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

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer in March who worked from home and his mom — who he lived with — wouldn’t stop talking to him during the work day? Here’s the update.

I felt less alone knowing there were other people who deal with an interrupting maternal unit, but the most helpful piece of advice from your response was this one sentence: “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.”

You were right. Once I read that, it changed how I approached my mom. I changed the framing of the situation from “You’re a huge nuisance” to “This is affecting me in these tangible ways.” It helped—marginally. But marginally was good enough. (And I won’t lie. I legit droned on about a conversation I had about a vector image via email, like I said I would in the initial letter I sent, as an example of what the interruptions with her were like. She laughed about that and realized being on the other end of a conversation like that can be a bit much.)

Your insight on how I needed to change my habits was helpful, too. I’m much more quick to say “I’m in the middle of something and can’t break my concentration” or “Yeah, I’m free after 5:30 p.m.” I won’t say my mom or any of my family members respect these boundaries 100 percent of the time. But I’m holding myself more accountable to boundaries I’ve set.

Something else: my mom found a new job! She still does freelance on the side, but she’s no longer home all day, so I have a few hours of silence and no interruptions.

We still fall into old habits, though. Of course we do. I’ve delayed my workday to drive her to work when I can, as an example. However, on days when I have a meeting or several projects to power through, I tell her I can’t because I’m busy, even if it doesn’t feel like I’m busy. That said, one of the best things about working remotely and for my company is how flexible it is. Most days, I need to be structured. Other days, I’m OK with my work being unstructured. In part, I still live at home (a phrase I will continue to use despite the lively discussion in the comments last time) to help my mom out. So it’s nice to be able to do so when I can.

If that means sometimes I get interrupted or have to have a whole conversation that’s a back-and-forth she had with her clients, then that’s fine. But these days, I’m setting more boundaries. It’s still not an ideal situation, but it’s much better than before.

{ 78 comments… read them below }

  1. No Mas Pantalones*

    I admire your ability to work from home. If I don’t leave the house, I get too easily distracted by –SQUIRREL! …or cats. Or shiny things. Or, damn, I was meaning to move that to the kitchen…. I must leave the house. A Starbucks? Productive Pants. Home–wait, what? SQUIRREL!

    1. Snow Drift*

      I have the opposite problem. When I work at home, I end up with a cat in my lap and no ability to move for hours on end. It’s easy to be productive when you’ve got four murder mittens ready to protest every time you try to get up.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        This is pretty close to my experience. One of our cats has perfected the art of squeezing in between me and the laptop. And I don’t want to have to move the cat, move the laptop, move the blanket I usually have over my lap, and so on. So it’s fairly easy to be productive.

        1. kittymommy*

          Do you have my cat??? Truly though, they do seem to underestimate how very bigt hey are and how very little that space is. Although I guess the answer (at least to my cats) is the either myself or the object in the way can be moved. Which is how my Microsoft Surface ended up being replaced…

            1. Strawmeatloaf*

              I only wish my cat was a lap cat.

              No, what I have is a shoulder cat. One shoulder. She hangs off of one shoulder, so I have to support her with one arm, and am then stuck with only being able to use one hand to do anything on the computer. And she stays up there for 10+ minutes. She won’t claw me if I do move or have to get up, but she will stay there without moving.

              1. kitryan*

                Mine sort of climbs up on the shoulder and drops her butt down so I have to catch her in that cradle position. She’s totally happy but I can’t type that way.
                Luckily, she naps through most of the day (usually with me in her line of sight) and will also perch on the wide back of the chair and chill out while I work. The active participation portion of a typical work from home day is usually about 10-20 irritating and adorable minutes.
                Frankly, I probably bug her more than she bugs me- I request cuddles on most of my bathroom and snack breaks.

              2. Marie*

                Our cats must be twins! She also does the one-shoulder thing and will cry at your feet until you pick her up and rest her there. Then she purrs and purrs and won’t get down until you force her.

