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Does Every Day Seem Like Take-Your-Kid-To-Work Day? How To Set Boundaries

How do you find your voice working from home, when you can’t hear your own thoughts?

I’m sitting on the phone with my coach (yes, anyone who is killing it does have an executive coach), I pay him $600 an hour. Obviously that means every moment is valuable. But instead of listening to the words coming out of his mouth, I’m distracted by my daughter. She, not so quietly, has “snuck into my office” to get MY phone so she can play some sort of ridiculous game.

I laugh a little at this distraction. Yep, balancing boundaries is the exact thing I have been helping my clients with all week. It’s time to walk my own talk. Funny how things can sneak up on us like that isn’t it?

If you had asked me a few months ago how I am with managing my time, my boundaries and protecting my deepest work, I would tell you “This is one area I’ve got handled in my life”.

But a pandemic sneaks in doesn’t it? Everything changes, the world shuts down, the way we work pivots, the office closes, job descriptions change and child care is non-existent. Of course distraction and contaminated time sneaks in. Boundaries loosen, rules change.

It just took me $10 a minute to realize it.

What does it take for you to realize it’s time for you to make a change?

Don’t let it be losing that promotion you’ve put the past 3 years into getting. Don’t miss out on the deal you should have closed because your competitor didn’t take their eye off the prize, and you got distracted with seventh grade Algebra and basketball camps.

I know that sounds hard and cruel, but the truth is that a balance of boundaries is one of the most integral parts of a person's success in the world these days.

We all know the person who is so hell bent on making it that they have a non-existent relationship with their children and a passive aggressive relationship with their partner. And we also know the person who is slightly distracted at every moment, sneaking things in right at the deadline and doesn’t have their head in the game. Both do not have a healthy relationship with their boundaries and do not serve their family nor their career.

So what did I do when I realized that my kid just stole $20 from my pocket in the form of 2 minutes? I noticed that it was on me to set better boundaries, not her. I realized that for me to give her the life I want to I need to work and I need to provide. I also wondered if maybe there was an opportunity to connect with her in a different way later in the day, because she might be in need of some Dad time.

Usually when my wife and kids stop respecting my time boundaries it means one of two things:

1. It’s likely they are in need of connection. Ten minutes of truly connected time over a cup of coffee or lunch can go a long way.

2. I did set my boundaries. And then I didn’t hold them.

So now what?

You definitely should not explode, and lose your temper… although we all do it from time to time.

If that’s your go-to, next time try this reframe:

Tune into your feelings

During these times of distraction ask yourself what is it about this interaction, or the person’s expectation that is bothering me?

Resentment usually comes from being taken advantage of or not appreciated. It’s often a sign that we’re pushing ourselves beyond our own limits because we feel guilty and want to be a good parent or spouse. When someone acts in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s a hint to you, they may be crossing a boundary.

Baby steps

Like any new skill, assertively communicating your boundaries takes practice. Starting with a small boundary and then slowly increasing to more challenging boundaries. Try not to take on something that feels overwhelming. Setting boundaries takes practice. Remember that it’s a skill you can master.

Not the exploding type? More the put others before you type? Moms, I’m often looking at you.

There’s another way:

Make yourself a priority

Give yourself permission to put yourself first. Guilt and self-doubt can be big pitfalls. We might feel guilty by speaking up or saying no to a family member. We often believe that we should be able to cope with a situation or say yes because we’re a good parent, even though we feel drained or taken advantage of. We might wonder if we even deserve to have boundaries in the first place.

Boundaries aren’t just a sign of a healthy relationship, they’re a sign of self-respect. So give yourself the permission to set boundaries and work to keep them.

Putting yourself first also gives you the peace of mind, energy and positive outlook to be more present with others and be there for them. When you’re in a better place, you can be a better wife, mother, husband or co-worker.

Self-care is not selfish

Make self-care a priority. When we do this, our motivation to set boundaries becomes even stronger. Self-care also means recognizing the importance of your feelings and honoring them. These feelings serve as cues about our wellbeing and about what makes us happy and unhappy

So next time you find yourself in this situation, either as the exploder or the fixer, remember these simple steps and let me know how it goes for you.


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