Welcome back to our periodic installment of Boundary Boss: advice on setting boundaries which inevitably disappear around us.
I’ve got a doozy for you today: setting boundaries so you can kick that mommy guilt out the door!
There are so many rabbit trails this could take, including how to free yourself of feeling bad you don’t grow and make your own organic food, but that’s not what we’re tackling here.
Today we’re tackling the ‘we-have-to-do-all-the-crap’ syndrome a lot of us suffer under.
Let me lead with the punchline: Say. No. Hear this sweet momma of a toddler or momma of six kids ranging from 5 to 19: you do not have to do all the crap. Your kid will be okay. In fact, your kid will probably be better than the kid of the mom who does all the crap because she’s so stressed out.
How did this topic come to be? Aside from the fact that I may or may not have suffered from this syndrome and it’s accompanying guilt when I do not do all the crap?
Well, I received two messages yesterday. One on vox from a friend of mine and one a text. These are exact quotes:
Mommy A: Ahhhh! It’s so hard! Attended a informational breakfast meeting this morning at school. I don’t know about you but I am always so tempted to jump in and volunteer to lead so much – room mom, Girl Scouts, etc. I’m really trying to do less this year. Quality versus quantity. Have another school meeting next week. Lord help me. Restraint is not easy. Stepping back is not my strong suit.
Mommy B: I have had to set an appointment with myself which has come at the cost of other’s people’s plans. And it’s interesting to see people’s reactions to this. What I’m finding is the people who have the most shocked reaction, like ‘what do you mean,’ are the people who do the same thing. They’ve learned to set boundaries, and they’ve held to them, but apparently can’t accept anyone else’s. I’m sorry everybody in the world, I have to take the summer off. So, whatever that means for everything else, so sorry, see you when we start back. I have had to tell people no! Sorry, I don’t know what to tell you, I’m not going to feel guilty.
Isn’t that fascinating??? Don’t you relate to every single word of Mommy A and don’t you want to figure out how to get to where Mommy B did?
Some of you have no problem saying no. You can dole out the no’s without flinching. But a lot of us, especially when it comes to stuff for our kids, are spitting out yeses through gritted teeth even when we know no is the right answer.
Yet a yes, even though we’re doing it “for” our kids, actually becomes a no with our availability or bandwidth or patience for our kids. I remember attending a leadership conference in New York, and one of the speakers wrote this book called The Smartest Kids in the World. She traveled the world to understand why other countries were ahead of the U.S. in educating children. I vividly remember this remark: studies show that the smartest and most engaged kids are not the ones whose parents were PTA moms or class parents, but rather kids whose parents read to them and read themselves. Afterwards, I walked up to her and said, THANK YOU, I READ, MY KIDS WILL BE FINE!
I am not saying don’t volunteer. Lord help us if parents didn’t volunteer. I’m saying, don’t volunteer for everything. Here are a few tips:
- Decide what’s important to you, and do that. That one thing. For me, it’s Christmas parties. I adore school Christmas parties. I like to organize the activities and make special themed treats and volunteer during the party. So every year I email the teacher on the first day of school and ask how I can run or help with the Christmas party. It’s my thing. I basically don’t do anything else.
- Let go off the mom guilt over the other stuff. I actually almost deleted that last sentence because I thought it made me look like a bad mom (even if it was true). Take a page from Mommy B’s playbook and say “whatever that means for everything else, so sorry.” Some of us can do more than others. Do what you can do and do what you are passionate about doing, but don’t do what you feel guilty about not doing.
- Support the others running the show. If you do not run the show, you do not get to criticize the sweet soul who volunteered to run it. Don’t like the structure of field day? Feel super passionate about that? Then that’s your volunteer thing next year but don’t you say a peep about this year’s event. Snack mom brought goldfish and gummies and you only allow your kiddos to have yogurt and apples, then bring your own or take over snacks (but make it your ONLY thing).
[On a separate but related note: If any of you are control freaks (because I may or may not know someone, let’s just say a dear friend whose name starts with a G and has five letters) trying to run everything because you think you can do it best, you are crazy. Get some therapy. Your way is not the only way. The kids do not notice.]
Pick your thing. Not everything. You cannot do it all and you shouldn’t. Let go of the guilt. Learn to say no. Set some boundaries and I promise your kids (and your husband, and your friends, and your colleagues…) will thank you.