For Moms: Setting Healthy Boundaries

 This week, I sent out the following announcement

to friends and colleagues: 

The Bliss of Influencing Children

There is nothing I will ever do in this world that will compare to the joy and influence of being a mother to my children. Nothing. No amount of worldly success I’ve ever hoped to attain will compare to raising young women who are honest, self-sufficient, compassionate, intelligent, generous, virtuous, industrious, aware, strong, talented, funny, adaptable, articulate, socially gifted, other-centered, and courageous.

You’d think people would understand this, but some don’t, and I don’t care. I’ve been a mother for 15 years, and I know what I know. No worldly success or shining moment has ever compared to the pure bliss of teaching my daughters to read, sail on their bicycle, discover the power of their mind, shine on stage, learn an instrument, make amazing friends, plant a garden, speak with conviction at city council, solve a difficult equation, become immersed in history, read Shakespeare aloud by choice, sew a quilt, write a winning essay, mow the lawn, fix a tire, serve their neighbor, host a party, and stand their ground with grown men.

When Mothering Isn’t Your Talent

When I speak of mothering, I’m not strictly talking about domesticity, or from a perspective of a woman whose sole desire in life is to be home and raise children. No, this is coming from a woman who would rather speak impromptu to a crowd of 10,000 than iron a pile of clothes, or sit in a room with a group of professors and unpack a philosophical point than to make an appetizer for a party.

This is coming from a woman whose own mother suggested that “Mothering just isn’t your talent.” Or in other words, as she later clarified, “your core gifts and talents lie outside of the domestic realm,” which apparently prompted her to praise me for giving mothering a whirl anyway.

Connecting to Your Purpose Makes Setting Boundaries Easier

Motivating me by the typical trinkets of prestige, adulation, power, praise, position, and titles doesn’t work either and never has. If I have enough money for the basics of life and a little more, money doesn’t even motivate me. Only connecting me to what I define as my purpose in life will motivate me. And speaking generally, my life purpose is to make the most powerful difference for good in the world. Because raising exceptional human beings is the most powerful gift I will ever give the world, anything that stands in the way of this pursuit takes a backseat.

It is what it is, and since I know the difference between real gold and its imitation, letting go of lesser pursuits is not difficult. Which is the purpose of this announcement, and why I’m cutting back on commitments and requests that are diluting my focus. Even if it makes people upset, which it did.

I believe the more connected we are to our purpose, the easier it is to set boundaries with grace and allow people to respond as they will. If you don’t think you know your purpose, take time to ask yourself some questions and answer them, then ask and answer again. Clarity will come.

 Be an Example of Happiness 

Everyone’s purpose, at the end of the day, is to experience happiness. Even the most noble purpose in the world is set in motion because of the desire for the happiness of self and others. As mothers, everything we do for our children is with the hope of their eventual happiness, right down to math equations, manners, and cod liver oil.

If happiness then is our ultimate desire for our children, and we are exuding overwhelm and dissatisfaction, we are negating by our powerful example the very gift we want to give. If setting boundaries with others is necessary for improved balance and joy, do it. Just like me, you’ll be glad you did, and so will your precious children.

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