I work from home and my mom won’t stop talking to me

A reader writes:

I work remotely for an organization as a salaried employee, and I work from home. I also still live at home.

My mom works from home, too. She’s a real estate agent. Here’s the issue: she will not stop talking to me about every single communication she has with her clients. Literally every single communication. When I say literally, I mean li-truh-ly.

If I were in an office, the strategy I’ve used thus far probably would’ve have stopped it by now. I’ve told her point-blank, in no uncertain terms: “You have to stop telling me about every single thing, Mom, please.” It has not helped.

Here was my day today so far:
• At 9 a.m., I delayed my morning to help her with updating her résumé (she’s been doing real estate only for a few years and is between sticking with it and finding a permanent role).
• After that, I worked on some emails and then went to get some water, where I was promptly stopped to be told that a potential buyer decided to reject her client’s second counteroffer.
• Then, I worked on a project and was interrupted to be told that her client—let’s call her Jane—is upset she wasn’t more assertive with trying to get Jane to understand the initial offer was a good one.
• I went out to inquire about buying some lunch and was told that Jane had texted her to suggest she work with another real estate agent from the same company who had initially sold her the apartment.
• Later, I went to use the bathroom and was stopped to be told that Jane wants my mom to give her daily reports about how the selling is going.

It’s currently 3 p.m. and I’m exhausted.

Though I haven’t had a formal, sit-down conversation with her about this, I’ve told her to stop because it’s stressing me out, and she says she’ll stop but then doesn’t. She often starts an interruption with, “I know you don’t want to hear it, but I have to tell you….”

And yes, my workspace has a door that I close. When my door is closed, she’ll call my name from right outside or knock and ask me if I’m busy.

I’ve tried to be a sounding board, tried to be “on her side” when she’s frustrated, I’ve tried to offer solutions, I’ve told her not take it so personally, I’ve shared that every freelancer has clients from hell. I get it.

Short of moving out (which of course is a future plan), what’s there to do? Should I respond with every single thing that’s going on at my job? The countless, monotonous emails I’ve had today describing to a partner what a vector image is so I can properly place their logo in a document? Maybe there are some tips for how one might navigate this if I worked in an office and my mom were just any other coworker. Help.

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

{ 226 comments… read them below }

  1. Sara M

    I have door hangers in three colors: red, yellow, and green.

    Red = do not talk to me unless you’re bleeding
    Yellow = you can IM me, and I’ll respond when convenient, or you can knock for time-sensitive important things
    Green = come on in

    You can define your own red/yellow/green. This has worked wonderfully for me. It’ll take some time to train your mom about looking at the door hanger. Don’t give up! Expect three weeks of training and occasional mistakes, but she’ll get better.

    (My door hangers are made of twisted parachute cord, but you can make paper or cloth ones. Just make them big and obvious.)

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

      I like this! Going to suggest this to my adult sons, who live with me and who both study/work from home at odd hours, so it it hard for me to tell whether they are in work mode or not.

      I also have a 80 yo mother who lives nearby, and comes over every day to hang out. It does make WFH difficult. But my mom’s career was in engineering, and she understands the need to be quiet and concentrate during work. When I had a home office with a door (before the kids moved back in and claimed their old rooms back), this was not a problem for me at all. It only is now because my workstation is in an open space.

      I also bought a real Do Not Disturb sign on Amazon, like the one they use in hotels, that I put on my door whenever I am napping during the day, etc. It works! I was worried that it wouldn’t be visible enough, and that it will go unnoticed because it isn’t at eye level, but nope. Works perfectly. (And I just saw that Alison recommended it, too!)

      I wonder if this is a harder obstacle to overcome when the other person is literally being paid for being chatty and social (like, oh, a real estate agent!) to the point where it becomes there second nature. Another idea: if mom has something she thinks OP just HAS to hear, but OP is in the middle of work, can mom text it to the OP so they can have a conversation about it later? I’m thinking mom is probably worried that she will forget The Very Important Thing if she doesn’t blurt it out to the OP RIGHT NOW. This way, she’ll have a record of it when OP is finally available to talk!

      1. Manders

        Yes, the odd hours issue was something I was wondering about–it sounds like the OP does something related to graphic design, and I know very few graphic designers who keep strict 9 to 5 hours when they work from home. It’s the kind of job that can eat up every available minute, especially if you’re freelancing and not working in an office with predictable projects.

      2. Sara M

        Yes! This is partly the point of saying “ok to IM me, I’ll respond when I can.” The other person can talk in IM all they want, if they just need to think aloud or process something.

      3. Samata

        My dad is like this. He is a real estate agent and routinely calls my cell phone at 2:00 in the afternoon just to see what’s up. When I say “working, is it important?” he’ll say no and babble until he forces me to be mean and cut him off. And remind him to only call after 4. But it never stops him. And I work in an office. If I was WFH in the same house it would never stop.

        1. MassMatt

          So stop taking his calls while at work!

          In most offices phone calls are supposed to be all business, or if personal, then emergencies only.

          Someone can only monopolize your time if you let them, and if you have to cut them off after telling them you’re at work, it is THEY who are making it awkward, not you, by ignoring your boundary.

          1. Artemesia

            Every time ‘What’s up’ gets the answer ‘I can’t talk now, I am working, so I’ll have to let you go. Bye. Catch you later.’ And if possible don’t pick up his calls. If your calls are screened through a switchboard ask them to be screened out.

        2. OhNo

          My dad is self-employed, and he does the same thing to me! I finally got him trained out of it by not answering the phone at all during work hours, and when I did call him back after work, specifically saying, “I saw you call, but I was working and couldn’t answer.”

          Between the verbal reminder and the reinforcement, he finally figured out that calling me before five just doesn’t work. Well, mostly. He still calls me in the morning sometimes when he’s overcaffienated and wants to chat.

          1. Anonymoose

            I had to do this with my husband. I’m not a chatterer after office hours, and am DEFINITELY not going to want to ‘catch up’ while I’m trying to focus.

        3. many bells down

          I used to send my mother my class schedule every semester when I went back to college so she wouldn’t call me during class. Guess what were the ONLY TIMES she chose to call me?

        4. Zoe Karvounopsina

          I once got three texts in half an hour from my aunt during my work day, followed by a call to my mother to ask why I was ignoring her, so Mum texted me as well.

          I told Mum that I was not ignoring her, I was at work, and did we maybe want to mention this to her kids?

      4. Turquoisecow

        My husband and I text each other throughout the workday – with the understanding that neither of us is likely to reply immediately, but will when we have a free moment. Sometimes he doesn’t answer me for hours, as he is in a meeting or in the zone, sometimes I have my phone face down on my desk and don’t even notice, and sometimes I see his message, know it’s not important, and keep working.

        It sounds silly to do this sort of thing when you’re in the same house (my husband and I are not, usually), but if it’s not super important communication – and it sounds like this isn’t – maybe this or some other IM program would work. One of the reasons I prefer texting is my fear of bothering someone – I don’t want to call and possibly interrupt an important meeting, especially for something trivial, but a text you can answer on your own time.

        1. many bells down

          My husband set up a Slack channel for the whole family. We usually DM each other back and forth during the day. Today he has a big release, so he hasn’t replied to anything I’ve texted and that’s ok.

        2. Kelsi

          My housemates and I definitely text each other stuff when the person we need to talk to is in their bedroom with the door closed. It’s a great way for introverts to respect one another’s space!

          1. Annoyed

            Yes! My husband and I, both introverts who *can* be in the same space for hours but still in our own “zone” nevertheless will often be in separate rooms.

            This is an 1100 sq. foot condo/apartment. We still text each other even at home. I can literally be in the kitchen, mere steps away from him, see him, speak in a completely normal volume…and still text him. Likewise he with me.

            Bless whatever gods that invented texting!!!

      5. TootsNYC

        I text my daughter when she’s in her room with the door closed. If she sees it and responds, great; if she doesn’t, it wasn’t urgent, and I just won’t pick her up any soda at the store.

    1. An Underemployed Millennial

      Yeah I’ll admit this bugs me. I look very young for my age and am always asked if I “live at home”. Like why yes, I live at the home I pay rent at with my partner and cat…oh, you mean my mom’s house in another state or my dad’s house on the other side of the Pacific? No, I haven’t “lived at home” in a decade then.

      1. dovidbawie

        In an graphic design/advertising fail blog I frequent, an ad of some kind was maligning a millennial because, among other qualities, he “lives at home”! I chose to take it at face value that the person in question wasn’t homeless, which is hardly damaging.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        While I agree with other commenters that the original comment is totally off-topic and nitpicky, I also agree with you that the term, which I’m seeing being used in this sense a lot, baffles me. I moved out of my parents’ apartment in the 80s, does this mean I haven’t lived at home since then? Where did my family and I live all these years then? Looked like home to me… But people seem to love this use of this term for whatever reason. I do not get it, but I guess they are not going to change.

        1. An Underemployed Millennial

          I guess this terminology makes sense for people whose parents still live in the same house they lived in their entire childhood and moved out in their early twenties, but for me, my parents split up when I was very little, they both moved several times, my mom eventually moved to another continent and I split time between both places, and I started living on my own in my teens, so for me I don’t really have one “childhood home” unless you count my great-grandmother’s property where my mom’s whole extended family lives.

