How do I cut down on the phone calls?

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Hi all, I'm back, after several months off of here, but everyone was so helpful last time. In the time I've been off of here, I successfully moved out and have been doing much better. I've been home for visits (mainly because I miss my pup who still lives with my mother - working on getting my aging dog to come live with me instead), but being away from my mom most of the time has been exactly what I needed. However, my narcissistic mother was upset that I moved out. She wanted me to stay at home until she found an aide (originally for companionship, but she is 65 and her many ailments are quickly incapacitating her, and she's getting forgetful), but my sibling and I nixed that idea very quickly, as we both knew she would never look for care if I had stayed. (Now she says looking for care is our job, but she just doesn't want to do anything herself, and that's always how it's been.) Because she's lonely now and lacks any ability to call her "friends" or ask for help, I get stuck with the calls out of boredom. I am a 24 year old trying to build a life and a career and, you know, be able to act my age for once. I had to grow up very quickly when I was young because my dad (deceased now for a few years) was at work all the time and my mom wasn't a good parent - laundry, cooking, and when I got older, cleaning and the like. We had a few deaths in the family, including my dad's passing, and ever since, I've been the adult and my mother has been the child. I felt like I was living out my 40s in my early 20s, and so I'm taking the time now to live my life the way *I* want to and need to. Unfortunately, making time to see friends, date, go to work, cook, clean, etc. doesn't mesh well with my mom's idea of how I should be spending my time. I often don't have anything to say to her on the phone because my days are pretty unexciting right now. Recently had emergency surgery done, so I'm not allowed to do anything active or strenuous, so right now, it's work, errands, maybe seeing some friends, home. My job entails talking to people all day, so by the time I'm done at work, the last thing I want to do is have lengthy phone calls with my mother, where the call will be her complaining, asking me what she can do to entertain herself, or her just sitting there in silence. Any suggestions for curtailing the frequency of these phone calls? I don't mind talking once or twice a week (ideally it would be twice a month, but we're not at that stage yet), but she wants to talk every other day, if not every day, and doesn't seem to understand that I cannot mentally, emotionally, or physically give her that much. She also always calls when I'm at work - I try to not tell her when I'm at work so I can have some privacy and not feel like she's still breathing down my neck, but I know from past experiences that if I don't answer and she has any inkling that I'm at work, she somehow got my work phone number and will call, which is embarrassing and inappropriate having to take a personal call on our work line. I just need her to not need me to entertain her over the phone, and I've tried to get her to understand, but it would seem I need some new tactics.

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Thanks all for your suggestions! Dorianne, I remember your advice from last time! It put a smile on *my* face to see your reply here :)

I currently work in high end retail as a shift manager, so the phone is anybody's game. It may come to the point where I need to disclose to my team to not take calls from her when she does call. Cell phone calls usually result in 15-20 calls and several voicemails. I typically just block her when she does that. Really great suggestions on setting up specific days & keeping a timer!

Midkid - right?! She'll be 66 this year. She's always had a lot of physical problems - she is overweight & lives an unhealthy lifestyle, but her narcissistic personality disorder also causes her to exaggerate, so it's tough to tell what's actually an ailment and what's made up or exaggerated. (I'm sure that she's going to live another 50 years simply because I can't imagine handling another 20.)

I do call her, however, I suspect there's either some mental decline already happening, or, like I've said, she enjoys starting arguments. I called her/spoke to her on the phone last Thursday and Friday, then saw her Saturday/Sunday/Monday due to Easter, talked to her on Monday when I got back to my apartment & shut down that conversation quickly, talked to her Tuesday, and was then told on Wednesday that I hadn't talked to her in a week. ::eye roll::

I appreciate all of your input! I've just had an emotionally challenging day with her and have been going through some other stuff post-surgery, and I'm definitely feeling emotionally fragile today.
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Reply to blackdiamond
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When you said your mom was 65, I was shocked. SO sad to be so disabled at really such a young age. I'm almost 62 and 65 doesn't look too scary from here.

But--good for you for detaching! Your mom could live 20 more years easily!! You NEED your own life.

I'm "lucky" in that my mother cannot use her cell phone, so she never calls. Occasionally she can get one of the kids at her place to call me, but it's VERY rare. Even then, if I am not in the mood to talk to her--I let it go to voicemail and call her back later--or not. You don't owe her any explanations as to why you didn't pick up! Esp not when you're at work!!

My kids call screen me, I know they do. Then they either do or don't call me back. I'm annoying (all moms are) and I would rather talk to them when they want to talk to me than interrupt their busy lives.

When you DO choose to talk to her, just listen and don't over-respond. 99% of my mother's calls are about someone I didn't know who had died. Or complaints about one thing or another.

