working mom

Honoring Your Boundaries

(I want to preface this by saying I do not claim to be an expert by any means, but I have lived a LOT of *hard* life, from which I wish to share my learnings and best practices.)

I have always been good at time management and task management. However, having children changed that. And with each additional child, I struggled more and more. By the third child, I began to feel overwhelmed. Not only did my panic attacks return (I was plagued by them as a child and young adult, but thought I had outgrown them with age), but I had to seek support though medication – something I had never had to be on for very long to manage my anxiety. But the medication that had worked for me in the past wasn’t working this go-around, and as pressures of being a working mom and wife mounted, I found myself in the darkest place I had been in since teenage years – only at the ripe old age of 45. I don’t cry easily, but I found myself crying DAILY – over seemingly nothing. Things that used to roll off of me just brought me to my knees. It was a tough time.

For starters, a visit to a psychologist and a medicine change were in order. But once that was under control, I began to evaluate how I was balancing my time between work and home – and how I was failing miserably. You see, I can be a workaholic. Career and work have always been a priority for me. While many young women dream of finding a husband and having kids, my focus has always tended to be more career-minded – and if the other stuff happened, that was great too. And so being a mom has been a challenge for me to find healthy boundaries – boundaries at work, boundaries at home, and boundaries within myself.

As most start off their year with resolutions of losing weight or getting organized, mine are centered around living my best life within these new boundaries. Here’s how I created boundaries to help reduce my stress and find enjoyment in life again:

BOUNDARIES AT WORK

PROBLEM – With the technologies available in today’s workforce (and working an HR role in the service industry, which is open more than Monday-Friday 8-5), I felt like I was constantly ”on”. I would get texts, phone calls, and emails from the 80+ team members (which includes about 15 leaders of various levels) at all hours of the day, 7 days per week. Everyone had my personal cell phone number and was not afraid to use it. While I had my phone on ”do not disturb” from 10pm-7am, it wasn’t enough. I would awake to 3 texts that had come through overnight from team members about scheduling or complaints about a leader or whatever. And so when I would pick up my phone in the morning, that would be the first thing I would see, which would already put me in a stressed mood before the day had even begun.

Google Voice app

SOLUTION – I created a Google Voice phone number, but I chose to NOT route those calls and texts to my regular phone – meaning that I HAVE TO LOG IN to an app to check the messages. Then I blocked all team members from my personal cell, so that they can only reach me through that number. (I did NOT block our leaders, so that they can access me whenever needed – which is necessary in my line of work. However, it should be noted that they don’t typically reach out to me at odd hours unless there is a true urgent situation.) I also removed work email from my cell phone. By doing both of these things, I have been able to compartmentalize work, allowing me to focus on my family (or even ”me” time) without being interrupted. It has been a GAMECHANGER.

BOUNDARIES AT HOME

PROBLEM – My biggest issue with my time at home is that I was still trying to work while also making dinner, helping kids with homework, and doing all of the normal mom/wife things. Once I drew the boundaries for work, I found that I was able to focus 100% on helping my kids with their homework – which meant I was less frazzled and was able to extend more patience in helping them, which resulted in a MUCH easier homework process for all involved. But sometimes I replaced the work that I was doing with household tasks, and I still found myself saying, ”I can’t; I’m busy right now; maybe later”.

SOLUTION – I am at a place in my life where I can unapologetically say I have hired a house cleaner that comes every other week. It is AMAZING! She gives our master bathroom and kids’ bathroom a deep clean, as well as sweeps and mops my floors, and then she dusts once per month. That’s it. I still do my laundry and cook and things like that, but just having those few things off of my plate has made SUCH a difference. Additionally, I have pledged this year to spend one-on-one time with at least ONE child each month (rotating, so that each child gets a special one-on-one time at least once per quarter). And I am trying to have date night with my husband once per month – nothing fancy, but again, that uninterrupted one-on-one time. I have also just generally been trying to be mindful of being ”present” for my family – whether it’s watching a show or movie together, doing something crafty together, or even just going shopping together.

