind her that in an emergency she should never hesitate to call. Assuming that she isn't having an emergency, perhaps you can encourage her to limit her calls to once or twice a day. Or you could offer to call her on your lunch hour, or when you are on your way to or from work. If you set up some specific times that she knows you are going to call it might help prevent her from calling you so often.

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