What does it even mean to have boundaries as a mom? We’re in constant demand. If it’s not the kids, the partner, or the animals, it’s bills, chores, or emotional investments. It’s exhausting.
We know we’re exhausted but we don’t often know what exactly we need in order to avoid getting exhausted. In the moment, we know what will help, but we also know we’re going back on the hamster wheel before help arrives. Even when we want to relax, we feel like we can’t.
The reason we feel like we can’t is because our boundaries are missing. Having boundaries outlines treatment you accept from others and how you allow yourself to prioritize and invest your time.
Priorities will look different for every parent. You must design boundaries within the life you have.
How Do We Establish Boundaries?
Boundaries are lines. Think of them as red velvet ropes protecting that which is important to you. Your children are important to you so a line crossed will cause you to respond in a certain way. Maybe that’s a neighbor yelling at your child about riding their bike in the street. Maybe it’s a teacher enforcing a certain punishment. Or maybe it’s another parent acting in a certain way.
Whatever it is, there is some point at which your demeanor will change and you’ll exert force within a dynamic to demonstrate that your children are held within boundaries. There is a red velvet rope around them. Whoever is attempting to step inside that rope better watch out because the security system has been tripped.
We often know how to identify boundaries around certain priorities like our children and our relationships but it’s not as simple to establish boundaries regarding the treatment we accept or behaviors we invest ourselves in. It takes more work to establish boundaries when they’re not in regards to protection, but instead in pursuit of happiness.
Most people don’t feel empowered to seek out happiness or establish boundaries relative to their desires versus their survival. But if you want to do more than survive, you must protect whatever helps you thrive. Inner peace is a big part of living your happiest life and you cannot establish inner peace without protecting the things that bring it to you.
1. Identify Your Priorities
If you want happiness and an improved quality of life, you need to know what your highest quality life looks like. What are you doing during the day? Don’t get caught up in your current reality.
After having my second daughter in 2019, I decided I wasn’t returning to work at the end of my maternity leave. Leaving my newborn at three months old, spending most of my waking hours out of the house, was not my ideal life. I needed to work to make money. I needed to make money to pay my bills and provide for my children. So the idea of being home with them sounded impossible at the time. I dreamt of being home with them but I didn’t believe it was possible so I brushed past my desires.
I daydreamed and then let them go. But this caused me to feel anxious about work, anxious about my kids, anxious about everything. Pretending I could ignore this desire became burdensome. So I asked myself, what do I want? I wanted to stay home and still earn money. I like earning money and while I knew I could depend on my husband to support our family, it was important to me to make a contribution to my family finances and maintain the lifestyle I had developed which included making purchases I didn’t want to have to discuss with my husband, like new clothes or a trip to the nail salon.
Finding my priorities was about recognizing what I was willing to give up and what I wasn’t.
Once I admitted to myself that being able to stay home and earn an income was a priority, I was able to establish boundaries that would frame my pathway to that happiness.
Because my husband is my partner and his participation is important to me, I communicated my desires with him. I wish I could say it came out in a super cool, calm, and collected way where I approached him with purpose, but that’s not what happened.
We carpooled to and from work. One afternoon on the ride home, we were running 20 minutes late, and all I could think about was my daughter watching all her friends leave while waiting for her mom, the late one. I broke down crying to my husband. Being twenty minutes late to pick up my daughter, who was already in daycare 10 hours per day, 2 days per week, when I didn’t want her in daycare at all, was more than I could mentally handle. I told him I wanted to contribute financially but I needed to be home. He understood and supported me, but neither of us knew how it would be accomplished since I earned two-thirds of our family income at the time.
I Found Writing
Once I discovered freelance writing, I decided how I wanted to transition from being a working mom to a SAHM. I tried to do the writing whenever, and when I say whenever I meanwhile I was standing in the line at the grocery store, while I was nursing, while I was still working my other job. It wasn’t healthy and I was not achieving anything. I was overwhelmed, defeated, and farther from what I wanted, which was having more time with my family.
2. Set Your Boundaries
Establishing boundaries meant creating a framework for my pathway to happiness. Think of the red velvet ropes, how they block off certain exhibits and allow a clear pathway around. Your pathway to happiness is framed by velvet ropes that protect your priorities. When you take down the velvet ropes, the pathway becomes unclear.
My boundaries included dedicating time to when I would work my day job, spend time with my family, and pursue freelance writing. If I wanted to replace my income by at least half with writing I needed to put in the time. I needed to create a boundary around this priority.
It was easy to stop working to spend time with my family but letting down that velvet rope blurred my pathway. Keeping it there was hard work. It was hard emotionally, but I continued to remind myself that my pathway needed to remain clear. Because of that, I was able to do exactly what I set out to do.
During maternity leave with my second daughter, I quit my job. Because of the boundaries I set and followed, I was able to find consistent work.
Getting What I Wanted
I’ve been home since 2019 and I continue to earn an income through writing, though it’s changed quite a bit. Deciding what I wanted, communicating my desires, and establishing guidelines to reaching the outcome I wanted, was key in making it all happen.
Whatever it is that you want, there’s no need to talk yourself out of it. There’s no reason to believe you can’t achieve your ideal happiness and your ideal life. All you need to do is establish the boundaries that will get you there.
Protect Your Boundaries
Your boundaries are in place for you to reach your ideal happiness and provide the best version of yourself to those you love. You are the initiator, enforcer, and protector of your boundaries. It is up to you and only you to ensure they are respected. If they are violated, you’ll need a method to communicate your desires and reinforce your needs.
Enforcing boundaries won’t always be easy but the control we give people over our boundaries is the control they have over our happiness.
There will be times when you discover that a boundary you’ve established is not working, that’s ok. It will be a trial and error process. You’ll know whether you need to change a boundary because someone is trying to tear it down or it doesn’t work. Establishing healthy boundaries is not always easy but it is necessary to reaching ideal happiness.
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