Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Family won't respect mom's need to work on her business
Orlando: I work from home, and have been trying to get my fledging art business off the ground for the last three years. Unfortunately, my family does not view what I do as work. To them, I am dutiful daughter/stay-at-home mom/homemaker. My phone rings several times a day with calls from aging parents who live far away and won't move closer to me, or a college kid with a crisis.
I knew I would be the caregiver to my parents eventually, and I know my kid will continue to become more independent. I'm torn! Part of me feels guilty for not wanting to listen when I know there will come a day when there will be no more calls, and part of me is so frustrated at the endless interruptions.
My work is artistic in nature and I need quiet time to concentrate. I know if I were at a normal 9-to-5 job they wouldn't dare disturb me unless EMS was involved, but they view what I do as an interruptible hobby. What can I say (respectfully) to get them to respect my time?
Carolyn: Nothing. It's not about them, or your phone. Figure out a schedule for your workday that best lends itself to productivity, including blocks of work and breaks in between.
Then, apply your schedule to the phone. If it's work time, don't answer the phone (mute the ringer if necessary). If you're on a break, answer. You can use your breaks to check messages to see if anyone really needs you. And if you're concerned about emergencies, you can check your messages during work hours anytime you get to a natural break in the workflow.
It's not as if you've picked up every ringing phone in your life; you do, presumably, have a mouth full of food occasionally, and go to medical appointments, or just the bathroom. So you can do this call-rescheduling without explanation, certainly without apology, and without putting a dent in your role as caregiver and ear.
In fact, serving as caregiver on your terms, not everyone else's, might be enough to make you the happy listener you wish you could be.
Playing two roles well is a matter of organizing your responsibilities in a way that doesn't divide your attention. That, in turn, is a matter of recognizing you can be supportive without being at everyone's beck and call. It means you're the one who needs to start respecting your time.
Don't be reluctant to give out mulligans for etiquette slips
N.J.: Is it wrong of me to be (peeved) that the very first question my MIL asked upon hearing I was pregnant was: "Was it planned?"?
Carolyn: No, but please don't hold it against her forever. Everyone benefits if you go into this with the frame of mind that mulligans are good. Give them freely. Ideally you'll receive as freely as you give, but there's no guarantee you will. So, just set the example and reap the internal benefits, at least. And, congratulations!
Anonymous: Re: "Was it planned?": "Geez, Mom, I don't even know whose it is!"
Carolyn: Nice when you guys do the work for me.