Some days, I wish I had an off switch. As a parent, I often find myself feeling like my life is a never-ending to-do list (on which I’m constantly losing ground). With so much to do, it’s really hard to give myself what I need, which is to relax and find space to breathe.
That’s because, like a lot of other parents, I’m not very good at setting boundaries.
A boundary is defined as a limit of something, whether that something is physical or mental. But, when the demands of life are many, it’s difficult to limit how much time I’m willing to give to all of the things.
Present-day parenting certainly doesn’t encourage setting boundaries. I’m expected to keep my children educated, nurtured, well-rounded and engaged. I’m also expected to keep my job, nurture my interests, be informed on current events, keep myself healthy and juggle all the balls. And, maybe it’s not an expectation, but I also want to give back to my children’s schools and my own community. There is always so much to do. My fear is, if I slow down and leave too many things undone, the patchwork of my life will unravel.
But will my life really unravel if I don’t get everything done? Would setting some personal boundaries give me more satisfaction than getting all of the things done would give me? Could boundaries be the magical equalizer in my overstuffed life?
Maybe they are. Perhaps, I need to learn to set limits when I’m feeling overwhelmed. It can’t hurt to try and see what happens. If you’re a parent who is also struggling to set boundaries, here are some places I am going to start.
• Time to set a boundary: When I’m feeling overwhelmed and my children have nothing to do with it
On any given day, there are a lot of things that can weigh on me. Small issues can really add up to big challenges. When that feeling comes along, I think it’s ok to tell my kids, “Mom had a challenging day today. You kids had nothing to do with it, but I’m short on patience right now. Perhaps we can take it easy tonight and watch a nature show so I can decompress.”
All the other stuff can wait. It’s good to set boundaries.
• Time to set a boundary: When I’m feeling overwhelmed by my children
The more we love someone, the easier it is for them to push our buttons. Some days, my kids really frustrate me. When they have tough days, I think it’s OK to set boundaries. When my kids are being unkind to me, I can put a small wall up. I can tell them it’s OK to be upset, angry or hurt. However, they can’t keep being unkind to others. If they can’t turn it around, I can tell them to go to their rooms and draw, pick up a good book or go outside and vent. I can also offer to help them through their difficulties. As a parent, it’s my responsibility to teach them to embrace and own their emotions. However, they need to do that for themselves and regroup.
When someone needs a break, let them have it. It’s good to set boundaries.
• Time to set a boundary: When I’m not feeling well physically
If I feel sick, I should be able to take care of myself. That may mean sending everyone to bed early for a night or two. It may mean easing up on restrictions for my kids’ screen time. It may mean telling my husband that he needs to pick up my tasks for a short time. By powering through every illness, I’m not being a good role model. I’m teaching them their health should take a back seat to the demands of life.
It’s OK to rest and recuperate. It’s good to set boundaries.
• Time to set a boundary: When I don’t want to be touched
Moms with younger kids likely know about being touched out. When I am touched out, I think it’s good parenting to set boundaries with my kids. If I don’t like the way they are touching me, I should kindly tell them that. When I set this boundary, I can remind them how much I love them. This communication is widely important. It teaches my kids to set their own boundaries for their bodies. It teaches them to respect the boundaries of others.
We are all in command of our own bodies. It’s good to set boundaries.
• Time to set a boundary: When I need me time
When I need time for me, I should be able to take it. Whether I want to go for a run, get a workout in, read a book or talk to a friend, I should be able to set up a boundary that says, “I’m important too. I deserve to be nurtured.” My purpose in life is not to do everything for everybody else. If I need to recharge, it’s OK to build a wall between myself and my to-do list.
The tasks can wait; life can’t. It’s good to set boundaries.