              3. CanadaTag*

                Okay, we must have quadruplet cats. Is yours also a blue tabby? ;)

                Draping herself over my shoulder (usually my right when I’m sitting, but she’ll go over the left when I pick her up and walk with her) is one of her favourite things to do when she’s on me. Claws in the shirt, hind foot and other hind leg (she’s missing her right hind foot) perched on my arm….

                She’s adorable, and loves me dearly (and vice versa), but when I’m trying to write it’s a bloody nuisance. (If I’m just sitting down to read something, whether on my laptop, eReader, or a book, it’s not so bad.)

                Yes, they must be quadruplets. :D

            1. AnonEMoose*

              I personally think cats transition between a liquid and a solid state at will…or anything in between.

            2. Mallory Janis Ian*

              My cat has perfected the art of passive resistance: when she doesn’t want to be picked up, she becomes simultaneously heavy and slinky and just puddles through your arms.

      2. Alton*

        My mom used to work from home, and it was funny because she had a cat who liked hanging out while she worked, and when my mom would take a break for lunch or something, the cat would seek her out and meow for her to return to work. It was like having a demanding boss. :P

      3. JessaB*

        Murder mittens is the most perfect description. My cat Parker, she has murder mittens, thank you for that wonderful phrase.

      4. Amber T*

        My cats refuse to actually sit nicely on my lap. They’ll either throw themselves on their backs while on my lap, forcing me to grab them so they don’t fall and hold them like a baby, or they’ll crawl up on my desk and stand in front of my monitor (I put them down, they jump back up. I put them down, they jump back up.) Cats, man.

        1. Ruthi*

          My cat adores pens. They’re her favorite toy ever. So we have tons of photos of her chewing on my dad’s pen while he tries to grade papers or study (he’s working on a PhD).

          However, our previous cat loved paper. My family remembers fondly when my dad had to tell his students “I’m sorry, my car ate your homework”

      5. TardyTardis*

        I have my computer on a sliding table (Tablemate, commercial for, adore the adjustable for height bit), which allows me to offer valuable lap space for the furball.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I like and thrive on going to an office. I would feel so chained up working at home.

      Granted my offices have always been free range. I’ll dance around my private office and am generally doing what I want. I like face time too much to depend on IM and phones to talk to even my coworkers.

    3. MLB*

      I’m the opposite. At my last job, I worked in a large building with constant interruption. I got so much more work done at home. Currently I work in a small office with 3 others, and my full team is spread across the country so I can work from home more often. It’s nice to be able to throw a load of laundry in, or load the dishwasher on my down time instead of it all piling up until after I get home from work or on the weekends.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        The way some have commented about work from home setups, I clutched my pearls at your talk of doing household chores. If that’s acceptable, I would be fine. I’m ADD and would be doing things like that, BETWEEN jobs/work duties. But I’m under the impression many remote employees are supposed to be at a desk/computer making darn sure they only take their acceptable breaks/lunch.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          I see taking 5 minutes to start a load of laundry or similar as the equivalent of taking a few minutes to talk to a coworker, or take the longer walk to the bathroom that’s required when I’m in the office vs. home.

          I’ve worked from home before when I needed to do the laundry that can’t go in the dryer and our weekends are booked up. So I wash it, run it out to the clothesline, and go back to work.

          But then, I often work through lunch when I work from home, and I make sure my work gets done. But then, my job doesn’t require a lot of availability by phone, etc., so it’s not a big deal if I step away for 10 minutes or so a couple of times during the day.

        2. Snow Drift*

          It really depends on what it is you do. If you’re compiling code and would otherwise just be staring at the screen for ten-minute stretches, getting some laundry started would actually make you more productive.

      2. seller of teapots*

        Yeah, for me it really depends on the kind of work I’m doing. I wfh about 2 days a week, and it’s perfect. I have the kind of job where a day full of meetings is not uncommon, and things here are pretty casual, so my boss stopping by my office for 5 mins often turns into an hour long meeting to try and solve problem X. Which is one of the things I love about my job!

        But when I need some uninterrupted time, I really have to plan to work from home, where I can hide upstairs and focus for 2-3 uninterrupted hours. Then when I’ve finished said project, I get to hang out with my hilarious toddler for a bit as a reward.

