What Boundaries Do You Need?

Merriam-Webster defines a boundary as something that indicates a fixed limit or extent. It is a dividing line. We all have boundaries - there are things we will not do, things we will not accept, choices we have made about how we live our lives. Last week we talked about how you know where you need boundaries. It’s time to go deeper.

WHAT BOUNDARIES DO YOU ALREADY HAVE?

Go on, list them out on a sheet of paper. What are the walls around your life? What do they protect?

When you look at your list, how does it feel? Do you need more? Do you want less?

There is no one right number of boundaries. There is no one healthy way to move through the world.

You boundaries may change as your circumstances do. When you move out of a particular house, neighborhood, city, or state - when you change jobs or love affairs your boundaries may shift. As you acknowledge past traumas and work to heal you may need to tighten or loosen your boundaries. You may create new ones around certain subjects or areas of your life. None of that is inherently right or wrong, more or less healthy. So how do you know if they’re working?

ARE YOUR BOUNDARIES WORKING FOR YOU?

There are a few simple questions you can answer to see if your boundaries are working for you and where you may need to do some repair work.

  1. Are they clear? You should understand exactly what it is that you want and don’t want and why.

  2. Are they authentic? Your boundaries are about YOU. Often we let friends, parents, books, teachers, or simply the greater culture tell us what we should want and what we should accept. But this is your life and these are your boundaries. They should be true to your heart and soul.

  3. Are they supportive? Your boundaries should support your life, not restrict it. As you move through the world your perspective and situation will change. Your boundaries need to fit the life you are living today, not the life you lived last year.

MY BOUNDARIES SUCK. NOW WHAT?

First, it’s not just you. Mothers are not encouraged to have healthy boundaries with anyone, but especially not with our families. Most of the memes you see, especially around the holidays, show moms who are touched out, exhausted, overwhelmed, and broken while their families are oblivious.

That is NOT going to be you.

Look back over the questions I asked in the first section of this post. Where are the holes? Where are the pain points in your life that are not being addressed by the boundaries that you currently have? As you find each one, write out a boundary for it.

Once you have a draft, ask yourself if it answers the ‘three are’ questions in the second section of this post. Tweak it until you have a strong feeling about it, until your gut says YES!

SETTING ASIDE GUILT ABOUT YOUR BOUNDARIES

Odds are that there is something you want, or something you very much do not want, but you haven’t set a boundary around it because you feel guilty. You don’t tell your children when you’re touched out. You keep silent about not wanting to host holiday dinner this year. You haven’t told your parents your pronouns. You haven’t told your friends that you don’t want to come to their party.

Motherhood can be a rickety raft in a sea of shoulds. And during the holidays it’s easy for that raft to be completely swamped by a raging storm of expectations. But if you step off of the raft you’ll discover that the water is only two feet deep.

You can stand. You can walk. You can walk away. Your boundaries will help you stand and keep you steady.

It begins with being honest with yourself about you want your experience of the holidays to be. Then you must decide that your wants and needs are valid, that you will model the parenthood journey you want your children to walk.

And then it is practice, practice, practice!

Graeme Seabrook