          1. Manders

            Yes, I still slip up and refer to my parents’ house as “my home” or “my house” even though I live in a condo 2,000 miles away. They bought that house before I was born and still live in it, so I had 18 years of thinking of that house as home followed by 10 years of jumping around between dorms and apartments.

            1. An Underemployed Millennial

              Totally makes sense! My partner also grew up in the same house his whole life and then lived there until his late twenties so he refers to his parents’ house as “home” still and it makes sense. But I get confused once in a while cause he’ll be like “oh this thing is at my house” and I’ll be like “what do you mean, it’s clearly not at our house” and he’ll be like “oops, my parents’ house I mean” lol

            2. shep

              Same–my parents bought their home when I was about four years old. I lived there through high school, and then again after college and during graduate school (and a few years after). I lived “at home” for so long that it still slips out, to the point that every once in a while I wonder if it hurts my partner’s feelings in a small way, since we live together and that should be “home.”

              But I’m also neurotic and worry about everything, so my normal Shep-brain knows that HE knows it’s just an ingrained thing to call the house I grew up in, and I’m sure he doesn’t say it personally at all.

              1. shep

                *TAKE it personally

                Wish I could blame writing an entirely different word on autocorrect, but nope. Just spacey today. Need more coffee.

              2. An Underemployed Millennial

                Your partner probably doesn’t take it personally. I don’t when mine slips up! I am just glad that he has a close family he can depend on :)

            3. Falling Diphthong

              Yeah, I think this is what’s going on. If it’s the house you grew up in, it’s normal to call it “home.” “My parents’ home, where I too have always lived literally since I can remember” is an overly pedantic way to get across the idea “I live in this house, and so does my mom.”

            4. Triumphant Fox

              Yep -also I find it weirdly tied to phone lines? “Home” in my phone is my parents’ house, in part because they have a landline. I still think of it as home and that state is still home, even though I haven’t lived there full time in more than a decade.

            5. SarahTheEntwife

              Yeah, do that too! I can say with no cognitive dissonance that I go home to see my parents for Thanksgiving, and then go back home to Boston on Sunday.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

            Ah, I see. Yea, my parents’ apartment, where I shared the only room with both of them, never really felt like home to me. My own apartments and houses where I later lived with my family, did. At least now I can see where this term comes from. I found it baffling, like why would anyone refer to the uncomfortable living arrangements, that they spent their childhood counting days until they could get out of, as “home”? It has just now clicked in my head that for a lot of people, they were comfortable living arrangements, that they have fond memories of, and miss living it. Probably says a lot about my formative years that I had never made this connection until now, heh heh.

            1. An Underemployed Millennial

              I feel you! I moved out when I was 16 and was so excited to be free and on my own. I am totally jealous of people who actually enjoyed living with their parents!

            2. Nicole Maria

              Ironically, the way you used the phrase “my family” is one of those that usually stops me. I get what people mean when they use it, for example, here I assume you mean your spouse and children, but aren’t your parents and siblings also your family? Same with when people say “starting a family”, unless you’re an orphan with no other relatives, it’s likely you’ve been in a family already.

              It sounds like your family life growing up was difficult, though, and I’m sorry about that.

              1. An Underemployed Millennial

                I think that generally “immediate family” means your parents and siblings if you are a child or single and childless but means your partner and/or children if you have them. Basically, whoever lives with you and you primarily make decisions based around is your immediate family.

              2. Rookie Manager

                I’m sorry for IWTintB and AUM that you didn’t get that feeling of home till you had your own place. I’m glad you have it now.

                The word that also throws me is ‘family’. ie new co-worker saying ‘do you have a family?’ My initial reaction was ‘Of course I have a family! *penny drops* O! You mean do I have children!’

              3. Lily Rowan

                Yeah, someone asked me the other day if I “have a family.” I said, “…. I have a mother?” Because she’s the only other member of a nuclear family I have — no spouse, no kids, no siblings, no father.

              4. TootsNYC

                I almost never use “my family” to talk about my husband and children. That’s funny; I hadn’t ever really thought about it.

                As for “starting a family,” well, you can’t start an existing family.

              5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

                You’re right. I meant it as my family, that I chose to have, that I am currently the head of. As opposed to the one I was born into. But you are right, both are parts of our immediate families!

                Thank you for the kind word, it was not bad, my parents were pretty supportive, if a bit too controlling. They are just not easy to live under the same roof with. So, for most of our lives, we didn’t. That solved most of our problems!

          3. Rookie Manager

            My family moved around a lot growing up and continued to do so after I moved out, regardless my parents current house is still “home” as in ‘I’m going home for the weekend. However by house
            with my partner is also very much “home”.

            His parents have lived in the same house for almost 40 years, he lived there for 20+ years, does not call it home.

          4. Alienor

            It’s the same for me–we moved six times between states, then my parents got divorced and I moved a couple more times with my dad, then I got married and lived in various places, and then both of my parents moved individually to different states. I don’t have a childhood home or even a hometown, and if for some reason I had to move in with my mother (my dad died several years ago) I’d be living at my mom’s house, not “living at home.”

            Conversely, my 19-year-old daughter is living with me while she goes to college, and I *would* say she’s living at home, because we moved to our current house when she was a child and have lived in it for more than half her life. But if she moved out for a while and I moved to a different place, and then she moved in with me there, she wouldn’t be living at home, just living with me. I guess you could call it semantics, but there really do seem to be different gradations.

        2. Elizabeth H.

          To me it’s like when people say “I don’t drink” when they mean “I don’t drink alcohol” – it’s a commonly understood phrase that I guess could seem less than literal to some. It has never occurred to that anyone would object to it. Like, do you also find “I don’t drink” annoying?

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

            I did not say I found it annoying. I found it puzzling. I’m actually glad I asked about it, because after reading the answers, I finally understand where it is coming from.

          2. Me2

            I don’t drink (alcohol) and it never occurred to me that what I was saying was incorrect. Thanks for the gentle poke, I’ll switch it up now.

            1. TootsNYC

              I don’t think you need to switch it up; everybody understands what you mean. It’s just a funny quirk of our language (like driving on a parkway and parking in a driveway).

              1. PlainJane

                Yup. Just like when people say they’re going out drinking, they don’t mean soda.

            2. Elizabeth H.

              Maybe you are being sarcastic and I don’t get it, but obviously it’s NOT incorrect to say “I don’t drink” to mean you don’t drink alcohol – that’s definitely what “I don’t drink” truly means. It’s a little like saying “It’s raining cats and dogs” which means “it’s raining really heavily” – it’s just a figure of speech. So is “I live at home.” I find it pedantic and weird to object to the terminology “live at home.” I guess it’s kind of like “How are you?” which doesn’t mean “I’d like to hear about your emotional state and anything that’s been on your mind lately,” it means “I acknowledge you in a spirit of cordiality.”

          3. Turquoisecow

            This reminds me of, I think it was a Dennis the Menace cartoon? wherein one of the adults proclaims to a kid that he’s never had a drink in his life, and the kid, not having learned about alcohol, is very confused about how the adult hasn’t died of thirst.

      3. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish

        This reminds me of the time a salesperson stopped by and asked if my father was home (I was probably 30ish.) My response – “probably, you might try checking at his house.”

      4. Annoyed

        How do you get your cat to pay rent? I have five of them and the lazy little mo… I mean furballs all refuse to get jobs. Slackers…

    2. Bea

      I know people who still refer to visiting their parents as “going home” and the people with their parents number in their phone says “home”. It’s a thing.

      1. StevieIsWondering

        Yes. Home is where you grew up and/or where you are from, not necessarily where you currently reside.

        1. Bea

          Yes, as in “hometown”! The place many strive to get out of at some point. Especially when you’re living in a city like Los Angeles and get asked “where are you from though?” constantly. Then there’s the few natives who love throwing it in your face that you’re not from there.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          Ohhh. Again I didn’t know that. This makes me feel bad for having gone off on that guy from Match years ago. While talking on the phone, we’d established that I’m an immigrant, and had been here 15 years, whereas he still lived in the same town where he was born and raised and had gone to high school. He then asks me, “So? Do you like it here or do you want to go home?” I was speechless. After I finally picked my jaw up off the floor, I informed the man that, if he did not feel that I was at home here and that I belonged here, then that was his right, but we would likely not be a good match. Maybe his comment was more harmless than I’d thought it to be all these years, after all. The more you know!

          This also helps answer the question I get often, “where in (home country) are you from?” Always has been a mystery to me, because I had relocated several times while living there, and so never knew what to say to that. Lately, I just started telling people where my home town is, that seems to be the answer they expect.

          1. Flower

            I like to ask people where they grew up (as opposed to where they’re from) and if they say something along the lines of “lots of places” I’ll ask “Is there a particular place that feels like home?” In undergrad I usually asked “Where’s home for you” but once you’re out of that environment where most people you interact with aren’t permanently living where you meet them, you have to find a different way of asking it.