        Long story short: being able to split my time wfh and going into the office feels like the best of both worlds.

    4. I’m actually a squid*

      Same! I’ve had the occasional morning my staff was able to run the store (I’m the manager) and I decided to do my office work from home. Inevitably I’ve been LESS productive than when I’m at the store with the phone ringing, someone popping every two minutes with questions, conversations all around me… I have ADHD and the chaos of the store works better than Ritalin for me. After a lifetime of undiagnosed struggling it’s great to know what works but I admit I’m jealous of those who can avoid the commute and not have to leave their pets.

  2. Jules the 3rd*

    Love this update! Living at home is fine, if that’s what works for you and your family. I spent a couple of years at home after my BA, and it worked very well for all of us. I got cheap rent, good food and a safe place to live, my parents got cleaning and help with the construction projects.

  3. LawBee*

    I’m 45. If I had to move in with my parents, for whatever reason at all, I would still call it “moving back home”.

    and I’m with the above commenter – I cannot work from home at all. Way too many distractions!

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      See, this was a term I had not been familiar with until that last thread. Still trying to wrap my head around it. So, I am a homeowner, I live in a house that I own, but I’m not living at home? But if I sell my house and move into my mom’s Section 8 studio apartment with her, I would be living at home then? How interesting! I understand that it’s a cultural term that I am not used to, being not from here originally; I respect the term, it’s just going to take me a while to remember to use it properly. I still tell people that my two adult sons “are living with me” – keep forgetting that it is called living at home. Even though, in their case, they technically really are living at home, since that’s where they lived before they left for college. But, whatever their living arrangements are called, I like them, enjoy their company and their help around the house, (and the fact that they help keep my mom company when she comes around), and would be willing to call it anything they want to get them to stay here longer!

      Apologize for the offtopic – I’ve lived here over 20 years and still learn new things on occasion. This was definitely one of the more surprising ones for me.

      Back on topic: I am the opposite, when I work from home, I forget to eat. It was even worse when I had my own office with a door in my home (before my son, whose room it had originally been, moved back into it). I’d walk into the office, shut the door, and suddenly remember it hours later that I probably should’ve been taking breaks and lunch. It is easier now that my “office” is in a corner of the basement, so I see people and hear sounds that remind me to break from work every now and then.

      1. Fiona*

        I guess I don’t understand what there is to wrap one’s mind around. I’m in my 30s and I live in an apartment with my partner. That’s my home. When I go visit my parents in the house I grew up in, I also call it “going home.” I suppose it’s cultural, but it’s pretty common. Both places can be “home.” You don’t have to try to remember to use one properly. They are both correct.

        1. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

          I think there’s a distinction when your parents live in the house you grew up in. I moved away from my parents relatively recently but the bedroom I slept in for 15+ years is still exactly the way it was when I lived there and it’s where I sleep when I visit. That to me is “home” even though my own apartment in another city is also “home.” However, if my parents moved out of that house and into an apartment or even another house, I would probably subconsciously start referring to it as “my parents’ place” because I don’t have any attachment to the environment itself.

          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

            My parents moved to a new house and I’ve done exactly that! Where they live now is “the new house”, although I also refer to going to visit as going “back home” because I now live in a different country.

          2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

            Yes! My comment below! :)
            (Though, even living under 3m from one another, my husband and I have a “room” at my mom’s and she has a “room” at ours! Granted, it’s just the general guest room, but we jokingly call it “Mom’s room.”)

          3. Snow Drift*

            Agreed. My parents lived in one house from before my birth to when I was 28. That was “home”. Their new place is “my parents’ house”.

        2. Cat Fan*

          And it’s fine to say your adult sons are living with you. I don’t think anyone really cares either way how it is phrased, it is easily understood either way.

        3. Amber T*

          Cheers. I own my current place, I’ve been living on my own for years, but I still have my parents’ house line saved in my phone as “Home.” When asked what my plans are for the holidays, I say I’m spending Christmas day at home with my parents – it’s their house we’ll be celebrating at. My parents don’t even live in the same house I grew up in anymore. There’s no more “my bedroom” or memories with that specific place. But one of my homes will always be wherever my parents live, because home is where the heart is.

