Boundaries in Motherhood: Protect Yourself and Lead by Example

As I moved into motherhood I felt a piece of myself slip away. I didn’t know exactly what it was. I just felt confused, like something was missing, but I didn’t know what. As time went by, I noticed a yearning that I just couldn’t shake, and my anxiety reached new heights.  I fought for this life: the man, the career, the house, and my new baby girl. Now, it felt like I was in a 24/7 juggling act. I needed to set some boundaries in motherhood, or it was only a matter of time before it would all come crashing down.

Doing it All

woman holding toddler vacuums floorI was doing everything. As House Manager, I was responsible for cooking, cleaning, paying bills, grocery shopping, miscellaneous errands, daycare drop-off and pickup, doctors appointments {my daughter had 13 ear infections throughout her first year}, and so much more. All this on top of my day job. My husband just had to show up. 

At the end of the day, I had nothing left to give. Between my career, being a new mother, my marriage, and trying to live up to the imaginary expectations of society, I had burned myself out big time.

A proud perfectionist and people pleaser at heart, I slowly realized that if I really wanted to have it all, there was no way I could do it all. I needed to let go of perfection and detach myself from the identity of needing to be everything to everyone. I had to start thinking creatively about how to get everything done without sacrificing myself and my sanity. 

My perfectionism and people-pleasing had backfired. I had self-abandoned. I had left myself out to dry while I was tending to everyone else’s needs. I needed to create some serious boundaries in my life.

The languishing feeling I just couldn’t shake was that I missed my life and who I was before I was a mother. I missed not being on such a strict schedule. I missed having time and energy to do the things I wanted to do. I missed little things, like being able to stop spontaneously into a store and browse with no time limit. I missed spending time with myself without my mind spinning and being in a million places. 

I needed to start doing things differently. I wanted to truly prioritize my health and have time and energy left at the end of the day. I wanted to get to know myself again.

On the Brink of Burnout

mother holding baby greets husbandAs mothers, we are so busy taking care of everyone else’s needs that ours are often pushed to the bottom of the list. Many women are living on the brink of burnout constantly feeling stretched thin, like we might snap at any moment.  It can feel like a struggle but there are ways to make things easier. 

If you want to have more time and energy, if you want to truly be able to take care of yourself as well as those who depend on you, and if you want to make progress with {and actually finish} the projects and goals you start, you need better boundaries. 

One of the major things I hear women struggling with when it comes to setting boundaries is the guilt and shame associated with saying no, or feeling like a failure when it comes to not being able to do it all.  Hear me when I say you were never meant to do it all. It’s impossible.

Our highly independent society drives home the ideas that we need to figure it all out alone, do it all in order to to have it all, and suffer in exchange for success and happiness. It’s time to reject those old ideas and choose a more supportive and sustainable way of living. Boundaries are simply limits we set for ourselves to manage and protect our time and energy. There are also boundaries we set for how we allow other people to treat us. When it comes down to it, boundaries only help us meet our own needs so we can be there for, and truly present for the ones we love.

Boundaries in Motherhood

family cuddling on couchIn many circumstances, it may feel easier to set boundaries in motherhood with people outside of your inner circle. The thing is, it’s often the people inside the circle who need boundaries and limits the most. Many of them {children, spouses, parents, siblings, and other close friends} possess a subconscious entitlement to our time and energy.

Boundaries with members of your inner circle may look like having reserved, uninterrupted time for yourself scheduled each week where your spouse runs defense, or takes the kids out for the day.  It could mean you make it clear that you aren’t available to host {or attend} a family dinner or celebration because you just don’t have the time, energy or desire. It may look like you asking your mother-in-law not to call after six o’clock because it interrupts your nightly routine with the family. It might mean that you and your partner have a new division of household chores because you’ve been doing too much and they haven’t been doing enough. 

Courageous conversations come with the territory of setting and upholding boundaries. Communicating your needs and boundaries with love, respect, and compassion is key. It is usually when we have few or weak boundaries in place, or wait until we’ve already been pushed past our limit to set them, that we explode on the people around us causing unnecessary drama.

Leading By Example

mother holds hands with toddlerThe act of setting boundaries in motherhood is an act of self-love and service.  It is one of the best things you can do for the people who depend on you, personally and professionally. It seems to be unanimous that all mothers feel the weight of the world on their shoulders and the pressure to be perfect. We all want to succeed, but first, we need to rewrite the rules a bit. 

When you set boundaries in motherhood and communicate them with love and kindness, you are leading by example for the people around you, including your children. You are demonstrating what it means to be mindful and intentional, and you’re inspiring others to do the same.


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Kimberly Smith is a Mindset & Resilience Coach and the founder of Encompass Life Coaching. She is a native New Yorker, proud Houstonian, truth seeker, mental health and DEIJ advocate, mother, yogi, and dachshund lover. Kimberly was born in Phoenix, Arizona, raised in upstate New York, lived in Florida where her daughter Amelia {June 2014} was born, and now proudly calls Houston her home. She is degreed in Sociology and Psychology, is an internationally certified life and career coach, and previously spent over a decade in corporate talent acquisition and staffing helping professionals level up and pivot their careers. Now as an entrepreneur, through coaching services, speaking, and writing, Kimberly helps ambitious women, mothers, and entrepreneurs stop stressing and focus, so they can flourish within their careers, families, businesses, and relationships. Kimberly’s clients move through self-doubt, build a positive and resilient mindset while increasing energy and confidence, and crushing their personal and professional goals. Kimberly is a servant leader passionate about dissolving the stigma around mental health, advocating for diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, and is dedicated to empowering others to live more authentic lives full of passion, purpose, courage, freedom and adventure. In her free time, Kimberly can be found sweating it out in a hot yoga class, running the White Oak Bayou trail, enjoying live music, exploring Houston markets, museums, and restaurants, or snuggling up on the couch to watch documentaries with her two dachshunds Winnie & Doyal. You can connect with Kimberly on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or grab Kimberly’s free Mindset & Affirmations bundle at encompasscoachingservices.com.

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