Boundaries can be tricky things. We hear about them, and we can have good intentions about setting and keeping them, but despite this we can often find ourselves letting them slip. In coaching sessions, boundaries are often one of the topics that comes up for busy mums – whether it’s around work / life balance, returning to work after maternity leave or how they preserve their time and energy in general. Strong boundaries can be invaluable!
In this post I’m going to be looking at:
What does having boundaries mean?
What are the benefits of having boundaries?
Why can setting boundaries be hard?
Tips for maintaining your boundaries
Boundaries are the guidelines or rules which you set around how you want to treat yourself and how you expect others to treat you. It’s deciding what behaviour is or isn’t acceptable to you.
Boundaries can be set across a range of areas in our lives for example:
Choosing which events or occasions we actually WANT to go to and those that we feel we SHOULD be going to.
Communicating and expressing how we feel or what our needs are.
Leaving work at a certain time to make it back for your children’s bedtime.
Boundaries can be set around anything but what matters is that they relate to what’s important to you. What do you need to put in place so that your time and energy is protected. Because:
When you’re time poor, doing something that recharges you (whether that’s time for yourself, an exercise class, family time, it doesn’t matter what it is…) rather than feeling pressure to accept every invite, is crucial.
By not expressing your feelings and needs, you lower your self-worth. You are important too!
If being home for your child’s bedtime at the end of the working day is valuable to you and how you feel then it’s ok for this to be a priority.
Creating healthy boundaries around the things that matter to you is valuable to you but also those around you.
It helps you assess what your priorities really are and to focus on them.
Make time for yourself, allowing you to do the things that bring you joy and give you energy.
Increases your sense of self-worth as you realise that you are important.
It can help prevent burnout and resentment.
So, we understand why having boundaries is important but why can it still be so hard to make them and then stick to them?
I think so many of us have become used to thinking of others’ needs before our own. As a busy mum it always feels like there is something that needs to be done, so time for ourselves often falls to the bottom of the priority list.
It’s not that others aren’t important, because they are. But being aware of your own needs is important too. So that you can continue to look after and care for those around you who really need you.
Keeping boundaries can also be challenging for people-pleasers. A people-pleaser might agree to do something they really don’t want to do just because they feel uncomfortable saying no and risk upsetting someone.
This might feel less daunting in the short-term but can end up leading you to feel overwhelmed and resentful. If you’re a people-pleaser, Self-Worth coach Meg Sloan has some great tips to stop putting everyone else first and to start prioritising yourself.
So keeping our boundaries might be tough at times but here are my top tips which will hopefully help you be more consistent with them.
When we really work out what our values and priorities are and why they are so important it helps us take action in these areas. Creating boundaries around the things that matter to us the most focuses our attention.
So for example, I might put a boundary around checking my work emails during my day off because I want to be present for my children. Focusing on why that is a priority for me ie. the way I want to be spending time with my children, makes it easier for me to maintain that boundary.
“No” can be a hard word to say. If there’s something we really don’t want to do we may agree to it because it feels easier or make up an excuse because we feel guilty. But actually, it’s ok to say no to something – you can’t say yes to everything and everyone!
If this all seems completely overwhelming that’s ok. You don’t have to suddenly put up new, big boundaries in every area of your life overnight if that feels like too much. But if you know it’s something you want to do over time then maybe make a conscious effort to start but in a way that feels a little more comfortable.
For example, if you’d normally avoid putting forward your opinion in a group of people, why not give it a try next time you’re in that situation? By expressing yourself, you’re recognising that you are worthy of that time and space.
Once this feels more comfortable continue pushing yourself and those boundaries that you want to create.
Communication about your boundaries is key to others understanding them and maintaining them. Additionally, once you are committed to your boundaries be consistent with them. If you start letting them slip it can blur the lines and be confusing for those around you.
I hope this post has been helpful in understanding more about boundaries, their benefits and some ways of implementing them.
If one of the things you struggle with as a busy mum is making that time for you, I have a free guide which is full of tips to helping you lighten the mental load and also includes a short journaling exercise.
I’d love to hear what boundaries you want to put in place and how you’re going to achieve them.