Motherhood is one of the most profound, important, healing and intimidating journeys that we may ever embark on. The world offers a multitude of opinions, judgments, rules and standards on what Motherhood should look like. Often times this can overpower our own internal motherhood cues. Setting boundaries can calm the external noise. I had to set boundaries to control my own thoughts and actions. I had to set boundaries regarding how I let other people’s judgments and beliefs influence my thoughts and actions. I had to set boundaries on how I let my children control my thoughts and actions. Whereas, I once felt required to let the whole world weigh in on my Motherhood, creating and enforcing boundaries freed me of that stress. Here are 5 Boundaries that will help you reclaim your Motherhood.
Boundary 1 | Don’t Step Outside of Who You Are
You are still you. All that you were before you had kids, you still are and it is okay to remain all of those things. Wanting to be a good mom is a natural reaction to the love we have for our children. We want to know what we need to do and we are determined to be everything that every book, doctor, friend, or talk show tells us we need to be. When your attempt to conform to “good mom” standards starts to oppose your uniqueness as a person, it’s time to slow down, back up and reassess the situation.
Embracing your own uniqueness will always make you a good mom to YOUR children.
Remember that YOU are what your children need, as is. To be anything else is only a disservice to them. If you are a quirky, foul-mouthed, unorganized hippie then you are a quirky, foul-mouthed, unorganized hippie Mommy and perfect to guide and embrace the development of your child’s soul. That is why they were gifted to YOU. Moral of the Story: You already ARE, just BE.
Boundary 2 | You Decide What Your Version of Motherhood Looks Like.
Motherhood does not define you. You define your version of Motherhood. There is no universal way to parent but you will certainly receive a lot of input and advice on what you should do.
Know when to cut it off.
One of the most useful phrases that I have learned to utilize when it comes to unsolicited parenting advice (which is often just judgment disguised as advice) is “thank you for being supportive, but I will navigate this situation on my own.” Even if you have no clue how you are going to navigate the situation. Your best parenting will always be intuitive. There is no other parent, teacher, relative or stranger that is better equipped to define your style of motherhood or guide your child’s soul than you. Strip away all of society’s expectations and demands and release all the thoughts regarding what you “should” do. You are uniquely connected to your child and trusting that connection will always lead you to be their best advocate. No matter how well meaning, experienced, good intentioned or worldly-wise the advisor is, only you know how to mother your child. Moral of the story: Mother knows best, and YOU are the Mother.
Boundary 3 | Mommy Guilt: Know where to draw the line.
The only ones that can inflict Mommy guilt on us better than we inflict it on ourselves are our children. Children are innately selfish. If you are waiting on your child to express their deepest love and gratitude for all that you do and tell you that they want you to follow your dreams and take time for yourself, it’s not going to happen. So I am telling you that you are magnificent, you need to take time for yourself and continue to follow your dreams. Your children will make you feel that they can’t make it through a minute without you, that saying “no” will scar them for life and that every fiber of your existence is for the purpose of catering to them. Guess what? They can survive without you, ‘no’ is one of the most beneficial concepts they can learn and you are more than a Mommy. If you show them signs that you feel guilty about something they will milk it for all that it is worth. Know where to draw the line. Easier said then done, I know. On my daughter’s first week of preschool I sat in the parking lot crying everyday because as I dropped her off she would scream, “Please don’t leave me!” I had convinced myself that I was traumatizing her. Words like abandonment and rejection were bouncing around in my head. I had imagined scenarios where the teachers were dismissive and the other kids were cruel. I wondered how her adult life would be affected by being left by her mother every morning. I had every intention of pulling her out of the program and re-arranging our entire lives so that I could stay at home with her. On the second week of school she didn’t cry in the mornings anymore. Instead, she cried when I picked her up and yelled “I don’t want to go home.”
It’s usually not as deep as you’ve convinced yourself it is.
Children follow your cues. You make the choices that are best for you and your family and don’t apologize for it; not to your children and not to anyone else. Apologizing suggests that your choices are not what they are supposed to be and if you have determined that it is your best choice then it’s exactly what it is supposed to be. If you are a working mom, if your child lives primarily with their father, if you can’t volunteer at school, if you have a nanny, if you can’t figure out third grade math, if you can’t afford the newest toys or fashion; that is okay. Any guilt that arises from a feeling of how you think things should be is energy better spent on dealing with how things actually are. Moral of the Story: Don’t Mommy guilt yourself and don’t let your children or society Mommy guilt you either.
Boundary 4 | Know Where Your Needs End and Your Child’s NEEDS Begin.
If you do your job correctly, one day your children won’t need you anymore. They will love you forever, they will value you forever but they won’t NEED you forever. Be prepared for that. Even more importantly, don’t start to need their dependence. They enter this world and we know we would do anything for them. Our lives begin to revolve around them. Yet, we have the duty of teaching them to do for themselves. One of the hardest parts of motherhood is coming to terms with the moments when they start to develop independence. From the simplest moments of walking on their own or walking into school by themselves to the more serious moments of choosing their careers or life partners it can be hard to let go, but you still have to let go. Our love for them often leads us to believe that we always know what’s best for them and they need us to tell them and show them what to do.
Don’t let your need to be needed impede their need to be independent.
Teach them to trust themselves, teach them to listen to their Self, and teach them they are everything that they need to be all on their own and honor that by knowing when to step back and let them lead. Moral of the story: Don’t stand in the way of their growth.
Boundary 5 | Don’t Trade on Your Children’s “Right Now” Happiness
From the minute our children are born we want them to have the best life possible. Modern day society promotes the idea that a good life is the result of a combination of time, hard work and perceived success. So we busily try to make sure our children have enough, learn enough, are exposed to the right opportunities, and work hard enough. All in an effort that they will live a good life one day. We peddle delayed gratification as a standard part of the happiness equation. My son said something to me that made me realize that life is already good.
Joy is simply daily gratitude and the act of embracing today.
My son certainly wasn’t trying to be profound. In fact, he was trying to convince me to let him purchase a toy with money from his bank. I gave him a grand speech regarding the importance of saving and planning for the future. I told him that eventually he would be so happy that he had saved all that money. He seemed to listen as much as any seven-year old can actually listen to a speech about their future and he replied with full confidence, “nah, I just want to be happy today.” The kid made a lot of sense (and we actually compromised, allowing him to spend a percentage of his savings each month). As parents, we often place so much focus on future goals that we trade on today’s happiness. I’m not suggesting that we all blow through our savings accounts or neglect preparing for the future. I am saying that tomorrow’s happiness shouldn’t be at the expense of today’s happiness. Teaching our children that they must do something or become something to experience a good life unconsciously teaches them that they are incomplete as they are and their happy life becomes contingent on becoming something else. They are already complete. If your actions reflect your desire to support their possible happiness as a future mathematician (or whatever hypothetical future you have designed for them) and those actions begin to overshadow the joy they could have today by doing cartwheels outside, you may be overstepping. We are not the designers of their destiny. Everything that they are is enough and everything that they have is enough. Their happy life is simply acknowledging that. Moral of the Story: Life is Good Now. Let them experience it now.