Real Self-Care for Mother’s Day: Setting Boundaries
As Mother's Day approaches, you will probably receive lots of kind messages and gifts. It may seem as if this is the only day you are seen and validated. Strong family bonds usually are a good sign. However, when they are "too close for comfort”, you often get tangled up in enmeshment in which your identity becomes wrapped up in meeting others' needs. Your life goals are thwarted, which likely leads to anxiety, depression, and burnout. So, after this day, you might return to martyr mode feeling overwhelmed and confused.
What is boundary?
Learning to set healthy boundaries and maintain them is how you make space to care for yourself properly. Boundaries are expectations and needs that help you feel safe and comfortable in a relationship.
One of the illustrations that I find most beneficial when working with clients around relationship issues is to think of ourselves as a house sitting on a piece of property. Our property line forms a boundary separating us from the people we are in a relationship with. We have a choice as to what relationship boundary is present around our house. It may be a gate, fence, or wall. It's easy to imagine the consequences of the various boundaries we can erect.
Why are boundaries important?
Boundaries are necessary because they ensure family members become independent. Without them, the caretaker is likely to become over-reliant on their children. Children cannot individuate and separate from their parents and form their own identity, as well.
Steps for Boundary Setting:
Identify your feelings. Focus on how others’ behaviors make you feel instead of focusing on how others are “wrong. Use an "I feel" sentence instead of a “you are” sentence, such as “You always…” or “You never…” This can come across as attacking or aggressive. An “I feel” sentence is less confrontational.
When setting a boundary using an “I feel” sentence spell out exactly what you feel and why. You can then ask the other person to act differently in the future. For example, instead of saying, “You make fun of me, and I don’t like it,” you could say, “I feel embarrassed when you make jokes about the way I speak. Please don’t make any more jokes about my voice.”
We might feel a sense of guilt for expressing our feelings. This is an all-too-common reaction in a society that conditions women to be caring . Use guilt as a faulty check engine light. Feeling guilty does not mean you're making the wrong choice.
Do not explain and apologize. It may be difficult initially, but being honest with your feelings to others is good for the long term. If you push aside your emotions, you don't expect others to read your mind and resonate.
Others need to be aware when the boundaries are crossed. What are the consequences? Boundaries are hard… not because you can’t identify yours, but because you care about others’ emotional reactions.
Setting healthy boundaries is an act of self-care for yourself as a mother when you may feel overwhelmed by your role. Learn how to identify and communicate boundaries effectively, emphasize the need to let go of guilt, and enforce consequences when necessary. If you still find it hard to embark on this journey, please do reach out.
Lakshmin, P. (2023). Real self-care: Crystals, cleanses and bubble bath not included.
Tawwab, N.(2021). Set boundaries, find peace - a guide to reclaiming yourself.
Cloud, H. & Townsend, J. (2017). Boundaries.