            It’s definitely hard to figure out how to word it though, and it can be a weird question! I suspect he really did think of it as “that’s where you grew up, so that’s your ‘home'” – even if that’s not how you felt about it.

      2. I'm A Little TeaPot

        in my case, it’s so much easier to just use Home as the contact name. My home phone number is actually in as Teapot-Home, as opposed to Teapot- Work

        1. Annoyed

          When I still had a landline (omg has it been over ten years?!) “Home” was that number. Hardly my parents’ homes.

          Of course where I grew up hasn’t been home since I was about nine years old. So there’s that.

      3. Oxford Coma

        I was taught in freshman infosec that you always put your cell contacts by the person’s name rather than their relationship to you. It creates another layer of obstacles for phone thieves trying to commit fraud through social engineering.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          (suddenly thankful that I jokingly put my mom’s number into my phone as “Boss”. Good luck with that, phone thieves!)

        1. An Underemployed Millennial

          The first house I lived in actually was built on land that my ancestors have been on for thousands of years! So if I called it my ancestral home it would be accurate. But a natural disaster destroyed it 20 years ago so the house itself doesn’t exist anymore even though I do still have extended family in that neighborhood.

  2. Anastasia Beaverhausen

    Ah, mothers. I have one, and am one. I feel your pain. Love Alison’s compassionate yet practical reply!!

  3. Temperance

    Booth and I occasionally work from home at the same time. What works for us, and might not work for you, since we’ve reached this agreement together, is that he’ll throw on headphones if he needs peace/silence and when he does that, we’ll IM instead of talk to each other. (He does this in the office, too.)

    It’s definitely a different dynamic to be in a romantic relationship vs. a parent/child dichotomy. Is your mom needy in other ways, too – does she have an active social life with friends, does she date, etc.? She might be trying to meet a need by being so demanding/needy while you’re trying to work.

    1. Naptime Enthusiast

      Same with my SO, except he will throw headphones on when I’m working. We have a shared office/computer room, and I don’t mind him being in the room while I’m working as long as he leaves me alone when I’m on the phone. It works fine because I only WFH infrequently, not on a regular basis.

      1. TootsNYC

        he will throw headphones on when I’m working

        I think you don’t mean it this way (I’m assuming he puts them on so the music will occupy him), but I find that when I put headphones on, even if the video is now over or the music stopped and the headphones are silent, I find myself less inclined to interact with other people.

        If I worked from home with someone, or in a shared office, I might put “blank” headphones on just to remind myself to stay in my own bubble, and not bother people.

        1. Elizabeth H.

          I do that too! It’s kind of like a mental trick, I think. It definitely makes me feel a little more ‘shut off’ even if the silent headphones barely if at all affect my hearing.

        2. Naptime Enthusiast

          His headphones are noise-muffling rather than noise-cancelling, but yes this definitely helps him stay in his zone rather than looking up every time I say something on the phone thinking I’m trying to get his attention.

        3. Oxford Coma

          I love using silent headphones for the visual barrier, because I get jumpy if I can’t hear what’s happening behind me. Cubicles that force you to face inwards are the devil.

    2. Lil Fidget

      This is a good technique that I’ve seen people use in our open office – they put on big, bulky, visible headphones and then the pretend (?) not to hear anybody who chats at them. It’s not a very direct way to go about it, but it definitely reduces the urge of the chatters. If someone really needs them, they make a big production of having to stop what they’re doing and take the headphones off, which definitely makes you feel small if you’re just asking when they’re going to lunch or whatever. OP might try this in concert with Alison’s suggestion of stating the need for a new system – it’s just a visual reminder.

  4. spock

    If you find that she still isn’t respecting your boundaries after following Alison’s advice, another stopgap measure before you are able to move out can be a co-working space.

    1. MsMaryMary

      This was my thought too. If you’re saving up to move out, there are low costs cowork options. It sounds like your work needs quiet concentration, so the library might be a great solution.

    2. Safetykats

      Definitely co-working space, and I would just jump right to that. I know there are realtors that really work 40 hrs a week – my grandparents ran a large realty firm – but often those who are working from their homes do not. Your mom just may not understand that the expectation for a standard office job worked remotely is very different from the way she works. It sounds like you may have a reasonably good relationship with her outside of this issue, so I would just find an affordable workspace elsewhere. This way you get the ability to do your job unimpeded by her social needs, without unnecessarily straining the relationship.

      If you’re like me, it’s actually easier to work in a designated work space that’s not my home anyway. so you might find it’s a better arrangement anyway. Plus, the people you’re sharing the co-working space with are likely to be more like actual coworkers than your mom, so you may get the bonus of some functional work-type relationships as well.

  5. LJL

    Oh, I feel your pain. I had to work from my parents’ home while snowed in there and it was maddening. Here’s what worked for me (short term):

    1. Put headphones on as if you’re in a call. I did that during calls, yes, but when I saw how well it worked, I kept them on after the call was over!
    2. Keep up with the closed door, but give her some idea of when she can talk. With my folks, I said “see you at 10:30!” to get them to understand that I’d be available at that time. And then keep it.
    3. If possible, work from another level in your house. This further gets the idea of the separation. I worked from my bedroom upstairs from their bedroom and the main living area.

    Good luck!

  6. Elizabeth K

    Door hangers are a good idea. Maybe setup a specific break time to take with your Mom and limit it to a set time. I’m thinking your Mom is lonely and needs someone to talk to. Another idea is to find your Mom a friend who she can talk to instead of you or perhaps get her a puppy so she can go for a walk and relieve her stress (you too?).

    Just let your Mom know you have a lot of work to do and how important it is. See if she can contain herself until your break time. Get her fixed on having a schedule with you like in a real work setting that is structured. Her job is more social and yours is computer oriented?

    Know that your Mom loves you and perhaps even values your opinion and that is why she comes to you. Just remind her that you need to concentrate and not be interrupted, but you value you and would love to chat when your scheduled break(s) comes up.

    1. Carpe Librarium

      I was thinking of maybe plamning to share lunch breaks every day or every few days.
      OP and Mum can both spend 30/45/60 minutes ‘off the clock’ when these conversations can happen.

    2. AnimalsAreFriends

      I’d just like to chime in and say that “get her a puppy” is probably not the best option here. People should adopt animals because they want to care for them and love them and give them a good life, not to use as an excuse for more exercise or as a distraction. Having an animal is a huge undertaking and, in my opinion, should not be taken lightly, nor do I feel animals should be “given” to someone else as a surprise gift. I know your comment meant well but I just wanted to remind anyone reading this that animals are living beings, require responsibility to care for, and are not simply a tool for alleviating stress :) (Although they can be very effective at that, of course!)

  7. AwkwardestTurtle

    I wonder if OP is able to take a “lunch break” like if she were working in a regular office, where she could sit and eat with Mom and listen to everything that happened all morning. Not as ideal as getting her to stop all together, but my experience with personalities like Mom’s is that they *really* feel like they need to share these details with someone. If Alison’s advice doesn’t work, this might be something to try.

    1. Wannabe Disney Princess

      Yup. This is mine to a T. And while I don’t live with her nor work from home, I’ve discovered that having boundaries and limiting the work conversations to once a week has done WONDERS. Plus, I save up my stories for then so it’s an actual conversation.

      (I may or may not have started this after an unwelcome 6 am phone call…..)

    2. CM

      Or she could suggest that right after work they can have a glass of wine or mug of tea and talk about the day. Then instead of a constant trickle of information, it can be saved up for one chunk which is likely to be less exhausting. Also, if her mom tries to give updates, she can interrupt and tell her that she is busy and can it wait until that time. If it still doesn’t work then try just giving noncommittal answers and moving on. It makes venting less satisfying if no validation is given which may encourage her to redirect to a time that you will give her a sympathetic ear.

    3. pancakes

      “they *really* feel like they need to share these details with someone” — I’ve encountered people who feel that way, but the idea that anyone with the misfortune to be in their vicinity is obliged to placate their needs doesn’t sit well with me at all. People who feel a need to foist banal stories about all their work emails upon others regardless of their interest, or to narrate everything they’re thinking and feeling, no matter how dull or inconsequential, probably need boundaries and composure more than they need a willing listener. I don’t think it’s reasonable or fair for them to demand a daily lunch or even a routine after-work coffee chat as tedious & one-sided as that.

      1. Annoyed

        I agree. I even agree that it shouldn’t be required even if it’s the mom.

        However…in reality parent/child dynamics, even adult children, especially those still living in their patent(s)’ house(s) are rarely that simple.

        IMO the OP needs to figure out a way to work uninterrupted (shared office?) and move into her own place.

        Shes a working adult. Time to save a bunch of money is nice but a luxury if one really wants to establish themselves as an adult with reasonable boundaries.

        It’s a luxury…is it worth the cost OP?

  8. Manders

    A lot of successful real estate agents are social people who enjoy talking for long periods of time (because the job really does require you to be chatty and cheerful during long hours of looking at homes). It sounds like your mom is great at the socializing part of the job, but not so good at tolerating the parts of her work that have to be done alone.

