Widowed mom’s nonstop calls wearing down her only child

Published 9:15 am Monday, December 12, 2022

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DEAR ABBY: I am an only child and I love my mother. My father passed away after a short illness three years ago, leaving my mother a widow. My problem is, she calls me multiple times a day. I’m not one of those women whose mom is my best friend or someone who enjoys talking on the phone. If I don’t answer, she keeps calling back. She calls while I’m getting ready for work, on the way to work, while I’m at work or on the way home, etc.
I know I may regret it one day, but I don’t have the energy for all her daily calls, which are basically her asking me 50 questions. I don’t talk to my own grown children on a daily basis like she calls me. I have reached the point that I dread it and at times ignore her calls.
I have encouraged her to branch out — hang out with other widows, meet new friends or join groups, but because of COVID she’s hesitant. I don’t want to be ugly to her, but the more she does this, the more anxious I get. I have also asked her to just text me so I can respond when I’m available, but she says she just doesn’t think about that as an option.
She’s a very sweet woman, but she is stressing me out! Is it me or her? Please help me so I don’t ruin this relationship. As an only child, am I being selfish? — INUNDATED IN THE SOUTH

DEAR INUNDATED: It isn’t you, it’s her. Your mother is doing this because she feels lonely, anxious and vulnerable and may have forgotten how to socialize as an individual without your father. The COVID restrictions added to the problem because people were discouraged from hanging out in groups.
After three years, it is not selfish to create boundaries with her. Tell her you will speak to her once a day. Then screen your calls and talk with your mom when you aren’t stressed and have a few minutes to spend in conversation.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have visits from family several times a year. I don’t cook, at least not a lot — just simple meals for my husband and me. We are 72 and 69. Visiting family members want to cook and discuss the latest natural foods they have grown or used, and I’m left feeling like they expect the same from me. (We do occasionally take people to a nearby restaurant.)
It feels to me more like a “look what I’m doing” than casual conversation. Cooking, growing, etc. don’t impress me because I have been there, moved on and am no longer interested in the achievement. How do I deal with these people? — BEYOND IT IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR BEYOND IT: You are under no obligation to alter the way you cook to suit these visitors. When your relatives start cooking and “lecturing” about nutrition and gardening, consider changing the subject. Or, pop in some earbuds and listen to your favorite podcast or music. You may find that once they realize they have lost their audience, they’ll find something else to talk about.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
Good advice for everyone — teens to seniors — is in “The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It.” To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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