You don’t take a class; you’re thrown into motherhood and learn from experience.
When my kids were young, I chose to stop my work outside of the home as a therapist and instead focus my work inside of the home as a stay-at-home mom. I loved many (but not all!) parts of my new role. One thing I did notice and observe early on was that if I didn’t set and maintain clear boundaries with the people in my life, this new role had the potential of swallowing me whole!
What losing yourself in motherhood may look like:
- Not feeling like your best self.
- Not having time for self-care.
- Feeling like you’re constantly giving to others.
- Feeling unsupported.
- Being emotionally disconnected from other people.
- High levels of emotional reactivity.
- Not remembering who you were before becoming a mom.
- Feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.
- Thoughts of running away/wanting to escape.
- 10.Feeling like you come last and everyone else’s needs must come before your own.
Some of these can be very hard to think about but may shine a light and give you some insight into what you are currently experiencing on your own motherhood journey.
Would you say you’re better at giving support or receiving support as a mom? Ideally, we’re able to do some of both, but that can also be a struggle for a lot of us. As a giver, I realized in the early years of my own motherhood adventure that I needed to be careful not to give all my precious energy away to other people. This is where clear boundary setting became so very important (and made me very thankful for my therapist training in this area).
Here’s how boundary setting can be helpful during motherhood (and may also be a way to offset losing yourself in your role as a mom):
- Helps you check in with yourself first and focus on your wants and needs.
- Creates time and space for self-care.
- Shows that you value yourself and that you matter.
- Helps you feel like yourself again.
- Shows that self-worth and self-love hold great importance in your life.
- Helps you prioritize what’s most important to you.
- Creates time and space for an emotional connection with others.
- Can lower emotional reactivity.
- Helps you focus on your energy level and feel more centered and grounded in your everyday life.
- 10.May create space to receive help from others.
Healthy boundaries protect you and what’s most important in your life from other people and their priorities and expectations for you.
Boundary setting can be very hard, especially if you’re a people-pleaser or a giver in life. So, where do you start? Here are some ways to set clear boundaries throughout motherhood:
- Sorry but I’m not able to help with that (no explanation necessary).
- I already have plans that day/night (even if it’s to stay home and read a book).
- Let me get back to you on that (this buys you some time before saying yes or no).
- That day/time doesn’t work for me, but I could do this day/time.
- Let me talk it over with my partner/family members first.
- Thanks for asking, but I’m not interested.
- I don’t have time right now, but I’ll reach out to you in the future if time opens up in my schedule.
- I need to go; I’ll see you soon!
- Give me half an hour and I’ll be happy to help out/spend time with you then.
What if you try some of the above ideas, but the person keeps asking or pushing back? Simply repeat the same thing or some version of the thing you’ve already told them. You don’t want to give in, as this will only teach them that with enough push back you’ll let the boundary go. Also, keep in mind that boundary setting tends to be harder with close family members than with people outside of the family. Good luck, and take good care of yourself!