          (I’m fairly certain “Home Is Where The Heart Is” was a song from… Madeline? From something. I’m now singing just a single line from a childhood song and I don’t know anymore than like, two lines.)

        4. Koala dreams*

          It’s an idiomatic phrase, that is, there is more to the meaning than what’s on the surface. It feels natural for many people, but it’s not literal. When you say “they live at home” the literal meaning is that they live in a place, and that place is their home. Since the meaning of home is the place where one lives, that would be a pointless thing to say. Anywhere one lives would technically be one’s home! Instead, it takes on an additional meaning: they live with their parents.
          The funny thing with idomatic phrases is that for native speakers they are often so ingrained that it’s hard to hear the literal meaning, while non-native speakers can find it hard to not hear the literal meaning, even if they know of the actual meaning.

      2. Gerald*

        My comment may only be applicable to my region, however to my mind ‘moving back home’ tends to apply only when the building is the same as where one lived before ‘moving away’, and only if there has been an extended period of time living in a different building. If one’s parents have moved since one’s childhood then I would label that as ‘moving in with one’s parents’. I expect that this is quite different depending upon one’s region and family background, as it’s a cultural concept, but it may also be helpful knowing that the expression is not absolutely defined. It is rather fun to think about!

        1. kitryan*

          I will say ‘going home’ without thinking when I talk about visiting my parents and they’re 2 homes removed from where I did most of my growing up. Of course, we moved several times before I went off to college, so it may seem more distinct if there is a ‘home where I spent all my life’ and a subsequent place where the parental units now reside that doesn’t seem homey at all.
          I also have ‘my room’ at my parents’ house, so that helps preserve the sense of emotional connection in a way that it wouldn’t if I were in an impersonal guest room or on a couch in the living room or something.
          My apartment is also definitely my home as well. After all, it’s where my cat lives (and where I keep all my stuff… that’s not at my parents’).

      3. Birch*

        You don’t have to think of it as a strict definition–it’s personal preference and the way you say “living with me” is not weird or confusing! Lots of people would not call it “moving back home” if they moved in with their parents.

      4. Iris Eyes*

        In your case both might be referred to as “home” if your Mom’s apartment was where you spent a portion of your formative years. See also the difference between house and home. You can live in any house but there is that change that happens when you have roots there. Same goes for second and third (and even more removed) generation immigrant going back to the “homeland.” That place never was where they resided but there is a sense of connection. Another example is romantic movies (and couples in real life) saying that they feel like they are home when they are in each other’s arms, or that home is wherever they can be with the other person.

        Home is really an emotional concept that is generally tied to a geographic location. It has connotations of safety, a place where you can be yourself, your place where you feel comfortable. A place where you can stretch out and not keep to your bubble because all the space is yours. Not every childhood house, not every house you live in will be a home, and it might not be “home” all the time.

        Sorry we make it confusing with terms like “homeowner” but maybe it gives a deeper appreciation for the concept of “homemaker” as opposed to “housekeeper.” I’d suspect that homeowner and home builder both have their roots in marketing, they aren’t just selling or building a house, they are trying to tap into that emotional feeling.

        1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

          And to throw another twist into it: Most of the Army brats I grew up with (including myself), refer to our folks’ place as “Home”, regardless of how much time we actually spent there. Seeing as our formative years are spent all over geography. Thus the phrase “Home is where your stuff is.”

          So my personal living space (across the US from the rest of my family) is home, but so too is my parents’ place. Because they’re there (now retired), and the house they’re currently in, I physically lived in as well .
          If they moved to a place that I’d never also lived in, it probably wouldn’t be “home” to me.

