Have you ever felt the weight of the world constantly pushing down on your mom shoulders?
A mom is a woman with numerous roles to play. Between taking care of kids, a partner, a home, finances, meals, work responsibilities and much more, it’s easy to see how moms can easily become overwhelmed and eventually burn out.
Being a mom is physically and emotionally exhausting and, if you continue to give your everything to everyone else, you’ll have nothing left for yourself.
One important step in alleviating stress in your mom life is to set boundaries. This means learning to say “no” as well as cutting things out of your life that no longer serve you.
By using boundaries to reduce stress, you are clearing tasks and people out of your life that you are not responsible for – leaving more time and energy for yourself and your family.
Telling you to set boundaries is one thing. Actually doing it can be difficult, especially since many moms feel bad for saying “no”.
What Does it Mean to “Set Boundaries”?
Boundaries are those limits we create to protect our physical, spiritual and emotional space. We use boundaries to control how other people treat us and to remain focused on the priorities in our lives.
We teach people how to treat us by what we allow them to do to us. By setting boundaries, you are establishing the rules of how you want to be treated despite what others may think, feel or believe.
For instance, if you are constantly lending a friend money, you are teaching them to treat you like a bank. If you always say “yes” when asked a favor, you are teaching people to treat you like a doormat.
You need to set limits with people but these limits are not rigid or set in stone. In fact, boundaries can change over time and can change depending on the situation or the person.
Also, for each person in your life, they can be fluid.
For example, you may be more than happy to help a mom friend who needs an emergency babysitter. However, you might not be interested in counselling her through her rocky marriage.
But if it was your best friend, you’d be all ears.
The importance of the people in your life falls on a spectrum. We don’t have the capacity to hand our time out to just anybody. Obviously, some people are going to have priority over others.
However, when it comes to setting boundaries, it’s all about making yourself a priority.
You Can Set Boundaries Without Feeling Guilty
I know that as a mother, making yourself a priority is difficult and doing so can lead to feelings of guilt.
This makes it hard to set boundaries because we habitually put the needs of others before our own. We do it so automatically for our children that we allow that nurturing nature to spread into other aspects of our lives.
We feel that saying yes to please others is a good thing and that we need to be helpful in order to be a “good” person. This often makes us feel compelled to say “yes” when we really want to say “no”.
The guilt makes you feel that you should ignore your own needs and help other people with their responsibilities.
However, the more those people come to rely on you, the more they will weigh you down.
That reliance is the very reason that you should kick the guilt to the curb. When you set boundaries, and stop taking on other people’s responsibilities, they are then forced to deal with their own problems and find their own solutions.
So, really, you’re doing them a favor.
Know Your Limits and Mom Within Them
The first step in setting boundaries is getting to know yourself and understanding what is really important to you and how much you can handle.
For example, I have a mom friend who is always so willing to give help when needed. In fact, she often offers it freely to others before it is even asked.
I, on the other hand, have issues with anxiety and overwhelm so I am very careful about spreading myself too thin. When I do, I burn out.
Her and I have very different limits when it comes to how much we can give. And at no point do I compare myself to her or allow myself to feel bad about it.
I know what I’m capable of. I know my limits and play within them.
You can get better in touch with your capabilities by practising self-awareness. This means knowing how you feel about situations and why you feel that way as well as knowing what needs to be done to fulfill your own needs.
To do this, you need to evaluate your values by focusing inward and getting in touch with what you believe in.
I believe in taking care of myself and my daughter. We are the two most important things in my life – we are what I value more than anything.
If something negatively affects either one of us, I draw the line. If going out of my way to lend aid to someone else takes away energy from my daughter, I say “no”. This is how I know where to establish my boundaries.
Again, boundaries are flexible, so I am willing to do a lot more for the important people in my life than acquaintances. However, if that acquaintance is in a desperate situation, I will definitely step up.
Setting boundaries means knowing your breaking point and staying away from it. This is how boundaries are going to reduce stress in your mom life.
How to Create and Set Healthy Boundaries
I’m sure there are many times in your life that you tried to set a boundary and it didn’t work. Setting boundaries is more than announcing your limits and expecting people to abide by them.
What boundaries you set and how you communicate them is important in making sure they are effective and respected.
You also have to respect yourself and be consistent with boundaries.
Here are ways that you can set boundaries in order to reduce stress in your mom life:
Define Your Limits
When you take the time to think about your values and what’s important to you, you can define what you are willing to tolerate and accept.
You’ll also be able understand what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed.
It’s these feeling that will help you identify what your limits are. The more clearly you can define them, the more effectively you can communicate them to others.