    This doesn’t solve your immediate problem, but in the longer term, would it be possible for her to work out of an office with other real estate agents or in a coworking space with public areas for chatting? If she doesn’t want that or you don’t have the option of moving out soon, would it be possible for you to rent an office with a door in a coworking space?

    1. Blue_eyes

      This. It sounds like your mom is the kind of person who really needs to be around other people during much of the day. So WFH is probably just not a good set up for her long term.

      1. Lil Fidget

        I was thinking. Boy, OP, you can try these techniques and see some improvement but chatty person + boundary issues because it’s your mom + power disparity if it’s her house … I don’t see this being workable long term. I think you should definitely be pursuing all options that are moving you towards a different working space.

      2. Trudy Scrumptious

        I was thinking the same thing; scheduled lunch or coffee breaks, just as if they were working in a traditional office.

    2. MassMatt

      Interesting, I had a different take. To me the mom sounds like she is not doing well in real estate and is lonely, so she’s at home talking to/pestering her daughter with yadda yadda updates. Why isn’t she out chatting up prospective clients, or networking with other professionals, talking with co-workers, etc? It sounds like she has too much time on her hands.

      OP, have the conversation, set boundaries, and try the sign on the door. Working put of the house a bit is a good idea too. Good luck!

      1. Manders

        That’s a good point. I don’t know enough about the day to day lives of real estate agents to tell for sure that mom’s business is going poorly, but I do know that it’s a career that requires a pretty high tolerance for frustration and risk. The people I know who succeeded as real estate agents are unusually good at keeping calm under pressure and not taking business setbacks personally.

  9. Catabodua

    Have the conversation, keep the door closed for sure, but I’m also thinking set up meetings with her? Like you’ll have lunch together today or have a coffee break at 3? And then ignore her otherwise. Harsh, but I think it’s probably going to get to that point for you to keep up with work.

    1. TootsNYC

      Once you make that “date,” put a note on the door above the “do not disturb” sign (“coffee with mom, 2:30”) and set an alarm on your phone, so you never miss that date (let her know you’ve done that, so she can lay that anxiety down, too).

  10. k.k

    After you have this discussion with her, if the, “I know you don’t want to hear this but…” continues, I would stop her off and say, “It’s not that I don’t want to hear about your day, it’s that I’m on the clock right now and can’t. Can we chat about this later?” That can soften it and help her make the metal divide between “Ungrateful child who can’t be bothered to listen to her mother for 5 seconds” and “Adult child who is at work but would love some quality time later”.

    1. Thursday Next

      Ooh, I like this. And combined with Elizabeth K’s suggestion of setting aside a specific “Mom break” time, I think this would be an excellent strategy!

    2. TootsNYC

      Or, “No, Mom, I -want- to hear it. I -can’t- hear it now. I’ll come find you [at X time].”

    3. Gyrfalcon

      Also I think it will help to be prepared to cut. her. off.

      It sounds like LW may be waiting for her mother to give her permission to leave the conversation. Don’t give her that leverage. Have the one-time long sit down conversation to explain what’s needed. But then, after LW says “I can’t talk right now,” if Mom just keeps talking “oh honey, this will only take a minute, now let me tell you about Edna …” LW can just cut it off. “Mom, I’m going back to my work now. See you tonight.” Stop talking, close door, end of.

  11. C.

    The writer has my complete sympathy. I work from home a few days a week, and while I don’t experience anywhere near the same situation, for some reason, my roommates/loved ones don’t understand or always respect that I’m actually working/need to concentrate/have to take important phone calls/etc. It’s this weird mental block for them, which I can understand on some level, but I resent the implication that I’m sipping drinks on the beach instead of actually plugging away at work. It’s very annoying.

    1. swingbattabatta

      My mom frequently calls to ask if she can stop by. Sure, stop by, but I’m not coming out of my office…

  12. Lily Rowan

    This would totally be my mother, because she’s a total extrovert who wants to process everything out loud. It is not her fault! But she should not have a fairly isolated work-from-home job. All of Alison’s advice for the OP is excellent, but if there’s any way to encourage the mom back into an office job (a real estate office?), I feel like that would be the best for everyone.

    1. Safetykats

      I’m just wondering why it is OP’s responsibility to somehow solve her mom’s issues in this area. Sure, mom might be happier working in an office – but maybe not, because it sounds like mom might be one of those people who really doesn’t work a lot of the day anyway (which is cool, a lot of people go into realty as a part-time gig). But mom is an adult, and should be able to figure out and manage her own social needs. Presumably she didn’t just sit around and talk to the house plants while OP was in school.

  13. Ennigaldi

    “Should I respond with every single thing that’s going on at my job? The countless, monotonous emails I’ve had today describing to a partner what a vector image is so I can properly place their logo in a document?”

    I do this to my sister when she texts me too much asking why I’m late or just taking too long for her liking. “I am putting on my shoes.” “Got my keys!” “Now I’m walking to the car.” It works amazingly well! Probably not on a talkative mom, though.

    1. Specialk9

      To be fair, if you’re late, you’re in the wrong, not the person texting to ask where you are. Not really applicable here.

      1. Ennigaldi

        My sister is the Late One in the family, she’s just impatient with others on top of it. Thanks though!

    2. eplawyer

      I would have a totally different reaction.
      Instead of responding with “Mom, please I can’t talk, I have to work.” Say “I’m sorry Ms. whatever, I’m working on this project.” Then turn back and focus on the project. If she catches you in the hallway, just keep walking. Don’t respond even with “uh-huh” “that’s nice” “oh really.”
      Yeah, I’m rude. But the only way I got my mother to stop calling me during the work day was to just simply never answer her calls. She got the hint — in about two years.

  14. Lizabeth

    Give the local library a try for the day. Mine is pretty quiet, tables scattered around in nooks and crannies plus study rooms available. Wifi is decent and hours are okay. Your library may be different.

    It may help “kickstart” your mom as far as being unavailable plus give you a break.

    1. Hills to Die on

      I do that, or go to a coffee shop. It was a lifesaver when my kids were little.

    2. SignalLost

      Check it out before committing. I love my local library systems, and feel very fortunate to have both a city and a county system to utilize, but in general, they’re not quiet, the librarians are not monitoring the patrons for noise, they are high traffic, they have a lot of homeless people (many of whom talk to themselves or have truly startling quantities of possessions they move around, usually in noisy trash bags ), and don’t have hours that match up with a typical workday. (My closest library opens between 11 am and 1 pm, depending on the day of the week.) I still find it preferable to Starbucks, with its uncomfortable chairs and too-loud music, but if you need quiet to concentrate or want to work on a specific schedule, a public library is possibly not a great choice.

      1. Anxa

        Oh agreed.

        In my current location there is only one library left where you can read or work, and that’s closing for ‘renovations’ in a month. I wish co-working spaces tax deductible (above the line).

        Our local library system really is more like a social services / childcare center now. It features, I kid you not, a toy that’s basically a giant drum filled with blocks that toddlers are meant to spin around and around like a dryer. In the middle of room.

  15. MuseumChick

    Door hanger and/headphone + Having this discussion Alison suggested + become very boring to have a conversation with.

    Her: “Potential buyer decided to reject myclient’s second counteroffer!”
    You: “Ok.”
    Her: “Can your believe it?”
    You: “I have to get back to work. Let me just grab some water”
    Her: “Blah blah blah”
    You: “Ok.” *grabs water and walks back to work area”

    Her: “Jane is upset I wasn’t more assertive with trying to get her to understand the initial offer was a good one.”
    You: “Ok.”
    Her: “Blah blah blah blah”
    You: “Ok.”

    1. LQ

      I’m interested in anyone who has been successful at being a boring conversationalist and having it work with people like this. My experience is that they often are entirely ok if you are part or totally checked out and only “yeah” “uhhuh” “ok” your side of the conversation. Or they get angry, but never stop doing it. That’s been my experience.

      (I have been successful at …being purely unfiltered me at them, which is quite delightful for me because I take off all my social filters and just be myself, but nearly always makes the relationship take a very serious hit. So…not really successful if you want to continue to maintain a relationship.)

      1. Dubious Penguin

        Yeah, I once timed a friend like this at 5 solid minutes without pausing or noticing that I was no longer responding to the conversation. People who are oblivious to the fact that they are monopolizing your time inappropriately tend to also be oblivious to other social cues.

        I mean, it’s still a good tactic to try! But I wouldn’t bank on it being a solution to the overall issue.

      2. SignalLost

        One of my sisters believes conversation consists of her dribbling out literally every thought she has and the other person saying “uh huh” and “ok”. She will tolerate that for hours. My mother and I have started making a game of stopping responding, because after a while she realizes you’re not, but rather than asking how you are or if everything is okay, she doesn’t know what to do, panics, and gets off the phone hastily.

        1. Specialk9

          What worked for me with a friend who did that was to have a really hard talk. (And this is back before I knew how to use my words, until I had spent years stewing and was about to walk away from the friendship.) I told her that she only ever talked about herself and didn’t ask about my life or anything about me, and it made me feel like she didn’t care about me and just wanted a robot to talk at. It actually worked! She now always asks about me and my stuff. YMMV, but sometimes saying specifically the problem, your feeling, and the desired alternate behavior can work.

