I’m just going to share that this is a super vulnerable post for me, but I know so many pastors and so many mothers deal with this. So I think it’s important to talk about.
The big topic on my mind lately is how to live with healthy boundaries. But there is so much unhelpful thoughts on boundaries out there. As I have been reading and praying over this issue, here is some of the crap I’ve encountered.
1. Offering truth without support. It’s easy to tell someone “You need boundaries!” It’s a whole other thing to tell someone “It seems like you don’t sleep much, can I help watch your kids while you nap?” I have a family friend who has a rule for their family, “you can’t offer criticism without also offering to help”. I love that rule and really respect that about their family. It gives practical parameters around “say it in love”.
2. “You just need to say ‘no’ more” …Sometimes you can’t say ‘no’ to the thing that is sapping your energy, like if it’s your children. Raising kids is hard. It’s tiring. you’re not going to be perfectly serene the whole time. Expectations of balance, still need to be realistic.
3. Anyone can have balance and boundaries if they are self aware! Nope. It’s economic. Homeless people don’t get balance. People living off of less than a dollar a day don’t get “self care”. There are a lot of real barriers to balance that people forget about.
4. There are issues of justice at stake. Men and women face different hurdles in finding balance and self care because of how our society is socialized and also because of the differences in how our bodies raise kids. It’s just a good thing to keep in mind if you are a man telling a woman with kids to find balance. Her journey is very different than yours.
But with all that said, boundaries is something I am really working on in my own life. Someone, who offered me support with truth, told me, “take the normal amount of giving of yourself to any area, double it, and that’s what you do with everything and everyone”. This is one of my strengths. I’m invested. I care. I try to put action behind my caring. However, it also helps me to run thin. My tiredness has more to do with the age of my kids and the lack of childcare that I currently have, than it does about boundaries. But that doesn’t mean I can just ignore that I have real personal work to do in my life in regards to boundaries.
Here are some of my strategies for growth in personal boundaries:
1. Keep asking myself what I need. This isn’t new. I do this all the time. But my needs and the situations of my life are always changing. So I need to keep asking myself what I need. I can’t always meet those needs. If Oscar is getting teeth, I’m not going to sleep, even if that’s what I need. But asking at least starts a conversation with myself to see if there is anything I can do to better care for myself.
2. Find out what times I can guard. I’m an introvert. And in my line of work, there is a lot of grief and pain to process. I walk along side people through the darkest trials of life and if I don’t guard some alone time I end up carrying more trauma in my heart than is healthy. For me, this means I can’t schedule social things on my one day off of the week. It’s a hard way to maintain friendships, but I have to do it to heal my own heart. Sometimes there are exceptions, but I have to listen to my needs and hold those up, even when it disappoints people I love.
3. Ok friends, this one is huge for me. I’m trying to become more comfortable with disappointing people. If someone doesn’t understand me or doesn’t like me, it’s not worth the emotional energy to try to convince them otherwise. I try to remain kind regardless of other’s attitudes but I too often bend over backwards to become someone’s best friend who isn’t even nice to me. I take so much time worrying about loving others well and trying to maintain harmony/peace in my areas of community that I steal precious resources of emotional energy from my family and myself. Some people I just won’t be close with, and that’s ok. But sitting with the discomfort of people not liking me is something I’m still working on.
4. I’m trying to learn what “normal” friendship is. I treat every person like my best friend. I have amazing friends. I love them so much and I’m so deeply grateful for them. But for the people who aren’t in my closest inner circles, if I’m honest, I don’t know what normal friendship looks like. As I try to meet families in my area with kids the same age as mine, I’m trying to learn how to do friendship where I don’t give so much of myself. Because if I’m real, there is not much more to give. I have about 10 best friends. I love each of them so much. I’m not cutting anyone out. But I’m trying to learn better balance in this area.
5. I’m trying to learn to be a little bit selfish. Well, not selfish, but better at caring for myself too. Not in any permanent way, but too often I ask myself “In light of the needs of everyone else in my life, what do I want to do”. I need to step back from that for a minute and just figure out if I have any unmet needs of my own.
I chose two vocations, pastor and mother, that take extraordinary sacrifice. I signed up for those willingly, knowing exactly what I was getting into. But as I get my feet under me after having my basic needs unmet last year, I can now look to higher modes of being such as self care. So this is where I am asking Jesus to be my teacher.