Momma Bigmouth

15 Oct

Letterbalm Tea LadyDear LetterBalm: My mother divorced my father five years ago, just before she retired. It was a good decision because they had been unhappy for years. She’s a good woman, but she’s nosy and gossipy. She doesn’t have much to do all day, so she gets on the phone to me and repeats what she’s heard about her friends, neighbors and our family, and she can be quite critical. I’ve stopped telling her details of my private life – sometimes the conversation gets testy because she presses me for information, and I have to hang up the phone. If I don’t take her calls, she gets upset. I don’t want to hear her gossip, and I don’t want my life to be part of it. How can I stop this?

–Tired of the Tattle

The best way to stop your mother’s gossipy ways is to tell her in clear language what she’s doing and how you’ll no longer be drawn into her drama. So what if she sulks and fumes? You’re a grown woman and beyond her influence. Furthermore, you don’t want to hear stories about your family and people you may not know. It might help to introduce her to other interests that will occupy her time and supplant her need for chatter. Ms. L.B. suggests you have coffee with your mom privately and talk with her kindly but plainly:

Mom, you know by now that when you tell tales about other people it bothers me very much. It also bothers me that you talk about my private life with others. It shows you don’t respect me or, for that matter, yourself. Nobody likes a gossip, Mom, particularly someone who is judgmental. People won’t want to be friends with you, and spreading gossip in the family makes everybody uncomfortable. I want to talk with you and be close with you, but I won’t be telling personal details because I can’t trust my own mother to keep them to herself. This makes me sad – we can’t be as close as I’d like. It seems to me that you might curb your gossip and think about some activities that you like and that will keep you engaged – a book club, maybe, or a walking group. Can we talk more about all this?

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