          1. SignalLost

            It’s a problem I’ve chosen to solve by only taking her calls when necessary (I think the last one was two years ago) and telling her to stop when it gets really egregious, such as reading menus to me. I’ve tried naming the problem, and it doesn’t work. She’s aware she drives people crazy, she’s aware she’s got ADHD, she’s aware she’s lost jobs over her talking, and she can’t put all that together and take action. I’ve done what I can, and am now just in the mode of triaging what I experience.

        2. Lil Fidget

          I have put the phone down and wandered off to make food / coffee and then come back in time to say “uh huh” into the phone … then off to go to the restroom … and the person I’m thinking of has never noticed or cared.

        3. Annoyed

          My sister does this. First she only contacts me when she wants/needs something. Then she goes on and on about all kinds of people I don’t and never will know, all the injustice she suffers…and…she wants me to be OUTRAGED on her behalf. She never, ever asks about me, my life…nada. She’s not a child or even young. She’s 51 years old. Way past time to “think of other people.”

      3. Inspector Spacetime

        Same. When I was in high school I used to play this game with myself where I tried to see if I could last the whole ride to school in a “conversation” with my mom without saying a word. She never picked up on it and just chatted happily along, haha.

      4. SKA

        Yeah, that would 100% not work with my own mom. Then again, even when I try telling her point blank “Mom, please don’t tell me about [the plot of a reality tv show that you watch and which I do not care about/what coupons you used at the grocery store yesterday/too-personal details about your relationship with dad/etc.],” her response is always “Oh I know you don’t care/don’t want to hear about it, but… [continues to talk about the thing for 15+ more minutes]”

        1. Annoyed

          I started responding “don’t care” every single time however many times necessary. Not to my mom, she’s been gone ten years but to my sister. It works about 50/50.

      5. CM

        I actually have had this work. My coworker needed constant validation that she was wronged in everything (personal and professional life) and when I stopped being sympathetic she stopped venting to me as much. When I started suggesting things she could do to make her situation better she stopped completely.

  16. AliceBG

    BOUNDARIES, LW! You have to set boundaries with your mother, LW, and enforce them when she violates them. (And she will keep violating them even after you’ve set them, to test you.)

    In the meantime, find some quiet place outside of the house like a library to work in and don’t respond to any communication from your mother while you’re on the clock.

    1. NaoNao

      O…kay? And how will she “enforce boundaries” with her mom, who is letting her live there as an adult? How is she going to maintain a pleasant, workable, everyday relationship with her mom/mom’s partner or whoever else lives there after she “enforces boundaries”?

      I know advice like this means well, but it always bugs me to see very general, vague advice couched as a “MUST DO”.

      1. Inspector Spacetime

        Yeah. Boundaries are great, but I’ve noticed that it’s a lot easier to maintain them long-distance. Not so much when you live in the same house.

      2. Rusty Shackelford

        Enforcing your boundaries doesn’t have to be rude.

        “Sorry, Mom, I can’t talk right now. Can we get together at lunchtime and I’ll hear about your morning?”

        1. grace

          Yep. A lot of internet advice about boundaries can be aimed at relationships with romantic partners or friends, which means there’s a totally different set of rules – I can tell my partner that he needs to leave me alone in the morning before I’ve had my coffee OR ELSE, but lemme tell you, if I said that to my mom while I was living at home (approx 2 weeks ago, ha), it would have been an entirely different conversation.

          Setting boundaries with parents means being more respectful, sometimes – at least, if it’s a healthy relationship, which it sounds like this one is! There’s nothing wrong with saying that you’re working and need her to respect that, or setting a time for you two to chat the way has been suggested upthread. Pulling the “grey rock” or whatever other borderline-rude things have been suggested here shouldn’t be the first resort with parents (especially ones who are letting you live in their house) – they should be the last.

  17. Secretary

    I think this is great advice. I don’t think your mom is trying to be disruptive, she may actually work very effectively by talking out loud. Some people actually get more done when they talk out loud about what they’re doing. That doesn’t mean you have to be there for it, but a couple discussions and boundary setting should solve the problem.

  18. Nanny

    Wish I saw this when I lived with my sister and baby niece last year. I was allowed to work from home about one day a week and my sister definitely thought this meant I was avaialable for diaper changing, feeding, listening to rants….

    1. Safetykats

      This reminds me of a friend who worked from home with a young child. She was interviewed about the arrangement for the company newsletter, and at one point they asked if she wanted to talk about anything they hadn’t asked. She said “I want to talk about childcare!” They (of course) hadn’t thought to ask about childcare, because they somehow assumed she was actually doing 8 hrs of work a day while caring for a 2 yr old. She corrected their error.

      1. Jen S. 2.0

        Frankly, I think that’s *her* error. Everywhere I’ve ever worked (yes, I know, anecdote =/= data) has been explicit that telework =/= child care. Finding child care is your responsibility. Assuming she is in the US, apparently her company made assumptions and wasn’t explicit with her about it, but where did she get the idea she could work standard business hours for an outside company and simultaneously raise a young child with no outside help … and then how did she think she should make it the company’s problem when she couldn’t?

        1. cataloger

          I think Safetykats is saying that her friend does have childcare, and understands that that’s the norm for telework, but that the person interviewing her didn’t ask about it, assuming she was caring for the child while working from home. Since the interview was specifically about the arrangement, I think child care was a great aspect of it to bring up, so others considering asking for that arrangement will know to plan for it.

  19. JustAGirlTryingToMakeIt

    I work from home as well and sympathize. Could you escape to a coffee shop/local library in the mornings until lunch? Eat lunch with your mom for an hour then go to your home office for the rest of the afternoon? That’s what I do and it works for now. Good luck! :)

  20. Mr Grinch

    I think it would be best to get out of the house. Coworking space, coffee shop, library… wherever.

  21. Kat Em

    My husband and I both work from home in a not-large apartment (AKA, no close-able doors between us), and I know I’m guilty of this sometimes. My work is very verbally oriented, so my instinct is to chat while I do it. His is very technical and focused. Our solution was for him to get some really nice noise cancelling headphones. I still have a habit of narrating my work out loud, but it doesn’t bother him, and if it’s really important we can talk about it later in the day. The difference seems to be that I’m aware that it’s an issue and I’m totally on board with him ignoring me half the day.

  22. Ms. Meow

    Put a white board on your door! I did this in college with a chatty roommate. If I had my “Do Not Disturb” sign up, she knew to write me a note on the board. That way I knew she wanted to chat and when I was ready for a break I’d find her to talk with her. Of course, we’d also leave funny or cute notes for each other, which I know would be right up my mom’s alley.

    1. Manders

      Oh, that’s a great idea! It combines clearly reminding mom that you don’t want to be disturbed with giving her a way of getting the thought out of her head immediately.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

      OMG my roommates and I had a notepad on our door in college. I had totally forgotten it until your comment. Yes, agree, it was really useful! People left notes for us on it, some of them pretty important. For one semester in our first year, we had two second-year girls move into our room with us, who’d gotten randomly assigned to our room. I am pretty sure they once came out to us in a note on that notepad. Of course, it being 1985 in Eastern Europe, their note went right over our heads, and I didn’t find out until a year later that our former roomies had been a couple.

    3. MsMaryMary

      My sophomore year in college I ended up having to write 10 papers in two weeks. I literally did nothing but go to class, go to the library, go to group meetings (because one of them was a *group* paper), write, sleep, and eat. I had a white board on my door, and I wrote, “Do not disturb! Mary needs to write 10 papers in 14 days! See you on May 10!” I updated the numbers as I went “Mary needs to write 7 papers in 8 days!” “Mary needs to write 2 papers in 4 days!” People wrote encouraging notes and would give me pep talks when they passed me on the stairs or saw me in the dining hall “Hey, only two more to go!”

      I totally forgot about this until right now.

    4. Pollygrammer

      A nice white lie, if you don’t use it too often, is a sign that says “On A Call.”

  23. overcaffeinatedandqueer

    Ugh, extroverts! My natural temperament is introversion (my mom tells how I hated noise as a baby), and I also am very quiet because of past life events.

    I would snap and murder LW’s mom! As it were, my wife is an extrovert and so I can’t always give her my full attention or energy if she’s just talking to talk. If it annoys her or she needs my attention, she says something like “I’m going to set my hair on fire” to check I’m listening.

    Mom is probably an extrovert. Maybe OP is an introvert if the interruptions are such a drain. Personally I don’t see the value in talking unless you have something to say.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I don’t think this is about introversion on the OP’s side. It’s about needing to focus on work, which extroverts in many jobs also need!

    2. Katie the Fed

      I’m actually an introvert but being home all day right now with the baby nearly drives me crazy. I have to get out of the house and see adult humans at least once a day or I lose my mind.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale

      This is not introverts vs. extroverts. This is about boundaries, which are not exclusive to either group. Even if LW’s mom is extroverted, that doesn’t automatically make her bad or wrong. She’s annoying, for sure, but not everything is a battle between people who like to talk and people who don’t.