        2. GoingAnon*

          @Iris Eyes, I really like this – the idea of safety and a place where you can be yourself. But also, that “not every childhood house, not every house you live in will be a home, and it might not be ‘home’ all the time”. Thank you for that acknowledgement that really struck me because while my parents home was home there was a time where it really wasn’t. It wasn’t safe and I couldn’t be myself and while it’s improved, its not perfect and it’s complicated. Especially at this time of year, it’s something I needed to read. So thank you.

          1. OhNo*

            Seconded. That was a lovely and insightful comment, Iris Eyes.

            I’ll admit it left me with a lot of feelings I wasn’t expecting when I stopped by for my daily AAM fix, but that’s not a bad thing at all. Just more to think about later!

      5. Temperance*

        So in your example, I would call that “moving in with my mother”, not “moving home”, since you never lived there. A lot of people use “home” colloquially to indicate the place where they grew up, and/or where their parents live.

        It is a little odd, admittedly.

      6. Blue*

        “Home,” in general, means different things to different people, so “living at home” has just as many meanings. It’s just such a personalized concept. I think “living with me” is a perfect and very clear way to phrase it, though they may describe it as “living at home” because that’s what feels like home for them. For me, “home” is the city I’ve chosen to live in and that I love, but I still sometimes say, “I’m going home for the holidays” instead of “I’m visiting my family [in the state I grew up in, in a different part of the country] for the holidays.”

      7. Kelsi*

        Typically it’s phrased that way when you grew up in the place your parents are currently living. Because that place was “home” for a long time. If my parents were to sell their house now and move somewhere else, and then I (god forbid) had to sell my house and move back in with them, I wouldn’t call it moving back home/living at home, because it wouldn’t be.

      8. RUKiddingMe*

        You can say “living with me” if you prefer. I think we have this idea that wherever our parents live is “home” even if it’s not the home in which one grew up. Some people though, have … issues … and would never consider it “home.” So, either way, or any other way you want to describe it…it’s fine.

    2. londonedit*

      When I was freelancing, people used to ask me all the time how I could manage to work from home. Didn’t I get distracted? But working from home when you’re self-employed is slightly different from working from home when you’re going to get paid at the end of the month anyway whether you’re sitting in the office or sitting on the sofa (assuming you get your work done, obviously!)

      Also, my parents have moved twice since I stopped living with them, and I still refer to visiting them as ‘going home for the weekend’. Yes, ‘home’ usually means my own home, where I live, but ‘home’ to me, in that context, means ‘the family home’ and ‘the area of the country I grew up in’. The actual house doesn’t matter so much; it’s more that ‘home’ and ‘where my parents live’ are interchangeable. It’s interesting to see that it’s not the same in other cultures!

      1. Emily K*

        But working from home when you’re self-employed is slightly different from working from home when you’re going to get paid at the end of the month anyway whether you’re sitting in the office or sitting on the sofa (assuming you get your work done, obviously!)

        This is a good distinction. Even if you don’t get your work done, most employers are typically going to give you some time to correct the problem – either informally or on a PIP, before they actually fire you and the paychecks stop coming.

        I have a full-time salaried job and I do similar work on the side as a freelancer, where I charge by the “piece” (as opposed to billing at an hourly rate), for a small number of clients who only need very occasional work from me. So when a client calls up and offers me work, it’s very much, “I will complete this assignment and I won’t get paid unless and until it does,” and there’s no two ways about that. If my schedule is very full but I could really use the money, I *will* find the time to do the work. If I’m struggling with procrastinating, I will remind myself that I could really use the money, and I *will* make myself do it.

        Whereas in my day job, they’re going to keep cutting me checks for the same amount every other Friday, even when I was using PTO instead of working, even when I get hit with so many demands that I have to push back the less time-sensitive projects, even when I have an off week and I’m not as productive as usual. There’s more leeway in a salaried job that could tempt some folks to slack off at home, as opposed to that direct relation between completing a task and getting paid for it when you’re a freelancer.

    3. Cat wrangler*

      One of my best friends lives in London. When they go to see their mother who lives elsewhere, they call it ‘going home’ even though they pay a mortgage on a property in London – and then they also bring their regional accent back too! I think it’s just a kind of shorthand for where you come from, or that’s my understanding of it.

