Ask Aunty Pam

Published 1:40 pm Wednesday, April 15, 2020

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Ask Aunty Pam
by Pam Stone

Dear Aunty Pam,

Can you help me before I tear hair out? And not my own?
I love my mother-in-law, honestly. She’s very sweet and good natured and as she’s elderly she’s been sheltering in place with my husband and I during the pandemic. The problem is she talks incessantly. I mean, all day long. And if she’s not talking, she’s singing, or humming. Even in the best of circumstances it can be trying, but Aunty Pam, I’m working from home and my job dictates that I have to be on the phone a lot, so when I’m finished with work and close my office door the LAST thing I want to do is talk to someone, or listen to someone go on and on about coupons or Lester Holt’s color of tie on the news. Even when I go sit outside, she follows me, yapping away. I don’t want to hurt her feelings but I’m on the verge of losing it.
Can you help keep my sanity? A big glass of wine has been helping but only for so long!
Going Crazy

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Dear Crazy,

Well, bless your eardrums.
Crazy, some people feel the need to process any and every thing that swims through their brains verbally, and some people are uncomfortable with ‘dead air,’ otherwise known as ’silence,’ when people are present. They feel the need to fill it up whether others want to hear them or not. And then, some people are desperately lonely from living by themselves and feel compelled to give a litany of their lives when they finally have an audience. Whatever is going on with your MIL we’ll never know, and besides, as she’s elderly, she ain’t going to be changing any behavior that she displays, so it’s up to you to deal with how you let it affect you.
(By the way, I must ask, where is hubby? Can he not take Ma out for a few laps around the neighborhood to give you a bit of space? Or a nice drive to, oh, say, Vermont? It’s very pretty there this time of year.)
Listen, Crazy, it’s admirable that you don’t want to hurt Chatty Cathy’s feelings by telling her to be quiet, but it’s not worth your holding it in for your own blood pressure. So you’re going to have to lay down the law. Being firm, yet kind, is the key. When you come out of your home office (and honestly, if it were me, I’d stay in that home office with a wine fridge, and ‘Katy bar the door’), and take yourself out for a walk, if she gets up to follow you, just say, “Myrtle, my job is pretty stressful and spending some time on my own is how I decompress at the end of the day. So I know you’ll understand that I need to take a walk by myself. See you after a bit.” And then leave skid marks getting out of there. Don’t wait for her to answer, just get going.
When you return (if before midnight), you’ll be better prepared, emotionally, to have dinner together, watch some tv and listen to her prattle on about Lester Holt’s tie. Then, the second part of my cunning plan comes into action: You go to bed early. It’s that simple. Get in the habit of taking a luxurious soak in the tub with some Epsom salts (because magnesium soaks are hugely beneficial in regard to stress) and a good book. Or Candy Crush on the I-pad, or whatever it is people play these days. The point is you’re removing yourself gracefully from a frustrating situation. Nobody’s feelings are hurt, MIL gets to talk her head off for a couple of hours, and no chloroform is needed.

Cheers, dear!

Aunty Pam