    4. SheLooksFamiliar

      Ditto what everyone else has said so far. See, I’m the chattiest introvert you’ll ever meet. I like people and am genuinely interested in them. My job requires me to engage with people at all levels, and I love spending time with my friends and family. Heck, I can be downright charming when I need to be. But people wear me out and my Talk Tank is empty by the end of the day. I can only refill it with a LOT of alone time.

      Introverts can be quiet and withdrawn, but they can also be engaging and friendly. Until they’re done being outgoing, and then they need to go. Also, I know some extroverts who are low key but they need to be around people, even if they don’t engage with them relentlessly.

      1. Parenthetically

        This is me to a T, and my brother is the low-key extrovert — loves being around people but is very happy just to sit and chat or even observe. Not every introvert is quiet, not every extrovert is gregarious.

      2. Marvel

        I’m that type of extrovert! I’m often very quiet, withdrawn, and slow to open up to people. But, I only feel energized by being around others. That’s all introvert/extrovert means, but it’s taken on so many cultural connotations that’s it’s like people think there are only two types of people, at all, period.

    5. pancakes

      I had a different take on that – they sound a *lot* alike to me, not in terms of being extroverted but in terms of being unfiltered. The lengthy and detailed section of the letter titled “Here was my day today so far” struck me as sounding exactly like what the letter writer wants help with: “You have to stop telling me about every single thing . . .” The bits about the second counter-offer, the trip to the bathroom, Jane, etc., are . . . telling us every single thing. And aren’t necessary to understanding what the conflict is here. It’s amazing and kind of cute.

  24. Hey Karma, Over here.

    “I know you don’t want to hear it, but I have to tell you….”
    Yes, mom, I do want to hear it. I want to sit down with a cup a coffee and dish about everyone. What I don’t want is to stop working right now to it.

    1. Lil Fidget

      Yeah this may not be the issue for OP but my problem is definitely that I *am* sometimes eager to be distracted from my (currently boring, pointless) job so I extra can’t handle any temptation to be distracted :( Managing the mom is one task, managing mySELF is much harder.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.

        Come, sit next to me! I am the wor..squirrel!…what was I typing? Oh yeah, during the workday, just about any…squirrel! um, yeah, where was I? Off track. Yeah, any excuse some days.

      2. Buffay the Vampire Layer

        Can we all take a long coffee/gossip break together? I have the same issues.

  25. Workfromhome

    Until the OP has the option to move out it might almost help to put some mild shaming into the conversation. “Mom I love spending time with you and talking outside of work. However I must stop talking with you during the workday. Interrupting me when I’m working is impacting my productivity and it hurts me in my job. It can and will hurt my chances from promotion etc etc. I need you to help me be successful in my job by leaving me alone during the workday. I know you care about me and don’t want me to lose y job” If she still cant stop you simply have to get out of there in some manner. Also I’d suggest that you keep closing your door and let her know that you are not to be disturbed unless there is an emergency. Wear headphones :-) I find that works well because if she is yelling at you it wont disturb you. If she insists on banging in the door so loudly you hear it over your headphones you have bigger problems.

  26. Margot the Destroyer

    I live at my parent’s house as well and have similar issues. It was at first to help me transition to a new career and get out of debt, which turned into now my parents wanting me to stay to help with their bills and help care for my grandmother who lives with us. The situation is fine most times, but also stinks that I cant just have friends over whenever I want.

    Anyway, my father retired last year and doesn’t understand he cannot just barge into my room to ask questions about his cell phone since I have random conference calls throughout the week. Or when he asks me to take a lunch at 9 in the morning to give my grandmother a shower. It doesn’t work that way, but luckily most of my calls are with the same group of people who understand the situation, but it can still be a bit frustrating at times.

  27. The Cosmic Avenger

    Now this has me thinking of making one of those (usually small) circular signs with a wedge cut out of the top wheel, and choices on the wheel underneath, and depending on how you rotate the bottom wheel, one choice will show up through the top wheel cutout. What are those things called??? My Google-fu is failing me! I want to see if what I’m thinking of making already exists, or if there are blank templates.

    1. Ron McDon

      We use these at school – they’re called story wheels. Link to follow – there are ‘segmented circle’ templates online that would work for a more grown-up version!

  28. Uncle Bob

    Your mom needs to be around people. I would highly recommend a co-working space. Have her sign up for 1-2 days a week that she can be at a co-working space. These are folks to go get coffee with and chat with.

    1. SignalLost

      They’re actually there to work, in my experience with them. I’d be pretty mad, at the prices they charge in my area, to have to do the job OP wants to do, of explaining that I can’t talk to her mother all the damn time.

      1. Tassie Tiger

        Agreed…I would recommend the coworking space not for LW’s mother, but for LW, once or twice a week perhaps.

    2. mrs__peel

      Rather than a co-working space, her mom might enjoy joining a networking group or a Meetup-type social group. Around here, there are quite a few for (cough) People of a Certain Age who are retired or want to get out of the house.

  29. Katie the Fed

    I’m home with the baby on maternity leave and sometimes my husband works from home. I have to force myself not to bother him because YAY ANOTHER ADULT!!! Sigh.

    1. Parenthetically

      Yeah, I reeeeeeeeally have to reel it in when my husband gets home from work so I don’t talk his entire ear off his entire head. Bless him.

    2. Megan

      Maternity leave is wonderful and I don’t know what I would have done without it as far as getting into a routine with my baby and healing from childbirth and all of that, but man was I ready to see another adult by the end of each day.

  30. Lora

    Oh god. You have my sympathies. My mother is VERY extroverted and worked as long as possible before retiring so she wouldn’t have to be alone all day. Now I get constant texts all day when I’m working at the office and if I’m trying to work from home, arrrrgh she drives me bonkers. She will give the same importance in texts to whether the dog ate a piece of cabbage and farted at her, as she does to whether or not she needs to go to the emergency room – so I can’t really ignore it, because she is elderly and kinda senile and sometimes DOES need assistance to go to the ER. She’s also not very bright and has the emotional sensitivity of a brick, and nothing short of “you need to SHUT UP NOW, I am WORKING and I need to FOCUS ON WORK RIGHT THIS MINUTE” at top volume stops her.

    Today I was trying to use the calculator function of the phone and was interrupted by no less than 10 texts about the dog barking at a truck. The dog stopped barking when the truck went away, but I apparently needed to hear War and Peace via text about dogs, trucks, barking, leashes, etc. Maybe your mom and my mom could get together and talk at each other?

    I’m going to second the recommendation to go to a library or somewhere not at home. It’s the most straightforward way to get peace and quiet.

    1. Lil Fidget

      I had to white lie to my mom about texting during the day – I knew she would 100% never stop on her own, so I told her that my boss had noticed I was on my phone too much and told me cut back. That wasn’t actually true but it was what I was *afraid* would happen, and mom wouldn’t have responded to my anxiety as much as a direct threat to my employment. I am trying to be more direct and not rely on white lies as a crutch, but occasionally they are very effective.

      1. Lora

        18 dude. Current text count about dogs, dog barking, dog walking, dog acting funny is now at 18.

        I sometimes think terrible thoughts about the day when I get to have my life to myself because elder care will officially be Over.

        1. AKchic

          I feel you here. I am so glad my grandma does not text. She calls, but limits her calls when I’m at work (but doesn’t understand why I work, why can’t my husband just find a job that supports *all* of us like a *good* husband should). If I don’t answer my phone, she calls my mother (who’s office is just down the hall from me).
          Luckily, she only calls at work if she absolutely needs something immediately (that she “didn’t want to trouble” us with at any other time of the week). *sigh* Grandma, you running out of diapers is kind of a major thing. You need to tell us before you’re wearing your last one, and the caregivers tell you when they open the last pack that you need to tell us. It’s your responsibility to say something. You have three kids and me who are all happy to buy supplies and bring them out. All you have to do is tell us. Luckily I live two blocks away from her facility and I keep extras of everything and my husband works a different shift. He’s had to drop supplies off a few times. My teen has had to run supplies down a few times after school. My uncle and my mom/stepdad have spare keys to my garage so they can access the storage cabinet where all the supplies are kept just in case.

  31. Nanc

    I have no helpful suggestions but must say that photo on the post–thumbs up! They look like they’re just starting to grab each other by the throat!

  32. Scott

    Is there anyway you can go to a public library/ coffee shop/ or coworking space in your town for at least some of your time? Or maybe schedule time with your mom for her to vent about work stuff during lunch or something so she doesn’t interrupt you.

    It sounds like she is really craving human interaction during the day.

  33. Granny K

    Go find a coffee shop with free wireless. Go there with some sound canceling headphones and your laptop. Buy coffee and park in the corner.

    1. Snark

      This really isn’t an everyday solution, and camping out at a coffee shop really ties up tables for customers actually there for the coffee. A coworking space would be better.

