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How Making Bread Helped Me to Learn About Setting Boundaries

By Lynn Clare March 05, 2023 Family

I was grateful to be in the process of making bread when I received her text message. She wanted to talk. What about? I had no idea, and after a year of not speaking, I felt sick to my stomach even thinking about it.

Kneading the dough, squishing, and pounding helped to relieve a little of the anxiety I was feeling about even hearing her voice.

Our last conversation had disintegrated into a full nuclear meltdown. Full of so much ugliness and rage that I had no desire to speak to her and honestly did not know when I would.

Knowing My Daughter

She is my 50-year-old daughter, born when I was just 15 years old. The amount of pain and anguish I went through to bring her into the world was enough to convince me that it would never be possible for me not to want her in my life – I was wrong.

Beating the dough harder, I thought of all the things I would like to say to her, but I knew she was probably not ready to hear any of them.

She loves confrontation and arguing, and she is very good at it. Me – not so much. It takes me back to when I was married to her father.

A Husband I Was Afraid Of

He was a jealous, controlling, abusive man. I never knew what was going to set him off, so I worked very hard to avoid doing anything that I thought might upset him.

The truth is, he never needed a reason. He was so angry that he had been forced to marry me and blamed me for ruining his life.

His mother was a kind and loving woman, and I clung to her for whatever comfort I could find.

My mother was so disappointed in me that we barely spoke. She lived close by but rarely came to visit.

Now, I felt the same judgement and coldness from my own daughter.

The Conversation Is Never Easy

I sent a message back that I could talk between 12:00 – 12:30, during my lunch break if that was a good time for her. I thought setting a time limit would help to keep the conversation from going off the rails.

What I didn’t want was to cause any additional injury to this already damaged relationship.

It was 12:20 when she rang. I was nervous but decided I would stick to my timeframe. I began by telling her I only had 10 minutes to talk so she would know that I needed to keep our conversation short.

She was calling to ask, in the event of my death, what my final wishes were. A friend’s mother had passed unexpectedly, and she realized that she had no idea what I would want.

It was all very matter-of-fact and detached. She went on to say that as the eldest, she expected to have to make some of those decisions. I was taken aback, especially considering the current state of our relationship, and very happy that I had set the time limit.

Setting a Limit Really Helps

She always has a way of catching me off guard and then when she doesn’t like my response an argument ensues.

With less than 5 minutes left, I was able to think of the most appropriate response without getting emotional.

I told her I had already taken care of my will and legal power of attorney in the event of any incapacity or death and would send her a copy.

Mercifully, the timer for my bread went off and our time was up.

I ended the call by telling her that I loved her and the children. Honest, civil, and respectful. I felt relieved and grateful that we could even speak for a few minutes without upsetting each other.

Just like not letting the bread dough rise too long, setting that simple boundary produced a better outcome than we have had in years.

Going forward, I will do more of this to maintain peacefulness in my life.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What have you learned late in life that has served you well? Were there interpersonal relationships that felt out of control that you wish you could change? Share your stories with the community!

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I’ve learned to make an appointment time frame as well, and set it up to be upbeat, pleasant, with smiles, even coffee, snacks, etc., if appropriate. If the other party is unable or unwilling to be positively participative and productive , I excuse both them and myself and suggest another time, and state that I understand their emotional disequilibrium (that THEY alone need to work through.)
The daily solving of adult problems, large and small, is a part of life. If they are unable to productively develop solutions in a civil way, they have either mental health or cognitive problems. In such a case, I disentangle completely and take the L if necessary. Chalk it up to lesson learned.
You can’t fix another adult. Don’t shortchange your life for theirs—it doesn’t help them. It enables them, which hurts everyone else in their life.

Patricia Black

Thank you for sharing this extremely well written piece. I have struggled with similar scenarios. I hope to read more of your wisdom in the future.


I just finished a book by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend called Boundaries. As a sixty something I learned so much I wish I had known many years ago.


There is a big difference between being manipulative and setting boundaries. One is based upon the attempting to “change” or “control” someone; the other is based upon knowing your own strengths and weaknesses and how the personality of the other person can affect your soul. In this case, the caller knew she only had 10 minutes left of the 30 minute time frame she was given. She chose those 10 minutes….she was not being manipulated. We must be in charge of our own person and if that means prefacing a conversation with a time limit (for whatever reason!) and then having to say, “Oh, look at the time, I have to go! Goodbye,” then so be it. We are not obligated to anyone else’s time…it is theirs to spend how they want.

shaggy maggie

I dislike it when a friend calls and tells me she is going to have to leave in 10 minutes for some appointment. Now I realize how handy that is. However, I now use this “trick” with people who talk tooooo much. ( Perhaps I am one of those!) This “trick” seems manipulative. Hell, yes!

The Author

Lynn Clare is a freelance writer living in Denver, Colorado. She is an avid traveler and loves writing about her adventures for women who travel solo at

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