BOUNDARIES FOR ”ME”

PROBLEM – Let’s be honest: the first few years of being a mom leave virtually NO time for Mom. Those first couple years with baby are just feeding, changing diapers, and trying to grab an hour or two of sleep when we can. When they hit toddler stage, we’re chasing them around to keep them safe (“don’t put that in your mouth”, ”slow down”, ”watch where you’re going”, etc). And then they get potty-trained, but maybe we’re still assisting with a butt wipe every now and then, and they are always hungry, and we’re doing laundry all the time, and picking up AAAALLLLL the toys. It takes a WHILE to get to where they are relatively self-sufficient for most hours of the day. I am FINALLY getting there – to where they can sort of entertain themselves and don’t require constant supervision.

SOLUTION – I discovered (or rather, RE-discovered) my love for painting during the first year of the pandemic. The kids and I painted SOOO many things during those first few months of being homebound. But then I sort of let life get in the way again and stopped. Then last year, one of my goals for the year was to get back into reading. My goal was one book per month (so 12 for the year). I was SUCH an avid reader as an elementary school kid, but once I started having to do it for school, I lost that love – for decades. But last year I ended up reading 14 fiction books! I loved having that time for ”ME” – an escape doing something I love. So this year I have set a couple of new ”me” goals: 1) to paint at least one painting per month, and 2) to blog at least twice per month (I also love writing). Getting back into these creative activities relaxes me, allows me to have time for ME, but – most importantly – doing something that I LOVE to do. Getting wrapped up in ”life”, I had forgotten what doing something for ME was like. I’m not talking about getting a massage or getting my hair and nails done. Those things are great too, and definitely needed in their own right. But there is something to be said about engaging in an activity where you lose track of time and you are ”all in” on whatever it is you are doing – known as ”flow”.

OTHER BOUNDARIES

As I try to guide the young adults that work for our team, I see mistakes that I wish someone would have told me about at their age – mistakes that I had to learn about the hard way. Here are some other best practices for boundaries that I suggest:

  • HAVE FRIENDS THAT YOU DON’T WORK WITH – If your social circle only includes people that you work with, you are treading on dangerous ground. Not only may you find yourself in a lonely place if you ever change jobs, but you risk perpetuating the complaints and negative vibes from work ALL. THE. TIME. When with these people outside of work, you will inevitably still talk about work – and let’s be honest: those conversations don’t usually include the positive aspects of work. So find some friends that you can hang with that have nothing to do with your current job. You deserve the release from work, and those friends are more likely to follow you wherever you end up. (You can still hang with people from work – just be choosey about how often.)
  • HAVE A HOBBY – Have an activity that provides you with the ”flow” I mentioned above. Even if you are single, don’t work all the time just because you can. Read. Paint. Exercise. Play music. Write. Draw. Play a sport. Do SOMETHING that allows you to forget ”life” for an hour or two.
  • HAVE FRIENDS OUTSIDE OF YOUR ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIP – A mistake that I see a lot of young people make is spending AAAALLLLL of their free time with their romantic partner. This is simply not healthy. While you may be in love and have all the feels, you need to maintain friendships and hobbies that have nothing to do with that person. You need to maintain your own sense of identity and not morph into what you *think* your significant other wants you to be. Just like with having friends from work, spending all of your time with your significant other allows no time for YOU. You need that release. You need to be reminded of who you are. And you need an outlet for those interests that you may not share with your significant other. DON’T LOSE THAT.
  • IT’S BETTER TO BE UNCOMFORTABLE FOR THE 5 MINUTES TO SAY ”NO” THAN THE HOURS YOU WILL LOSE SLEEP BECAUSE YOU SAID ”YES” – I actually took this one from Brene Brown, so I can’t take credit for it. But it is SOOO true. Yes, it is uncomfortable to tell people ”no” sometimes. But it is even more agonizing when you say ”yes” to something that you SHOULD have said ”no” to – but now you’re stuck, and you HAVE to do it, but you really don’t wanna (or don’t have time, or whatever), and you’re miserable. Learn how to say ”no” if you truly don’t have time or don’t want to – it’s ok to be honest! (By the way, if it’s because you just don’t want to – the best way to say ”no” is to say, ”I don’t really think that’s my jam, but I would love to help you __________.” Then you aren’t just shutting someone down – you are being honest, but also offering what you ARE willing to do.)

