HAVE SITUATIONS LIKE THESE SHOWN UP IN YOUR LIFE?
• You give into your child’s tantrum because you are too exhausted to deal.
• You swallow an intrusive fellow mom’s comment about your parenting choices, again.
• Your child wakes you up for the fifth time at night.
• You say “yes” reluctantly to another visit to your in-laws when all you want is some family time alone at home.
• A neighbor asks another favor of you and you agree, even though she never reciprocates.
These situations are all results of unclear boundaries and discomfort with saying no. Unhealthy boundaries can leave you feeling exhausted, resentful, and frustrated, which does not support you in being the patient and joyful mom you want to be for your children. When you aren’t able to say no, you also often end up lacking in time, balance, and self-care. And as a busy mom that is the last thing you need.
Examples of good boundaries:
• Taking care of yourself before you take care of others (including your children, when you nurture yourself first you are better able to nurture others)
• Letting others know that their comments and criticisms are not okay
• Saying no, when no is what best serves YOU
• Letting others know when their behavior isn’t okay with you
• Asking for the support you need to create time and space for yourself
• Allowing yourself to receive help and support from others
• Feeling entitled to fully express your thoughts, ideas and needs
What happens when you have good boundaries:
• You have patience
• You feel at peace
• You feel energized
• You take better care of yourself
• Your relationships feel authentic
• You have time for what you need
• You enjoy life more
• You are being the best self and mom you can be
So how do you create healthier boundaries that allow you to be at your best?
Below is my five-step proven process for keeping your boundaries clear and healthy.
1. Create awareness of where your boundaries are being crossed
Here is the thing. When your boundaries are crossed – it’s because you allowed them to be. This is actually good news, because it is also means that it is within your control to put a stop to it. The first step in doing so is to raise your level of awareness by acknowledging when something doesn’t feel right to you. When you find yourself complaining, gossiping, feeling resentful, feeling overly stressed, or overwhelmed it’s important that you notice what you are feeling and check in with yourself to discover why you are feeling that way. Take a few moments to stop and identify what is creating the feeling. Often this step gets skipped, and instead reaction sets in -you lose patience with your child, pick a fight with your spouse, open the fridge and begin eating to distract from your emotions, or go on a shopping spree you cannot afford. None of these reactions support us in having the life we want – they are self sabotaging.
Some examples of situations that may leave you feeling not okay can include: your spouse/partner coming home late from work repeatedly, a babysitter canceling at that last minute, a neighbor popping over unannounced and waking your child during naptime, a phone solicitor that just won’t stop calling, your mother in-law offering endless parenting advice, a boss who insists you take on more than your fair share, co-workers who aren’t pulling their weight. The list is endless. The clearer you can get, the better.
2. Identify the beliefs that are stopping you from asserting your needs
Often when you are allowing your boundaries to be crossed it is because you don’t feel entitled to have your needs met and you are fearful of displeasing others. The best remedy for transforming the negative beliefs underneath these feelings is by taking excellent care of YOU. We allow our boundaries to be violated because we are afraid – afraid our mother in law won’t approve of us if we speak up, afraid our husband will be upset if we confront his lateness, afraid our neighbor will reject us if we impose some rules, afraid our boss will view us less favorably if we ask for support with our work.
It’s essential to identify the fear that is stopping you from getting more of what you need. It is also important to recognize that when you defer your needs, again and again, you build up resentments towards those you feel are taking advantage of you. Those resentments, over time, can really take a toll on your relationships. So having the courage to assert your needs gives others the opportunity to support you. It is an act of love – it strengthens your relationships. Not only that, but resentments get heavy, holding onto a lot of them will rob you of the vital energy you need as a busy mom.
3. Get clear about what you need and give yourself permission
Often we don’t know what it is we need. Especially as busy moms, we are often so focused on nurturing and tending to the needs of our family, that we give little thought to what it is that we need. What we do know, is that something isn’t right, the current situation isn’t working for us. Often we quickly dismiss our needs because we are so certain that they can’t be met or that we don’t deserve to have them met.
Once you are able to identify what it is you need, you then must give yourself permission to have what you need. You need to decide that what you need is important, that you matter too. Decide that you deserve to be happy, comfortable, and fulfilled. It is really easy for moms to turn into martyrs, and that serves no one, especially you!
And you may find yourself surprised at how easy it is to get what you need. Sometimes all it takes is getting clear and simply asking. In the case of an intrusive neighbor, perhaps all you need to do is let her know that she needs to call before coming over to make sure it’s a good time. Problem solved. It is often a gut reaction to take it personally when boundaries are crossed – we think they are out to get us – when, in fact, they are just being them, doing what they do, with no idea of the impact they has on us. It is your job to let them others know when a situation isn’t working for you and what you would like to see happen instead.
Once you identify your need and make getting what you need your focus (rather than having your focus be making the other person wrong for not anticipating your need) you are well on your way towards setting a healthy boundary.
4. Take appropriate action
If nothing changes, nothing changes. The most vital step in setting healthy boundaries is taking appropriate action. This is where the real work and the real change happen. Action shifts beliefs.
This may mean a simple conversation with your neighbor about calling, setting an agreement with your husband about what you need if he’s running late, or a real heart to heart with your mother in law about how her criticism impacts you and what you need to happen differently going forward. As you begin setting healthy boundaries, what you will find, is that it gets easier and easier. Eventually it becomes a way of life – a new, healthier, way of being that supports you. What you will also find is that you will feel better and life will feel easier.
5. Reflect on what worked and notice what changes
The practice of setting and keeping boundaries may be uncomfortable at the start – it is a muscle like any other and strengthens with use. That is why at the beginning it is important to reflect on the experience and focus on what worked. Focusing on what worked, rather than what didn’t, helps you to create more of that in your life. By bringing your attention to the positive experiences and changes these new, and likely uncomfortable, behaviors create you will build the confidence and courage to set and keep boundaries more often. Notice your relationships shifting, notice how much more powerful you feel (and less like a victim), and notice the freedom you begin to create for yourself. Often journaling and sharing with a trusted friend or coach is a great way to reflect upon your new experiences and discover exciting insights and learning opportunities to move you forward towards creating the healthy and loving relationships you desire.
Now it’s time to identify those boundaries that need some strengthening so that you can be your best self, best mom, and make your life work for you!