It would be nice if YOU called HER occasionally. Just to chat. I love when my kids carve out a few minutes to just talk to me.
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Reply to Midkid58
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"doesn't seem to understand that I cannot mentally, emotionally, or physically give her that much."

It's not your mom's responsibility to understand that you don't have it to give. It's your responsibility to take care of yourself by not giving her what you don't have. Set limits and boundaries. You've already done so much to accomplish that and now you're going to have to do more to curtail the phone calls. You've gotten some great suggestions. And the great thing about the phone is that you don't have to answer if you don't want to. As someone said, "train" your mom regarding the phone calls. If you don't want to talk to her every other day then don't. Try every 3rd day for a while. Then every 4th day.

If you're on the phone with her and she's silent tell her you have to go. If she begins to complain tell her you have to go. As opposed to being with her in person, on the phone you have total control over your interaction with your mom.

Keep setting those boundaries!
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Reply to Eyerishlass
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Hey! I am sooooo glad to see you made it out on your own! That put a smile on my face!

"I'm at work and I can't talk now, I'll call you back at _______." has always worked for me with people who call me at work. If your mom doesn't accept that, maybe you can say, "I'm at work and I'm not allowed to take personal calls. I have to go, bye!" Like, rush the whole thing like you're about to get in trouble (you can even SAY you're about to get in trouble if you have to), and don't let her get a word in!  And hang up!

If she is persistent despite all that....I have always found it's best to be as honest as I can with my supervisors if I need help or advice with something affecting my job performance.  If your supervisor is a decent person, you might go to them and tell them as much as you can.  ("My mom has a mental illness" is a good catch-all if you don't want to relay the entire story, or, "My mom has dementia," if you don't want to tell the whole truth.)  Then when your mom calls next, your supervisor can intercept it and tell her, in their best supervisor voice, that you are not allowed to accept personal calls at work.  This is up to you, and really only to be used if your mom becomes a problem. 

Agree with jeannegibbs - if she calls your cell and you're at work, just don't answer. That's what voicemail is for.  If she becomes a repeat caller, and you don't want to have to silence your phone, you can always make a silent ringtone. (I can't block numbers on my cell, for some reason, so I made a silent ringtone to assign to 1-800 numbers, lol.)

And I also agree about telling her when you will call next, and not answering her calls in the interim. jeannegibbs is right - if she can dial your number, she can dial 911!

I'd also set up a timer when you're on the phone with her - whatever length of time you feel you're able to give. When the time is up, give her an excuse why you have to hang up. "Well, I promised Alex I'd meet her at the laundromat in 5 minutes, so I have to go. I'll call you next Tuesday, bye mom!" If she doesn't seem to be accepting it, then you can start rushing it like you'd rush getting off a call to your work, and just hang up!  (This is how I talked to my parents on the phone for real when I was your age, and it's kind of what a lot of parents expect from young adults off having their own lives for the first time!  It's normal, so don't feel bad about it!) 

It's best to start now as you mean to go on. If you let her become a daily caller now, she will expect it always, and it will be much harder to break her of the habit once it's gone on for a long time. You're mom has to find her own way, too, and no - you're not responsible for entertaining her. I think it's amazing that you're keeping in touch, after everything you've been through. That's plenty. You're definitely entitled to your own life now.

Anyway, I'm so proud of you for getting out of there! You sound like you're doing great!
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Reply to Dorianne
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Congratulations on getting detached as much as you have! Good job.

Don't take phone calls from her at work. Who typically answers the work phone number? If it is receptionists, for example, can you talk to them, explain that your mother is forgetful and doesn't remember she is not supposed to call you at work. Ask them to help you out. "I'm sorry. Ms Diamond is not available for the rest of today." Whether that is feasible would depend on the nature of work relationships, the size of the company, how many receptionists would have to know this, etc. If that isn't feasible, take the call and say immediately, "Mom, sorry, I'm in the middle of doing something and I can't take personal calls at work. I'll call you Saturday." Hang up!

If she is calling you on your cell phone, just don't answer, of course.

"Train" her to not call you at work by not talking to her when you are at work.

For home, how about setting up times for talking? For example, Wednesday evening and Saturday morning before you start your day? You can call her or she can call you, but only on the schedule you set up. If she calls other than those times, do not answer. (Isn't caller ID wonderful?) If she whines "what about an emergency?" tell her that is what 911 is for.

"What can I do for fun? I'm so bored!"
"Wouldn't it be good to have a companion, Mom? Find one who likes the same card games you do!" ... "If you have nothing to do, Mom, it would be good to use that free time to look for a companion."

You've made great progress. You can do this! Stay strong!
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