    4. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Ha. I probably wouldn’t, but that’s only because my mom moved to my city and bought her house here* when I was already long since out of college and living on my own, so I don’t think of her house as “home.” But if she still lived in my hometown? Definitely.

      *Not for me, but to be closer to work – she commuted an hour before that, though it IS nice for both of us having her so close by now!

  4. Mommy MD*

    Glad it’s working out for you. If I have to do a project at home suddenly I have an urge to mow everything outside even if it was done three days ago.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      Oh god flashbacks to writing my dissertation. I remember this one time that I suddenly absolutely needed to scrub the corners of the bathroom floor with a toothbrush. Seriously that was something that happened/ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  5. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

    I agree, enjoy your time with your mom and family while you can. I would give anything to have my mom around to annoy me in the old familiar ways! A great update all around.

  6. JLCBL*

    I know it’s discouraged to chastise other commenters so I understand if you delete this, Alison, but I just want to point out how many of these updates refer to tangents in the comment section. I think it’s important that we keep in mind in almost every case the OP reads the comments very closely, and while it is natural to speculate and really fun to have a lively discussion, it’s not a bad idea to remember this section is for them, first, and for us, second.

    1. WellRed*

      It would serve everyone better if people would pause before they hit send on a comment that makes the LW’s question all about themselves and the lens through which they view everything. I won’t specifically name the update last week where this happened.

    2. scooby snack*

      This is a nice thoughtful point! But in most of these updates, the letter writers don’t seem to be badly affected by speculation or tangents, and it seems like an engaged comment section is great for the site and therefore great for the readers, right? (Or like my therapist says, it’s only a problem if it’s a problem for you. If it’s not causing any harm, why worry about it?)

      1. JLCBL*

        Certainly, many have been praising the commenters for their input, often with great enthusiasm, but almost always when it was on-topic. To my eyes when an OP feels the need to clarify or defend something tangential, it’s different.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Sadly the collective internet will never truly understand that the things they say effect real humans. With real emotions.

      Thankfully we do a decent job keeping that in check and this isn’t YouTube or CNN commentary *shiver*

    4. Turquoisecow*

      I think tangents are acceptable if the LW hasn’t provided information that informs the response. If my answer changes based on information the LW provides, I think it’s valid to say something like “X wasn’t mentioned, but if Y is happening because of X, then OP should do this. If Y is happening because of (notX), then OP should do this.”

      Of course we tend to go on tangents where we discuss possibilities that don’t really affect the advice, which is more of an issue. But also, a common response to people seeking advice is to share one’s own experience. “OP, I was once in a similar situation. Here are the details. I dealt with it by doing Y,” is a valid comment. Also “I have no advice but I was in a similar situation; here are the details,” is valid if it’s related enough to the letter itself.

      I don’t see too many comments going waaaay off topic here, but as the comment load increases, I tend to read fewer comments, so maybe I’m missing them.

      1. Emily K*

        There are a few topics that seem almost guaranteed to lead to very long off-topic threads that have 0% to do with the question being asked, but Alison tends to delete those. (These topics include: food allergies and other special food needs, bathroom habits, and health/fitness issues. People love to talk about their health regime, how they poop, and what they eat.)

        1. Natalie*

          That’s actually something I really like about this comment section; it’s very well moderated!
          When I first started reading this website, I just thought, “Oh, it’s a really nice community of helpful people,” which is true…but also, when someone is being a jerk, Alison removes their comments, or adds some context.

    5. Jennifer Thneed*

      > in almost every case the OP reads the comments very closely

      We don’t know that, at all. We only know it happens when the OP tells us they have done so. *Plenty* of people read advice columns just for the “official” advice and don’t read the comments at all, and I see no reason that can’t be as true for the Questioners as for the Readers.

  7. kittymommy*

    I’m so glad your mom is being more respectful of your work time! It sounds like you have a very good relationship with her and that’s awesome. Of course it’s not going to be 100% perfect, but I would think that would be tyoical in a work from home situation.