  34. Higher Ed Database Dork

    There are a lot of great suggestions on here already. I’m just here to commiserate – my mom is an out-loud processor and tells me EVERYTHING in her brain. I worked from her house for a few months when I first went back to work after maternity leave, and she was taking care of my daughter – her first grandbaby, so add all the excitement and wanting to share ALL of Baby’s experiences to the mix.

    What worked for me is the following:
    – designate a specific time for sharing so she can unload, but not bother you
    – use signs on the closed door to indicate your status
    – have that sit down conversation!!!!

    My mom can be very emotional and thinks not wanting to hear every thought in her brain = rejection. I had to be very direct and tell her that I love her, I’m extremely grateful for the child care, but I am here to work, and my working is not a rejection, it is how I support my family. “Support my family” was the magic phrase that worked on her, so find whatever works for your mom.

  35. bopper

    The other thing that might work is scheduling “breaks” and let her know she can talk to you then. Mention what AAM said, but then say “I will be taking a short coffee break at 10:30 so you can talk to me then. (or lunch time or whatever)”
    Then when she bangs on your door…”In the middle of something, talk to me at break time.”

    1. Close Bracket

      Yes, I was going to suggest this. Schedule breaks the way you would if you were an hourly worker. And set a timer for the break! I use the pomodoro method, which has work periods and break periods. Having a timer for when I get my unmotivated, procrastinating heiny back to work really helps me actually get back to work. It might be like an ally in ending conversations so you can get back to work.

  36. essEss

    I have a rule when working from home… Everyone needs to treat me as if I’m gone to the office. If someone tries to interrupt me, I quickly respond “I’m not here!” and head back to my work area. If they have something they want to share they can send me an email just like they would if I was in an off-site office.

  37. Cassandra

    Alison, as a librarian and instructor of future librarians, I’m going to push back a bit on the offhanded “shushy librarian” bit in your response.

    First reason, absolutely relevant to the OP’s question: public libraries cannot be relied upon as guaranteed-quiet spaces. The smaller the physical footprint of the library, the less likely quiet is. Public libraries do events, storytimes and makerspace events and coding classes and other educational stuff for kids, reference consultations with patrons, technology instruction/consultation, and the list goes on — and very little of that is quiet (especially when kids are involved!). A larger (often urban) public library is more likely to be able to zone its space to provide quiet spaces, but a small-building Carnegie in a small town? Forget it.

    Second reason: the “shushy librarian” stereotype does active harm to librarians’ ability to serve their patron communities. Some potential patrons are scared off because of it, especially young folks and folks who (often for good and cogent reasons) fear government authorities. Others don’t realize how or how much librarians and libraries can help them, since all they know is this constantly-repeated incorrect, reductionist (and arguably sexist) caricature. Still others use the caricature as a rallying point for defunding public libraries.

    I know you meant no harm, but please, please avoid the “shushy librarian” thing in future. Thanks!

    1. SignalLost

      I’ve noticed that my libraries have gone screaming (sometimes literally) away from shushy. It’s kind of nice, and I definitely love that libraries are reenvisioning themselves, but they don’t really make for quiet workspaces unless you’re completely distraction-proof when working.

      1. Parenthetically

        Yeah, I really love that more libraries are… quiet but without that pin-drop stillness I remember from my youth. The library at my grad school is a studier’s/quiet worker’s heaven. The ground floor has a coffee machine, a hot chocolate (!!) machine, hot water for tea, an array of snacks, and an honor box with suggested prices. The librarians have iPads at standing desks and greet you cheerily as you come in. It’s very chatty and warm, and nobody feels compelled to talk in a hush. The second and third floors are quiet zones. There are huge tables scattered throughout that are perfect for spreading out, and there’s a museum with fun old books/scrolls/manuscripts under glass that you can peruse. Glorious.

        1. SignalLost

          I was actually thinking of suggesting OP look at academic libraries, but the nature of her job means she’d need WiFi and I’m not aware you can get that anywhere you’re not a registered student. I will confess to occasionally writing in libraries at schools I am not a student at, but I didn’t need WiFi.

          1. Parenthetically

            Oh interesting, I wouldn’t have thought of that. I’ve never had to sign into the wifi on my grad school campus, so there’s at least one in the world.

          2. Academic Librarian

            I’m at a public university in Georgia, and we offer free wifi to anyone. You just ask for a daily pass at the front desk. We also offer free community accounts for anyone in our local region, where you can borrow three books at a time.

            Just ask at the library, or check their website. We offer much more than people think!

            1. SignalLost

              Nice! My last school, you had to use your Student ID (or Employee ID, and if you were hired by the school as a student your SID became your EID, no there are no issues with this at all what are you talking about?) number to log in, so that was a no go unless you had one. Worth checking out!

      2. BettyD

        Yup, our library recently moved around several of its designated zones in order to match quiet spaces with less-quiet spaces. Think: children’s area, circulation, and group computers on one floor, and quiet study space on the other. Even with that, we don’t require pin-drop silence. It’s just not practical.

        1. Abelard

          I worked at a university library for three years, most of the ground floor was called the “No Shush Zone” but for the other 4 floors, you would get shushed if you are being disruptive of people who are studying/researching. I liked the designated zones. but it is a university/academic library and generally has different services and patronage than a public library. And more space.

    2. Kristine

      Thank you for pushing back on this. It is a tiresome cliche and irrelevant today.
      So is “dusty archives.”

    3. nani1978

      Thank you for speaking up. I emerged from lurkerdom to make a couple of these points, and you have said it so well. It truly surprises me that Alison would make even the quick joke about it, given the numerous public library facilities and full community services available where she lives (or at least where she recently lived).

    4. Anxa

      To be fair, a lot of us don’t visit the library much anymore because the shushy librarians have been replaced with activity director type librarians. I miss the days (or perhaps it was a factor of the place I lived) when library workers would help protect some quieter space.

      I still check books out, but not nearly as much. Because I don’t really stop by to browse (an old favorite past-time) because I feel like I’m walking through a zoo sometimes.

  38. Tiny_Tiger

    Oh man, I’ve been dealing with this as well from a friend, thankfully only through IM. I work part-time in an office 1-2 days a week and then I work from home at my business the rest of the week. This friend could not seem to grasp the concept that just because I was home didn’t mean I was free to talk every day! And for me, I make all the products I sell by hand so if I’m constantly interrupted and can’t work, I don’t have stuff to sell. Even after ignoring him for a couple days he would still keep on going. One meme on Facebook about “Just because I’m working from home doesn’t mean I’m free to talk and hang out every day!” later and suddenly no problems… Yes, it’s passive-aggressive as hell but it’s been a really bad couple weeks and I didn’t want to end up yelling at him… If this had been my mom I would’ve had a lot less reservations about talking about it directly because she’s a grown woman and should know about professional boundaries by this point…

  39. SheLooksFamiliar

    Back when I worked 100% from my home office, the hardest part was dealing with my then-partner and friends. They asked me to do all kinds of things because, after all, I was at home. I reminded them that I was WORKING, just happened to be at home.

    Also, I learned to say ‘No’ a lot. No, I can’t walk your dogs. No, I can’t hang out at your house to let the plumber in. No, I can’t pick up your dry cleaning. No, I can’t drive an hour to meet you for lunch. It took some time and persistence on my part, but they finally got the message.

    1. MommyMD

      How rude they were. My daughter’s boyfriend lives with me and has remote job from Huge Organization and when he’s on the phone we tiptoe.

  40. Glomarization, Esq.

    LW, it sounds to me that there are 2 separate things going on. One, you’re finding the interruptions problematic for getting your own work done. But also two, you seem to have less of a need to think out loud and constantly chat with another person than your mom does.

    Lots of good suggestions from Allison and the commentariat for addressing the first issue. For the second, this is the kind of thing that can make working from home really hard for some people. When I’ve worked from home or in a small, solo office, I’ve found that I’ll seriously miss interpersonal interactions after a while. Maybe Mom is the same way. Can you offer to help her find a local group of work-from-home real estate professionals that she can meet with for socializing and/or networking on a regular basis? It’ll get her out of your hair every once in a while — and also help her restrain herself by “saving up” for when she’s around her peers (who will be more interested in her shop talk than you are).

  41. MommyMD

    Lock your door. Put up a large sign that says WORKING. DO NOT DISTURB. Tell your mom ahead that you can’t talk unless it’s an extreme she’s having a heart attack emergency and that you are going to lose your job if you keep chatting your day away.

    Then with a cold stealy heart, STICK to it and take Mom to lunch on the weekends.

  42. it_guy

    I’ve done the work from home thing for several years and it took some time to impress on my family that yes, it’s “Work from Home”, not “Goof around looking busy while surfing the web at home”.

    Treat it as a job (because that’s what it is), where you’re mother is actually a person who happens to work for a different company. You just happen to be sharing your office space. Keep that perspective in mind when you are setting boundaries.

    It may take some repetition of boundaries to set in.

    Lather-Rinse-Repeat……

    1. Close Bracket

      > “Goof around looking busy while surfing the web at home”.

      That’s what the office is for. :-)

  43. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)

    Mom here. I know I’m late to the party, but maybe sI’m giving a little payback for never being able to even use a bathroom alone ;). JK, OP, but only slightly. It takes a big socializer to sell real estate- she needs to be with people more. Not ones who will steal her clients tho.

