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Mom's worried calls feel more like harassment

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Of course Mom worries, but enough is enough

Miss Understood: I'm in my late 20s and an only child. How do I get my mom from being so nosy or always calling if I'm not home in the evening? I'm sure there's an easy way.

Carolyn: Let her know you regard her constant calls as invasions of your privacy — as well as no-confidence votes in your competency as an adult — and that you'll be happy to talk to her (your preferred frequency here). To break an unwelcome, daily-call dependency, I would suggest once- or twice-weekly calls, period. Put more than a day between calls.

Then explain that if she continues to call (annoying frequency here) without specific urgent business, then you're not going to return calls until the (preferred frequency here) check-in call.

Finally, point out that if she defines "urgent business" as finding out whether you're home, then you won't be able to spot a real emergency.

You say you want an "easy way," but getting overwhelmed by someone usually means you've caved too many times under pressure, instead of doing the right but difficult thing. Do the difficult thing, and set limits that reflect your principles.

Anonymous: Dear Miss Understood: I went through the same thing, but now — 20 years later — I understand your mother. She is reading in the newspaper about young women being abducted and murdered, etc., and she just wants to know you are not in need of rescuing.

Can you work out a system where you call her every night at specified time, to let her know you are not alone and you are safe? It is not that she doesn't trust you — SHE DOESN'T TRUST EVERY NUT OUT THERE WITH MENTAL "ISSUES."

Carolyn: NO NO NO!

You're not just enabling hysteria, you're subscribing to it. Yes, young (and old and middle-age) women (and men) do get abducted and murdered. But the chances are infinitesimal. People who deem this a common problem need to turn off the 24-7 news long enough to realize the far greater risk is of losing their children to alienation, because of their own mental issues.

Survivor: My mom calls every day, usually on her way to work. I don't always answer, but usually we just say hi.

Two years ago my mom made her daily calls to me and my sister. My sister didn't answer because she had a seizure, which killed her.

If it helps my mom feel a tiny bit better to not have that weighing on her at work, I have no problem answering the phone! What's the problem with that?

Carolyn: If you're both happy with this system, then your situation doesn't equate to Miss Understood's.

Your loss was terrible, and I feel for you. It also demonstrates why daily calls provide false reassurance: They didn't stop the bad thing from happening. I think they also amplify anxiety. I liken it to playing the same Powerball number several weeks in a row. It won't increase your odds of winning in any meaningful way (one in a squillion 15 times versus just one in a squillion), but it will spook you: If you stop, THAT WILL BE THE TIME IT HITS.

I'm all for mutual gestures of love, just as long as you know they're just that.

Mom's worried calls feel more like harassment 02/16/09 [Last modified: Monday, February 16, 2009 3:30am]

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