Take the Day Off: Setting Boundaries Is the Ultimate Self-Care
Don’t feel guilty for saying no so you can protect your health and wellbeing.
If you’ve ever skipped a dentist appointment, postponed a check-up or missed a workout for a week or two (or months), join the club. It’s common for parents, and particularly moms, to ignore our own needs in the service of others.
And we pay for it.
Maybe not at first. Maybe not for a while. But our bodies can only take so much neglect before they break down. Just like our kids, we need good nutrition, exercise and joy to thrive.
That’s why I have mixed feelings about a certain kind of mom “joke” you’ve probably seen on Instagram and other sites. You know the ones: about how hard it is for us to take a shower, pee alone, drink hot coffee or make our own meals. I know moms often take solace when we realize we’re not alone, and that being a parent is just really darn hard.
But here’s the thing: It shouldn’t be this hard. We should be able to meet our basic needs, and have time for simple pleasures, too, like a hot cup of coffee. These aren’t indulgences or luxuries. They’re vital for our long-term wellbeing.
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My wake-up call came in 2021, when the stress of working full-time and parenting in a pandemic took a toll on my body. I got shingles at the ripe old age of 36. I finally made time for a check-up, and all of my numbers were headed in the wrong direction. It was clear I needed to take better care of my body.
But it’s not so easy to do, I discovered, when you’re bad at setting boundaries. I quickly went right back to scarfing down my kids’ snacks and forgoing gym time to help my son with his homework. (And there’s a gym in the basement of my building!) As mothers, we’ve been conditioned to feel guilty for putting ourselves first (or even just not-last). After chatting with lots of working parents, I’m convinced most moms feel this way—even the founders of successful start-ups, like Nicole Centeno, the founder and co-CEO of Splendid Spoon, who shared her struggles to set boundaries at a recent Mother Honestly event, “Take The Day Off—Food, Focus, and Boundary Setting.”
“I was inspired to create more space for myself and for other working parents like myself by taking meal planning, cooking and healthfulness off of the to-do list. And yet, in the process of creating boundaries for my work, my ambition and this solution, I had this inner voice telling me I was being selfish,” she confessed. “It’s hard battling the feeling of selfishness even as you know it’s an important step in boundary setting.”
Yet without boundaries, it’s impossible to make time to care for ourselves—which is why they are so essential. That’s why we asked life coach Shirin Eskandani, who shared some great advice at the event, to reveal her best tips for enforcing boundaries, below. I hope it inspires you to carve out time to take care of yourself.
The Fix: 3 Tips for Creating and Upholding Boundaries
What is a boundary? Boundaries are guidelines for ourselves and others that keep us mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthy. Like a plant with instructions, “grows best in direct sunlight,” boundaries are how we love ourselves and teach others to love us.
Most of us, especially caregivers, struggle with prioritizing ourselves over others. We know we need boundaries, but we are so worried about what others will think of us, or who we think we will be if we uphold them, that we are afraid to start.
Boundary setting is like a muscle—it can be extremely hard to work the first time, and takes repeated effort to make it stronger. While the work may always feel hard, in reality, we are getting further and further along each time. Here are some of my favorite ways to start flexing those muscles…
Identify what is holding you back from upholding your boundaries.
Try writing down what you need followed by “which means that.”
Example: I want to ask my partner to do the laundry every other weekend, which means that__________
What feelings or thoughts are coming up for you that could be holding you back from creating this boundary?
Establish, “If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to?”
Like so many things in our hectic schedules, boundaries come down to prioritizing and making a choice. A way to frame this is, “If I say yes to this, what am I saying no to?” It is OK to say yes to your relationship, your personal wellbeing and your family—even if that means saying no to taking on that extra project or stopping at three different homes on a holiday.
Ask for what you need.
We sometimes think that creating a boundary is cold and unfeeling—it’s just about saying “no.” However, there are really loving ways to create boundaries.
Her are four elements to creating a loving boundary and asking for what you need:
Get specific, e.g: I need help with the household tasks.
Describe what that looks like or means: I need help with the household tasks, and this would mean you take care of dinner two days a week.
Let them know what this would provide or give you: I would feel so much clearer, calmer and less overwhelmed if you could help with dinner two days a week.
Ask if there is anything you can do to help them do that: What is a way we can make this work together?
Shirin Eskandani is a certified life coach and the founder of Wholehearted Coaching. To learn more of her top tips for creating and upholding boundaries, watch Shirin’s virtual event, “Take The Day Off—Food, Focus, and Boundary Setting,” hosted by Splendid Spoon and Mother Honestly. Find her at @wholeheartedcoaching.
INTRODUCING OUR NEW WORK-LIFE WALLET!
Stop wasting money. Redirect cash from ineffective EAP programs and directly empower your employees to meet their unique work-life needs. With Mother Honestly’s NEW work-life wallet, employees can access support for an array of work-life needs, including child care, elder care, pet care, self care, household chores and more. Employees link their debit card or bank account, and we screen and qualify work-life related expenses for reimbursement within seconds. Learn how your company can support caregivers with our Work-Life Wallet!
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Randi Zinn is an author, mindfulness and wellness expert, podcast host and founder of the Woman of Abundance Mentorship Program, the Going Beyond Movement and Beyond Mom. The Going Beyond movement grants women permission to step in, step up, and enter a curious dialogue with their life. She has been featured in The New York Times, Well+Good, HuffPost and many more. Book Randi today!
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