    Also, continue to say you live at home – it is your home!! ;)

  8. MtnLaurel*

    Thanks for the update! I also work from home, and I have fears of my husband being like your mom when he retires and is around all. the. time. You’ve given me some great ideas on how to handle this situation.

  9. learnedthehardway*

    I’m really glad that the OP was able to find solutions that work, (and that he’s realistic that the solutions are partially working.)

    I work from home and have done so for many years. People ask me all the time how I do it or say they wish they could too. I tell them that you have to be incredibly self-disciplined (which I’m not, really, but I can be when I HAVE to be), you have to be firm with the people who think you are able to blow of work to do other things, and you need to be realistic about whether you’re the right type of person for it or not.

    One thing that works for me is when my spouse (who has a habit of asking me to do things when I’m working) comes into my office to talk, I get up and walk out with them in tow and get a cup of coffee / snack. Takes 5 min, which I was going to take to get that drink / snack at some point anyway, but more importantly, it gets my spouse out of my workspace, gives them a few minutes of my time, and then I leave and go back to work. (I actually learned that one in a business office setting – it works.)

    I’ve also gotten pretty good at saying “NO”, I can’t run this errand or that, drop things to do lunch, etc. etc. etc. I have frequent business calls during the day, and am not above scheduling extra time slots on my calendar to point out that my day is busy (I have a lot of unstructured time in my day – and I need every minute of it. The visual of the calendar just makes it obvious that I’m busy.)

    My spouse was complaining that I don’t spend time with them/never have time for them during the day, to which I pointed out that I’d be spending less time if I had to go work in an office elsewhere and commute. (Also pointed out that they are out of the house doing their hobby several nights a week, so perhaps a reprioritization was in order.) I do now make a point of knocking off work when they get home in the evening and spending time with them, which I did not do enough of previously.

    I find that I’m the one expected to do a lot of errands, all the kid taxi-ing, etc. etc. I’ve mostly worked this into my schedule, and if I have to pick a kid up from band practice or drop another one off to work, I make up my time in the evening.

    The rest of my family and friends know that I won’t be able to talk to them during the day, unless I have a free moment and call them. I do make a point of talking to them outside the workday. I’m super careful about taking time off during the day, though. There are only a couple people I will go out for a coffee with, for example – these are people I trust to know that they won’t pester me to go out more often or for longer times (in fact, most are employed themselves and either work from home or have flexible schedules, so they get it: work is work.)

    1. Turquoisecow*

      My husband works from home (3-4 days a week) full time and I work (4-5 days a week at home) part-time – his workload is much heavier than mine. We try to go out to get lunch (if not eat it) when he’s at home. If he’s got some other errand or task to do on his work from home days, he’ll put it on his work calendar, even if it’s just “call to make a doctor’s appointment,” because otherwise he’ll find someone fills up that time and/or he’ll get busy and forget to do it entirely.

    2. Emily K*

      I’m lucky I’ve never really had to worry about people who don’t get that I’m actually…y’know…working when I work from home. My core friend group works the same Monday-Friday 9-to-5-ish hours that I do, so nobody is really even trying to do anything in the middle of the workday. And while my 50% remote job is probably more remote than all but one or two other friends, they all work at home at least occasionally so they know first-hand that it’s…still work. That you have to be responsive when bosses/coworkers call, chat, or email you, and you’re not a small business owner who sets their own schedule and works whenever they choose.

  10. Sketchee*

    This is a great update! A good reminder from both you (LW) and Allison that rethinking how we set our own limits can help.

    I’ve definitely caught myself many times saying what I don’t want. And then later realizing, how it can be helpful to say what we prefer or to give an option that works for everyone.

  11. Alton*

    I’m glad things are working better now and that your mom has been mostly good about it.

    In my experience, when you’re an adult living at home, people often treat moving out as the only solution to conflicts. But sometimes there are reasons why doing that isn’t desirable or practical. Being able to negotiate boundaries is really helpful when it works.

  12. Observer*

    This sounds like a good update. You’re in a situation that works for you and you’ve gotten your biggest issues under control. That’s really, really great.

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