Posted by : Amanda Stein Saturday, December 8, 2012
As I sit at my computer, organizing my thoughts, I hear knock at the door. “Mommy, can I have my game?”
“Of course,” I say. I open the door and my four-year old asks,
“May I come in?”
“Sure, honey. Let’s have a hug and I’ll give you your game.” I notice her hands are cold and her nose is runny. She asks me to help her use the potty and while I’m helping her she asks if she can be in the room with me while I work “if I don’t make any noise?”
I want to take care of her. I’m starting a business at parentcoaching.org about helping parents connect with themselves, each other, and their children. How can I do that while ignoring the needs of my own child?
“Yes. You can be in here with me. But I need to work and not be interrupted.” I say while thinking “Where is my husband?”
A few minutes later, my husband and older daughter come in. They had been in the community building a short walk away. As I help my youngest finish on the potty, I realize that I could start feeling resentful. My husband and I had an agreement that he would watch the girls this afternoon while I worked. We talked about it and agreed to it ahead of time. So where was he?
When he’s not available and my daughters turn to me, I’m in a position of having to stick to my boundaries and neglect my children or ignore my boundaries and give my daughters the care they need. When I see just these two choices, I don’t like either one. I feel resentful, trapped, and angry.
Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Have you ever felt torn between your commitment to your family and your commitment to your business? Many of us, especially mompreneurs who are working from home, often feel this schism. We’re pulled in opposite directions and the stress can be enough to kill a fledgling business enterprise. At the point of stress, it’s easy to feel hopeless and overwhelmed. You might be tempted to give up on your work or give up on your family. I’m here to say you can do something different.
Good Boundaries Create Safety
Good boundaries can be the savior, but all boundaries are not created equal. Strength, flexibility and discernment are all important characteristics of good boundaries. Why?
Personal boundaries are like fences between neighboring houses. You can have anything from a ‘your home is my home’ nearly boundary-less style to a Berlin Wall ‘no trespassing no matter what’ harshness. What most of us would like to find is the ability to set clear, appropriate, and respectful boundaries. We want to have space to ourselves when we need it, we want to include others in our time when we want them, and we want the ability to pick and chose those times. We want to be able to work with focus and clarity during work times, play with freedom and joy during playtimes, and sleep peacefully at night. We want fulfilling personal lives, great friendships, and creative flow. Does this sound like too much to ask for? It’s not. But you have to be willing to ask for it and then work to make it happen.
Steps for Setting Clear Boundaries
- Know what you want. You need to know what you want and what you need or you can’t set the boundaries of time and space to help you get it. There are many ways to figure out what you want. A few of my favorites are journaling, free association, sentence completion, and writing a letter as your future self to you now. Getting help from a very supportive friend or a coach can be great but make sure you select your listener carefully. Well meaning criticism or suggestions are not welcome at this brainstorming phase.
- How much time? Be clear with yourself and those close to you. Sometimes we feel like we’ll never have enough time to complete our tasks and we need to take as much as we possibly can. This feeling of scarcity is communicated to our children and other intimates and can result in them being very unwilling to let us go. Pick the amount of time you need. If you don’t know, guess. You’re human. You’re learning how to do something new. Don’t expect perfection.
- Keep your agreements. Once you get the time and space you ask for, don’t cheat and take more. Keep your own agreements and it will teach others to keep theirs with you.
- Review and refine. Take a look at what worked and what didn’t. Where did the interruptions come from? What needs weren’t being met? Is it OK to not meet those needs or does something need to change? Allow yourself to notice what felt successful and what didn’t and to make changes. You don’t need to throw out the whole idea of scheduling and boundaries or get super rigid. You can make subtle course adjustments based on trial-and-error.
What if you have a plan, you know what you need to do, but you just can’t seem to stick to it? If you’re having a hard time sticking to your business plan or making time for work and family, I suggest you take time to look at what’s going on inside of you. Our underlying needs, values, and beliefs influence our ability to be creative, successful, and reliable more than any of us realize. By quietly listening to the different energies inside of you, you can receive great insight into your own motivations and saboteurs.
How do you listen? It can often be helpful to have a guide, friend, or coach to sit with you while you listen to your underlying feelings. Most of us have some combination of feeling not good enough, being afraid of being abandoned or ostracized, and failing among others. Most of us have spent most of our lives learning how to cope with these voices most often by ignoring or countering them. It takes skill and courage to sit with those voices and not get overwhelmed by them.
When I notice what’s even more important to me than creating my business, I realize I need to know my girls are well cared for and my husband has time for self-care. If I don’t know this, I will keep stepping in to ‘save’ the girls, blaming my husband for not ‘doing his job’, taking the girls so he has free time, and waiting for him to create a safe enough container for me to immerse myself in my work. That approach hasn’t gotten us anywhere productive. It feels like arguing with reality. Other needs I have are to know that I can have a balance of personal time, work time, and family time. Some part of me rebels if I think I have to devote my entire life to building this business and then give any other time to my husband and children. I want time for me and friendships, too.
Looking at the reality of what I need and what resources our family has, we’re deciding to hire - through income sharing and trade - about 25 hours a week of childcare. My girls will have loving caregivers I trust, I will have time to work, and my husband will have time for his own pursuits. Interestingly, we’ve tried to get help with the girls before, but until I encountered more of my underlying needs and fears, those agreements with caregivers kept falling through. Some part of me needed to be willing to allow other people to become important to my children and to trust that they would be safe.
The interactions of our underlying needs, values, and beliefs are often outside the realm of our conscious thoughts. The ways they work sometimes seem mysterious. But once we stop working against ourselves, great vistas of opportunity and energy open up.
What Do You Need?
What do you need to help you focus? The distractions that keep us from focusing can be keys to unlocking our potential. Through my work I help parents and other mompreneurs understand themselves, the needs of those around them, and their own needs. We use your own wisdom to set priorities and to work with the energy in you that is sabotaging or rejecting your stated goals – both family and business related. As moms we know the two are intimately intertwined.
I’d love to hear from you. Do you have tips for setting boundaries in your family? What helps you focus on your work? What aspects of work, family, and personal life would you like help with? Please share them in the comments and let’s start a dialogue.
Author Bio: Kassandra Brown started parentcoaching.org with the desire to help women through the many transitions that come with the job title ‘mom’. Changes in career, personal life, relationships, health challenges, and more often come fast and furious in the early years of motherhood. Kassandra helps you find your own unique path through to a greater sense of ease and wellbeing.