For example, you may have that friend that always asks for money – yet you are already stretching your finances thin. You know you can’t afford to help them out (your limit) so you are able to tell them in a straightforward manner: “I can’t help you with money.”
Boundaries aren’t always about other people asking for things. It can include how people treat you.
Perhaps you have a mom friend who always teases you about the way your child is dressed. (If your child is anything like mine, and dresses themselves, it can be quite a sight.)
You are allowed to tell them that you don’t appreciate your comments because they hurt your feelings. Maybe they won’t listen and continue doing it (in which case, I would give them the ol’ heave-ho from my life) but more than likely they will stop.
That’s an example of setting a boundary and teaching someone else how to treat you.
Be Direct and Assertive
More often than not, you won’t have to spell out your boundaries to people in your life. Most decent individuals are capable of both assuming healthy boundaries and picking up on cues when they’ve overstepped them.
Such as the friend who thinks you’re the Bank of America. Normally, after asking a couple of times for a hand out and hearing “no”, a person will take the hint and stop asking.
However, there are people with whom you will have to be more direct.
This doesn’t mean they are necessarily ignorant people. They may simply have differing personalities or a different approach to things.
Maybe that judgy-pants mom who teases you about your child’s outfit would have no problems hearing it herself. Perhaps she believes playful criticism is acceptable.
Regardless, this doesn’t mean you have to accept any sort of treatment that you don’t like. People can’t read minds, so you may have to assertively communicate with the other person that they’ve crossed a boundary.
This doesn’t mean you have to be mean or haul out the “mom voice” (you know what I’m talking about). Assertive communication simply means that you express your feelings in a calm, respectful and straightforward manner.
Prioritize Your Self Care
Barely do I write an article in which I don’t harp on the importance of self care.
Here are words I live by:
Self care is a necessity, not a luxury.
As a mom, you are allowed to put yourself first. When you do this, your need for boundaries becomes stronger and you are more likely to put them in place.
Self care means not only pampering yourself or finding ways to alleviate stress from your life – it also means recognizing that your feelings are important and that they gauge your level of well being.
Setting boundaries doesn’t make you a self-centered, hard-faced B* that refuses to do anything for anyone.
It makes you better able to take care of yourself which, in turn, makes you more capable of caring for others.
If you’re new to setting boundaries in your life, don’t take on too much at once. Implementing limits in your life, especially if you’re a people-pleaser, can cause you more stress than it alleviates.
Creating and communicating your boundaries takes practice so try starting with a small boundary and working up from there.
For instance, you can let your friends know not to call after 8pm. This is totally understandable, especially if you have little ones with bedtimes.
If you have a mom friend that is constantly asking you to watch her kids (and you don’t have the time or the energy), tell you that you will let her know when you are available. From there, you can eventually work up to asking her to stop asking you.
The more you practice setting down and communicating smaller boundaries, the more comfortable you will feel putting some more challenging boundaries.
The Types of Boundaries You Are Allowed to Set
Like I mentioned, boundaries don’t only apply to when people ask you for favors (although this does seem to be a common one needed in mom life).
There are many different types of boundaries that you are allowed to set for yourself. Here some areas in which boundaries can apply:
- Physical Boundaries. This refers to your personal space, privacy and body. Do you like hugs? How much do you want people to know about your life?
- Mental Boundaries. These boundaries apply to your thoughts, values and opinions. Are you willing to accept someone into your life that goes against or disregards your values and opinions?
- Emotional Boundaries. Setting emotional boundaries means separating your emotions and responsibility from those of other people. It means not allowing others to blame you for their own misgivings and shortcomings.
- Sexual Boundaries. You get to decide what your limits are as far as sexual touch and activity goes.
- Material Boundaries. These boundaries relate to whether you give or lend material things.
- Life Boundaries. You can set boundaries that protect your way of life and prevent others from bringing negativity or taking time away from it.
Remember that you are allowed to set boundaries in any of these areas without feeling guilty. No one should ever make you feel that you need to step away from your comfort zone just to appease them or “do the right thing”.
Setting Boundaries to Reduce Stress in Your Mom Life
One of the biggest sources of stress in mom life is not having enough time to do everything for everyone. By setting boundaries, you are alleviating the potential for overwhelm and burnout.
The more you say “no” to things you don’t want to do and are not responsible for, the more you will notice how open and airy your life has become.
By setting boundaries, you are also keeping negativity and stressful situations out of your life.
What kind of boundaries have you set in your life? How did it change the amount of stress in your life? Let me know in the comments!