I hope you have found these suggestions helpful. What best practices do you have for setting boundaries?

Journey to Gratitude: Days 38-44

Once again, life has deterred me from keeping up with my posts. I had a sick toddler for a week, then I got sick, and then Snowpocalypse 2015 hit. It’s been busy. But amidst all of that, here’s what I can be thankful for….

Day 38:
Now that Bella is getting older and understands and communicates more, I love our outings together. Today, we went shopping for some new appliances for the new house. While we were out, we also went and had lunch at Chick-fil-A. Just a fun girls day out and about (and apparently, very tiring).

018

Day 39:
So a few days ago I watched a documentary on Netflix called “Vegucated,” which was about a 6-week challenge for 3 folks to try the vegan lifestyle. It was very eye-opening and really got me thinking. I’ve always been health-conscious, so I am always open to trying healthier options. That being said, I don’t know that I could ever go vegan or vegetarian indefinitely, as I do actually enjoy meat. But I am capable of eating vegetarian meals, or even going through short spurts of being completely vegetarian. In an attempt to try some new plant-based protein options, I bought some tofurky and soy burgers and what not on my latest grocery trip. I was amazed at how easy it was to find quick-serve options at even the local Walmart. So today I am thankful for how far we’ve come with vegetarian and vegan items, that they are easily accessible even in smaller towns where I live and without going to the local “health foods” store.

Day 40:
Today I got a call from Bella’s daycare that she was running a fever. Blaine had practice, so he couldn’t go get her. Fortunately I was able to get out of my afternoon meeting to go get her. Today I am thankful that I have a relatively flexible job that still allows me to be there for Bella.

080

Day 41:
Bella’s fever got pretty high last night. Actually, perhaps the highest ever – 104. Though she acted like she didn’t feel well, she did still have bursts of activity, and she was eating and drinking just fine. I wasn’t sure at what point I should be concerned enough to take her to the ER. I ended up calling a nurse line, who gave me some helpful tips on how to keep her comfy and signs for which to watch that would signal an emergency situation. She slept with me overnight, and by morning, her fever was back down a few degrees and she was acting normal. So today, I am thankful that things didn’t escalate enough to warrant a trip in the night to the ER.

Day 42:
Bella’s fever spiked again in the night, so I ended up having to stay home with her again. Today, I am thankful for not one, but TWO, awesome teammates who were willing to cover my shift in the store so that I could stay home with Bella. I am also thankful that I was able to get some work done from home.

084

Day 43:
Bella’s spurts of activity became non-existent and her appetite disappeared – signals I was waiting for to know that this was turning for the worse. So I took her in to the doctor this morning, and we found out that she has a sinus infection and the start of an ear infection. She was prescribed some antibiotics, and I gave her a dose immediately. Less than 12 hours later, she was up and running again. Today, I am thankful that Bella is on the mend. I am also thankful that Blaine was able to stay with Bella tonight so I could go into work for a few hours.

Day 44:
We had our inspection on the new house today. We waited with bated breath to get the results, as we were certain the inspector would uncover something HUGE – hence why we were getting such a great deal on the house. As it turns out, he found only minor things that Blaine and his rental renovation crew can easily repair. The biggest issue uncovered was radon detection – levels at four times the “allowable” level. (If you don’t know about radon – where it is found, what it can do, and how to repair it – I highly suggest looking into it. This is my new PSA mission, as I learned it is the second only to smoking for the leading cause in lung cancer!) Anyway…as scary as that sounds, it is also easily repaired with the installation of a mitigation system, which we intend to get. So today I am thankful for a good inspection on the new house!

070