Boundaries; the buzzword of our modern day culture of self-care and “taking back” our power from all the (self-proclaimed??) gurus out there in the Interwebs.
But what if we didn’t have to take back our power because we never gave it away in the first place?
In reality, boundaries allow us to take care of ourselves, simultaneously giving room for other people in our lives.
But for mothers and mothers-to-be, this is where tradition knocks us over the head and drags us back to the cave.
Creating boundaries as a mom
Here are three ways to gently yet firmly assert yourself when tradition bulldozes you and your voice.
- Acknowledge that loved ones want to help and do want what’s best for you and the baby: I remember being told that if I hold my son too much, he’d get spoiled. After much work on my hyper-independent tendencies, I knew that the cry it out method wasn’t going to be part of how I raised my son. So, instead of saying “I eh doing that” or lecturing them on the psychological impact of this, I thanked them for their input, explaining gently yet firmly that I chose a different way.
- Highlight the impact of their actions: Intention versus impact. When we believe that our mother figures do want what’s best for us, it’s easier to do this part. After acknowledging that they mean well, you may consider saying “I want to let you know the impact of this action.” I remember someone from our family who was the sweetest help and while she was babysitting on one occasion, I was horrified to learn she cut the nipples of my son’s stage 3 set because “he was eating too slow and I had put cereal in the milk for him to get more”. Now, I could have gone down the path of there’s a reason it’s a stage 3 and if he needs cereal it would be in a bowl. I could have also said that he’s just settled from his reflux and now you’re going to make it worse. Instead, I chose to share that the impact of this now meant that all the nipples on his bottles could no longer be used for milk alone and it puts me out to have to buy more.
- Communicate what’s important to you, even if it means frequently repeating yourself: This one takes practice and lots of it! In a world where our own mothers and caregivers’ boundaries may have been non-existent, we’re birthing new ways of co-existing. Change is difficult and old habits die hard. Finding the courage to consistently show up for yourself and say out loud what is and what isn’t okay builds those pathways to change.
We may want and, let’s be honest, NEED the help during that fourth trimester of zombie-filled days and nights without a wink of sleep.
However, resentment can creep in when our requests go ignored or are met with “you doh know what you doin!” or “I do this 9 times and you now reach!”
We may be new to this Motherhood thing, but that voice whispering deep within us is also the birth of our maternal instinct.
Honor yourself and all you need, mama! It’s worth it!