  44. Van Wilder

    Same issue except it’s my dad babysitting for me while I work from home, so I feel extra guilty because he’s doing me a favor. Good plan here!

  45. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)

    If a local library or coffee shop isn’t suitable, check out other “private public” spaces. There is a concert hall in my city that has classes and events all day, and you can hang out in the foyer where the cafe is and use the WiFi. There are similar spaces I’ve found in museums, big office complexes, and local government buildings.

  46. Roman Holiday

    I used to work from my parent’s house, and both my parents had a hard time understanding that “work from home” is not the same thing as “messing around on the computer all day”. My dad in particular was always asking me to come help him with some project “for just 10 minutes”. It was never 10 minutes. My strategy was to sit them down, and tell them to pretend I was physically out of the house in an office before contacting me. Would you call your daughter at work in an emergency or text to ask if she wants to get dinner later? Sure. Would you ask if she can drop work immediately to help you fix your phone for the 268th time during the workday? Probably not. Then, (and this is the hard part), when they’d interrupt, I’d tell them I was busy and would make time later. I also started putting a post-it on my door when I was particularly busy or on a conference call. I have a great relationship with my parents and they are fundamentally reasonable people who mostly understood and respected my boundaries, so that went a long way towards resolving that issue. Best of luck OP!

  47. Nanani

    The hardest part of working from home is getting your loved ones to understand that you are really WORKING. Even if you have a flexible schedule, you are working. You really don’t have time to entertain them, chit chat, go for last second lunch adventures, etc.

    A few hard nos will likely go a long way toward establishing that you really mean it when you say “no, I’m working”. It’s hard when it’s your mom, but it is necessary. I’d recommend taking a hard like and accept no interruptions for a little while. No exceptions, just “no” until the habit of not disturbing you sets in. Only then MAYBE start to schedule a social break with her, if that’s something you want to do.

    Resetting boundaries is weird and difficult at first, but I promise you it does work!

  48. mf

    Stock your room/office area with bottled water and snacks, any office supplies you might need, etc.. Maybe even get a cheap mini fridge. Basically, do whatever planning you can do minimize hallway/kitchen run-ins with her.

    Also, if you’re not paying rent, start doing that. Even if it’s a nominal amount. With adult kids who live with their parents, sometimes there can be this unspoken power dynamic that the child owes the parent their time, friendship, emotional support, etc. If you are paying to live there, that will upset that (unhealthy) dynamic.

  49. LawLady

    Honestly, it’s possible that this setup just isn’t going to work. When I visit my parents and try to work remotely from their house, they are terrible about constantly interrupting me. I’m a lawyer and in my late 20s. I have a heavy workload and do a lot of time-sensitive work. But when I’m at my parents’ house, they tend to revert to a lot of the child/parent interaction patterns. They don’t get why they can’t interrupt me to ask me to help with something or have a conversation, because they see me as a kid. That’s a very hard dynamic to break.

    I get that when you actually live with parents as an adult, the dynamics have to shift, but I don’t think I could ever get to a point with my parents where I could actually successfully work full time from home.

  50. Old Admin

    Basically, when I worked from home, hubby/friends/mother in law immediately perceived that as me having a day off, and proceeded to plan out my day with all sorts of activities/shopping/errands that benefitted *them*, not me. Add to that the phones calls and talking to me while I was at the computer.
    I went back to the office, and proceeded to turn off my phone. Ah, blessed peace at work. :-)

  51. E

    Can you schedule regular break times for her to unload these thoughts? For example, if you work 8-5 hours, then take a 10 am and 3 pm break for 10-15 minutes. Let her know that you need to focus between these breaks, but that she can easily jot down the important things she wants to tell you about (whether or not they’re important to you). She gets human interaction, you get peace (mostly). Then you can easily say at the end of break time that you have to get back to work.

    And maybe encourage your mom to talk to a friend or two on a daily basis so she has someone else to chat with.

  52. Triple Anon

    It might also be worth bringing this up as a work boundaries thing – her clients’ and co-workers’ privacy, not being able to help her do her job. In a friendly and non-confrontational way, of course. You could tell her you’d like to be left out of things because these people signed up to work with her, not both of you, and you don’t know what the expectations of privacy and shared work are in that field.

  53. The Other Katie

    I struggle with an Interrupting Maternal Unit too – only she interrupts me via facebook messenger. (I use fb messenger to communicate with clients so turning it off isn’t an option.) She’s retired and I swear never sleeps, and feels no compunctions about popping up any old time to ask me how my day’s going. I’ve gotten aggressive about saying “I can’t talk now, I’m working” and then going away, but I still get aggravated about it. I’m not sure how to handle it other than that.

    1. kb

      I think you can actually mute specific conversations on fb message for certain periods of time.

  54. Corporate Cynic

    My job is 100% remote, so I went home early for the Christmas holidays to spend a bit more time with the ‘rents and save on travel. However, it turned out to be a very busy time at work, and it was so hard to avoid interruptions from my mother while trying to get things done – a loud TV, random questions out of nowhere when I was frantically typing away on my laptop (“Hey, remember those green earrings I gave you last year?”), and then a huffy “Fine, I’ll leave you alone.” The concept of I’m Working Now and Don’t Do Well With Distractions was lost on her. This December, sicne I’m expecting the same workload, my trip will be shorter.

  55. Indie

    A friend who is chatty Annie’s work from home son has had good success with:
    – Closed door
    – noise cancelling headphones
    (This solved 90 per cent of the hallway drive bys).
    – if interuppted by a (rare) tap on the shoulder, move the headphones only a fraction from one ear. Do not turn away from screen.
    – responses limited to:
    “Oh my goodness what’s the emergency?”
    “I can’t talk right now” (possibly mouthed while pointing at headset)
    “We talked about this”.
    – Crucially the headphones were snapped back on and work resumed once it’s established the house is not on fire.
    – At lunch or dinner, establish a habit of asking about the morning/day. Cheerfully!

  56. kb

    I think Alison’s advice is spot-on. Everytime she knocks on the door or tries to start a conversation, let her know you’re busy right now but can talk later at night. Then go out of your way to reach out to your mom when it is a good time for you. Schedule some lunches, go out to happy hour with her. Make sure she knows that you care and appreciate that she’s letting you live at home, but make the distinction between good time and bad time very distinct.

  57. Noah

    Every time–EVERY TIME–she starts doing this during the work day, interrupt her and say, “I’m sorry, mom, I just can’t talk about this stuff during work. Let’s talk tonight/when I’m on lunch/next Tuesday/whatever.” Every time.
    When she calls your name through the door: “Busy working. Talk tonight!” Then don’t say anything else. If she keeps talking, ignore what she is saying just like she ignored what you said.

    Talking to her before hand isn’t going to work. It sounds like great advice, but it won’t stick. This isn’t a workplace and this is workplace advice. Alison suggests a gentle response when Mom does it anyway, and is styled in a way where you listen first, then answer. That will not work. You have to interrupt her. Mom isn’t seeking advice; she wants the chance to say what she’s thinking and feeling. Alison’s advice allows her that, so it does nothing to make the situation unsatisfying for Mom. Short of moving out, nothing besides aggressively shutting it down every time it happens is going to work.

  58. nora

    I would get headphones. Large one. Ostentatiously large ones. In bright colors that contrast wildly with my hair. I’d bedazzle the life out of them. And I wouldn’t take them off for anything short of a fire.

  59. Not The Maid!

    I was reading this thinking “I dont see how this can be solved” But I really Like the advice Alison Gave.

  60. Casuan

    I say this as someone whose mom once snuck into the woods to call her from a silent yoga retreat.

    ROFL!!

    We treat others how to treat us & this includes how & when to communicate with them.
    OP, stop enabling your mum. I understand that you’re doing this unwittingly although now is the time to be more aware of how you’re doing this.

    This training might take a little extra work because of family dynamics & it’s reasonable that you’d both need an adjustment period.
    Suggestions; if you think any might work then tweak to whatever works for you… as Alison said, you’re the one who knows your mum:
    -Assuming you won’t be able to get your mum to stop commenting on everything, tell her that unless she asks for your attention then you’ll assume she isn’t talking with you & it’s background noise.
    -Tell her that you do need her to stop getting your attention, especially when your door is closed. This should be the one rule that she doesn’t break.
    -You might need to compromise by offering to take a break in the middle of the day to meet your mum [in Café Kitchen or wherever] & let her tell you about what’s going on. If she needs the outlet & knows she can tell you things then this might serve that need. And/or if you can meet with her at the end of the day?
    -If you do something like meeting her, have a set break time then stick to that.

    If you can set reasonable boundaries & enforce them, your mum might be a bit offended at first… and I think soon after that she will start to respect them. And I say this as someone who has had to do the same with her mum, albeit not in a home-office setting.

    Good luck!

    You said that you’ve told her she needs to stop telling you about every single thing in her day, but that’s not the same as telling her what you need.

    This.
    Also, for some reason this phrasing really resonates with me for a certain situation. Thanks for that, Alison.

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