Establishing Boundaries

By: LUMO Leaders

- Publish On: January 27, 2022

Hello mothers and others, 

It’s the end of January and I’ve got boundaries on my mind. Maybe it’s because the topic keeps coming up in client calls, maybe because it’s year 3 of the pandemic and life and work have been forever intertwined, or maybe it’s because my own boundaries have been being violated recently by the most frequent offender – ME!

I think it’s fair to say that, between school closures and COVID exposures and sick kids, we parents are feeling a little stressed out right now. The automatic way I deal with this, if I’m not paying attention, is to try to work harder and do all of the things. Self-care goes out the window and is replaced by all the stuff I couldn’t get done because I was trying to parent and work at the same time. This does not work. Let me say it again – ignoring our needs to take care of everything and everyone else does not work. It just makes us – well, I ought to speak from personal experience – it just makes ME an exhausted, resentful…witch. (And I know from many many years of coaching many many highly successful and wise women that I‘m not the only one who has this problem.)

We cannot squeeze double the tasks into the same amount of time, no matter how hard we try. If we expect ourselves to be able to do so, we’ll drive ourselves nuts. That’s why we talked about lowering expectations in last week’s newsletter, and that’s why we’re talking about boundaries today. We want to bring all you working moms out there who are struggling a refresher on boundaries, because establishing them creates time, space and mental real estate when we feel like we have none available. 

Here’s the quick and dirty for you.  Boundaries are essential to creating a world where you can be present for you, your family and your work.  The way I look at it, there are four “ingredients”, shall we say, that need to exist in order for our boundaries to work.  They are Prioritizing Yourself, Communication, Trust, and Taking Ownership.

1. Prioritize Yourself 

I know. It’s confronting. But this one is the most important. That’s why it’s number one! Why? Because if we don’t respect ourselves – our needs, our wants, our time – then no one else will, either.

Scenario:  Your Mother-in-Law calls and says she would like to swing by to bring you dinner and see the baby around 1pm.  You just signed up for a 1pm Peloton yoga class that you’re dying to take while the baby naps.

What Prioritizing Yourself might look like: “Thank you so much for the dinner! Are you able to come by at 12pm or 2pm instead? I have a class at 1pm, and I don’t want to miss seeing you. If not, no worries – I can pick it up later today.”

Remember – it’s a practice. Do your best, let go of the rest.

2. Communicate (Early & Often) 

When you’re establishing new boundaries, the last thing you want to do is wait for someone to cross them before you have a conversation. You want to think about teaching people how to be with you, before the boundary breach occurs. 

Scenario:  Your younger sister often drops by for unplanned visits. That was completely fine in the past, but you have a new baby now, and you notice that you feel a little annoyed when your sister shows up unannounced. (Pay attention to that feeling!)

What Communicating Early & Often looks like:  “Hey sis, I know we’ve always had an open-door policy, and that was completely fine in the past. I’m just realizing with all the changes that have come with the baby, and her ever-changing sleep schedule, we’d appreciate it if you called before you came, so we have time to prepare and so you don’t wake the baby. Can you do that for me?”

3. Give the Gift of Trust – to Yourself, and Others

If you’re new to setting boundaries, trusting yourself through this process will feel tricky, and that’s okay. However, trusting yourself is a key piece of the puzzle – you must practice trusting yourself to know what is best for you, and trusting others to show up for you as you set new limits with them.

Trusting yourself may look like listening to your body when a situation makes you feel strange. It may look like noticing when you feel angry, or taken advantage of. That may indicate that someone crossed a boundary you didn’t know you had.

Scenario:  Your coworker has been gossiping about other employees to you and it’s making you uncomfortable.

Your job is to trust yourself to have the conversation with her, and to trust her to respect your wishes.

What practicing Giving the Gift of Trust looks like:  

“Hey, I realized lately that I’m actually not comfortable hearing or telling stories about other people. I’m sorry for the stuff I’ve said in the past, and I’m trying something different now. Can we talk about our new favorite shows instead?”

4. Taking Ownership

Taking ownership starts by taking an honest look at your side of the street. You might ask yourself, “What have I done or not done that directly or inadvertently communicated to my boss that it’s ok to call me on the weekends?”, or “What have I said (or not said) to my mom that made her think treating me this way is okay?” 

Taking responsibility for how we’ve created a relationship is tough. Like, looking deeply into a hotel makeup mirror tough. (Too close!)  It’s so much easier to blame everyone else! 

But blaming others leaves us stuck. Victimized. That’s why we look at our part in things – so we can take our power back instead of giving it away.

Scenario: Your boss is used to you emailing back and forth with her until 9pm, but you’re exhausted and don’t want to do that anymore.

Taking Ownership looks like:

“Hey, I realize that I’ve been working late a lot and that you’ve probably come to expect that of me. I’m working on setting some limits for myself so that I can spend more time with my family. Going forward, I’ll be turning off my phone after 6pm so I can focus on my kids. Let me know if we need to set up more meetings during the day to finish our work.”

*Important note about taking ownership: once you start looking, you’ll probably see a lot of things you have said or done that mistakenly communicated that you don’t matter or that your time and energy are unimportant. It’s extremely important that you be gentle with yourself through this process. Say to yourself, “This is part of my learning process. It takes courage to take responsibility. I didn’t know better before – and now I do.”

If these tips resonated with you, we’d love to hear from you.

Yours in leadership and parenting,

Kristin & the LUMO team

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