I knew I had a lot to learn when I became a mother, like how to overcome sleep deprivation and how to stop a toddler meltdown. The one thing I didn’t know I needed to learn was how to set boundaries.
Not for my kid (which is important), but for me.
I work. I mother a toddler. I wife. I have other interests. I think I still have friends. The house gets dirty.
Most times I can’t do it all, or things get half done. Not because I don’t have enough time, but because my attention is pulled all over the place.
Do you know how many half-read books are on my bedroom floor? That pretty much sums it up.
I am at a stage in my son’s life where boundaries are difficult. There are always two Duplos stuck together that need to be unstuck or a shoe that needs to be put on. A temper tantrum to be handled or a diaper to be changed.
My son also wants cuddles. Tons of cuddles, which I won’t complain about.
Some days I wake up and I need more order. More room, even if it’s just mental. I know my life is inherently complex (at this moment in time), but I need my own space.
I set boundaries for my son. What about me?
It took me a while but I am finally starting to figure out how to carve out space simply for myself. This change only has been possible with the help of my husband who makes sure I follow through.
In the morning, I now make time to read, to journal or to maintain my spiritual practice. It’s a priority. I have to fight for it some days and sometimes it’s only for a few minutes.
Even a few minutes counts, and I am happier for it.
I have regular gym times that I set aside during the week and I am starting to kick butt. I don’t always want to go but I do. I always feel better.
Last weekend, I spent half an hour reading a book at a coffee shop. It was divine.
Recently at work someone tried to schedule a call to start at 5 p.m., which was too late for me. At that point, I am usually at home with my kid, possibly starting dinner. I usually get 2-3 hours at night with my son. That’s it before bed, and our family time is precious.
This meeting wasn’t worth ruining our dinner time.
I said, “No” to the meeting. It was magical. I could say no. Of course this meeting wouldn’t make or break my career and the meeting time was ultimately changed.
Before I had my son, I would have made it work, even if the call was at 8 p.m.
Damn, it feels good to say no sometimes.
In some areas of my life, I have always had trouble setting boundaries. Now as a parent, it’s particularly challenging. For me, it is easy to put off self-care like exercise, reading, a trip to the hair salon or other things I used to enjoy, because my son (or our home) occupies much of my available physical and mental space.
I am now learning to make space for me. To read more. To move more. To relax more. It may be easier with just one kid but if we ever have another, it’s probably wise to start this practice now.
It’s starting to feel good.