how to set boundaries, mama disrupt

How to set boundaries and 4 signs you need to

In Boss Mama, Career, Features, Motherhood, Stories, Work by Gemma Dawkins

If you think boundaries are just those things between your neighbour’s house and yours, this is for you.

By Gemma Dawkins

I know you, because I am you. A people pleaser. A Type-A person. The kind that would rather pull out all my eyelashes one by one than let somebody down. Sound familiar?

The problem is, when you don’t set boundaries it can cause a whole lotta damage, and not just to you – it has a flow-on effect that can end up impacting your family, your friendships, and your work. And when you’re a mama, the demands on you are so constant, that it’s a slippery slope to crying on the bathroom floor on a Tuesday morning again.


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4 signs you need some boundaries…
1. You are constantly time-poor

Blocked your calendar out within an inch of its life and still can’t find time for a girls night until October…next year? Yeah, that’s too much for one person to handle. Setting some firm boundaries will help you claim some time for the things that really matter to you. Like margaritas.

2. You feel resentful of your friends, family, or work

Do most requests that come your way cause you to feel a little resentful? Maybe your sister needs a ride, a friend asks for a favour, or your boss invites you to take on an extra project. If your first reaction is resentment, it could be a sign that you’re feeling taken advantage of. Know what fixes that? The B word.

3. You suffer from anxiety

Anxiety is a genuine medical condition, so if you’re concerned about it, it’s always a good idea to chat to your doctor. But anxious feelings can also indicate that you’re taking on too much and feeling stressed about it. Boundaries help you to prioritise what’s important to you, so that you have the mental capacity.

4. You feel burnt out or overwhelmed

Always exhausted, reaching for that third coffee, thinking ‘after this week things will get better’? Classic. We all have demanding times in our lives, but if that’s your daily standard, it’s time to make some changes.

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So what exactly are boundaries, anyway?

In her book Setting Boundaries, Rebecca Ray describes suggests you “Think of boundaries as circles of empowerment that teach others how to respect you and ensure you offer that same respect to yourself.” Rather than framing boundaries as a negative or aggressive action, think of them as a means to empower yourself. Boundaries are healthy. Say it with me, now.

That doesn’t mean setting them is easy, of course. Especially if you’re a mama. Nedra Glover Tawwab is the author of Set Boundaries, Find Peace and she says that boundary setting is particularly tricky in family settings.“Family is where people experience the biggest challenges around boundaries, especially within parent-child relationships.”

But, as Ray explains, it’s worth it. “Boundaries are founded on reciprocal respect. They help us manage our personal resources, including time, energy, money and love.” So you can stop pouring from an empty cup.

imposter syndrome, women, maternal mental health, mama disrupt

3 ways to set boundaries

Want some practical boundary-setting tips? We’ve got you. Here’s 3 simple ways to start.

1. Stop over-apologising

Note to self: you don’t need to couch everything in ‘sorry.’ Outside your work hours? A simple ‘I’ll deal with this when I’m back at my desk’ is perfectly acceptable. No need to apologise for having a life outside of work.

2. Be clear with your boundary from the beginning

If you find it hard to say no, it can be tempting to give a vague ‘I’ll see what I can do,’ or the classic ‘I’d love to, let me get back to you.’ It may seem like you’re being kind, or at least non-confrontational in the moment. But in reality, all this does is drag the situation out, add to your anxiety as you prolong the dreaded ‘no’ [or, let’s be honest, start building up that resentment for when you inevitably feel obliged to say yes]. It also keeps the person asking hanging. Be clear from the start with a simple ‘I wish I could help but I don’t have capacity right now’.

3. Remove the personal

Ready for a game-changer? If you hate disappointing people and it’s leaving you over-committed and depleted, try changing your language to incorporate some ‘rules.’ For example, ‘I don’t check emails on weekends,’ ‘I do the 5.30 gym class,’ or ‘I take meetings between these hours.’ This way, you’re not saying no to their specific request, it just falls outside your boundaries. And then it’s not even you saying no, really. It’s the boundaries.

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