Ask Miriam | Traditional Pre-Shabbat Call Now Causing Resentment

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Dear Miriam,

My mother and I have always had the tradition to speak to each other on Friday afternoons before Shabbat. We maintained this all through college and post college, when I’ve lived in many places and even different time zones. Now that I have a baby and a toddler, though, I’m finding myself resenting this tradition, imagining what I could do with those precious minutes I’m spending on the phone. We do talk other times during the week, but these Friday calls are in a different category. How can I break it to her that I have to break this tradition?

Signed,


Pre-Shabbat Daughter

Dear Daughter,

I totally sympathize with the fact that something that used to work for you doesn’t work anymore now that you are a mother, but I don’t think your only solution is to get rid of these calls altogether.

Depending on your schedule, I wonder if you could schedule these calls during the day on Friday. If your kids are in daycare, maybe you could take 15 minutes away from your own work day to talk to your mom. If you’re home with the kids, maybe you could arrange to do the call during their naps. Thursday night after the kids are asleep is probably a busy time for you, but that might also take the pressure off of Fridays if your mom would agree to talk then.

Another option is to find a way to include your children in the call. Talk to your mom on Friday afternoon, but do it with an app where she can see the kids and they can see her. You might even be able to step away for 30 seconds while she virtually reads them a story or sings a Shabbat song with them through the screen. You could also limit the scope of the call — you call, say Shabbat shalom, the kids say Shabbat shalom or squeal (or scream) into the phone, your mom says Shabbat shalom, you all hang up. Even in the busiest times, it might not feel like it, but you probably can find a minute to make that happen. (If you can’t, though, I believe you, and I also understand.)

If there’s a seamless way to transition these calls to something that works for you without being a huge burden, then great. Make that switch and don’t look back — you and your mom will never be the same people you were when you were simply mother and daughter and not also grandmother and mother.

But if you think your mom will be resistant to change or resentful of a shortened call, then you need to have a conversation about your conversations. Say, “Mom, it’s gotten harder and harder to fit in our pre-Shabbat calls. I’m sure you understand how busy I am with two little kids. Do you think there’s another time during the week we could still schedule a special call, or something else that could take the place of this? I don’t like always feeling rushed when we talk, and I’m sure you’ve noticed that, too.”

Then let her respond. If it’s with a guilt trip, that stinks. But, hopefully, she’ll have compassion for your current situation, and maybe this will deepen your relationship and your ability to talk about motherhood with your own mom.

Be well,

Miriam

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