The phone rang and it was a number I didn’t recognize. I went against my instincts and answered it. On the other end was a sweet voice asking me to volunteer for the freshman retreat for my daughter’s high school.
“Yes” fell out of my mouth without thought but as soon as I hung up the phone I knew that I had crossed a boundary. I had too much on my plate and was flooded with regret.
Has this ever happened to you?
Creating boundaries keeps you on the unbusy path. “What is a boundary?” you’re thinking. I like this definition by Brene Brown:
“Boundaries are not fake walls, not separation, they’re not division. They are respect for what’s ok and what’s not ok for me.”
In other words, it is an internal understanding that helps us love ourselves and each other better. Going back to my phone call example above, I knew I didn’t have the time to give but I crossed my own boundary and said yes anyways. Cursing that sweet freshman girl for tugging at the heartstring.
Now that you are clear on what boundaries are, you might be thinking why put in the work? I’m happy with giving everyone in my life everything they want all the time. Ok, but consider this:
1. You become more self-aware
Moms are so used to taking care of everyone else they start losing track of where they end and their loved ones begin. Your thoughts, your past, your actions are yours to own. Take action on these. At the same time let go of controlling and feeling for everyone else. We can guide/give advice but eventually, we have to let our loved ones build their own boundaries.
2. You are a better friend/partner
No matter how hard you try, you are not in charge of someone else’s happiness. An example here is to tell your hubby that you need more help with the kids rather than letting that fester into a wound that explodes. I’ll admit I’ve done it too.
3. You get more of what you want
As a mom, you are constantly telling your kids to speak up for themselves. It’s time to take your own advice. If you’re not asking for what you need, it’s ridiculous to think others are going to guess right and give it to you.
You’re convinced it’s time to build some boundaries. YAY, but now what?
First, get your journal ready and wait for that moment when something makes you angry. Write what you're feeling. Big emotions come up for us when a boundary has been crossed. Reflection will help you identify it.
Next, start early. All relationships need boundaries (personal, work, spiritual). Have these conversations before it becomes uncomfortable. For example: “You need to know when mom’s door is closed” versus “OMG why don’t you kids ever give me a second to myself!!!!”
Thirdly, learn to say no. Say no to things that aren't a priority to you, or let others know when they've crossed a line. Brace for the emotions because this is hard work. Telling someone you love they’ve crossed a boundary is going to stir up emotions. The good news is once you’ve had that hard conversation, your life will open up.
You don't have to chose between your personal and professional life. Here's my secret weapon for getting the family chaos to calm.