Maybe You’re Lacking Boundaries


Certainly the comment “I’m on the phone” has been uttered by most parents since the phone became a household staple. I know I have said it a million times and I know I have heard all my friends say it as well.

Last week my sister and I were commiserating about the things that our families do that really irritate us and I said my biggest peeve was that when I am on the phone the other people in the house speak to me as if I am not. She said it was exactly the same at her house.

“But what gets me” I went on to say “is that when anyone else is on the phone they will not listen to me if I try to interject something (usually something like, I need to speak to her before you hang up) and I am either totally ignored or the person gets so frustrated with me speaking to them they actually get angry and say as much. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for them to plug the other ear and/or retire to another room so they can have “privacy” to speak on the phone uninterrupted.”

So this morning during a football game I asked my husband why he thinks this happens to me. Doing it during a football game is great timing for me as I know his answer will be short and sweet. His response: “probably a lack of consideration and the fact that at least for him, he is hearing the conversation as if my sister and I were sitting right in front of him and he wants his two-cents added to the conversation.”

When I asked “well do you think it is any different for me when I do the same to you, that it would warrant being ignored or worse, warrant a small rift after he gets off the phone?” his answer was after trying to make some excuses that didn’t really fly, that it boiled down to not being considerate.

I think what he is said is right on, but I also think there are other things to be considered: the dynamics of the family structure and failure on the part of the person aggravated by this (me) not setting good enough limits. As the mom, in charge of three kids of various ages, it was not always appropriate for me to get on the phone and retreat to another room to speak to whomever was calling, leaving my kids alone. As a mother of three I can tell you, ruination of world order can happen in the two-minutes you take to use the toilet. You learn quickly to never let that happen again.

Because I was watching children, working from home, frying hamburger on the stove, you name it, there were plenty of times I had to be on the phone and still be responsible for those other things called children. That, however, did not really ring true for my husband or for my children as they got to an age where they started using the phone.

So these things notwithstanding, what I failed to do was establish clear boundaries with my family. Sure, when the kids were little that was one thing, but as they aged I failed to re-establish the ground rules. They certainly established theirs by moving to another location, but I did not. So I can blame them if I want for their lack of consideration, after all they are all old enough and mannered enough to know better, but tradition fails them. Therefore, it is entirely up to me to re-establish the boundaries (acceptable actions) in relation to me when I am on the phone.

Sorry, Theresa, the fault lies with the mamma once again. We need to pull up our big girl panties and put our feet down. If we don’t set limits and it continues to happen, it is our own damn fault!

Ursula Neal

Ursula is a grief coach for mothers who have lost children helping them to move from crappy to happy again. She is also a personal growth strategist helping individuals reach their goals. She may be reached at 602-400-4423 or Facebook Google+

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