How do you get through each day with a sense of your own space when you have little ones literally hanging off you all day? You have to build boundaries – even if they are only internal
“I’m all touched out.”
It’s a line a mama used to me a few years ago during a coaching session, as she reflected on how she felt physically and emotionally by the end of the day. Two babies hanging off of her, demanding her attention, one still feeding from her, grabbing and pulling and interrupting. And so, by the time she’d get to evening time with her husband, she was done. All touched out. Incapable of allowing anyone else into her space.
It’s a line that has stayed with me since then: it sums up that stage of mamahood so beautifully.
Do you remember when there were days – days! – when no-one would really touch you?
When your space, your world, was just you?
When you would wake in the morning and begin your day without someone interrupting your thoughts or flow?
Ah yes. Before Motherhood. That time and space in which our independence and freedom was taken for granted. A time when, perhaps, we were actually aching for someone to be in our lives who adored us, wishing that our very independence would be broken to share our worlds with someone else.
And then, it came. And the babies came. And now, we’re here.
Here’s the thing: this is our reality right now. Our bodies are all touched out and our minds are a mess with the noise. Our nervous systems are frazzled and our adrenal glands are fried from the stress, the broken sleep, the sense of high alert. If we looked at what was happening inside our bodies in an evolutionary sense, we’re watching out for the bear. Protecting our cubs. On high-alert. All of the time.
I was at an event for mama’s recently, a beautiful morning tea with an inspired speaker in the grounds of Sydney Centennial Park. I’d been in the same location for a wedding reception last year – that’s how fancy we’re talking. And the morning, whilst babies and little ones were toddling around us, was meant to be for the mamas: to build our confidence, to help us reconnect to ourselves, to think about something other than our little ones.
But when it came to the Q&A time with the speaker, guess what almost every single question was?
My daughter refuses to eat any vegetables – is that OK?
My son has eczema – what would you recommend?
Is sugar OK for my little one?
I sat there, witnessing these women giving themselves even more to their children. Even when we’re invited to focus on ourselves, we can’t. Or don’t. Our brains are so wired to care and nurture, the first question we will ask is about them, not us.
No wonder we’re all touched out.
Asking the questions of the nutritionist about our child’s diet is not wrong (I nearly put my hand up about my super fussy son), we just need to shine a light on our own needs too. We’re genetically programmed to put our babies’ needs first for the first six months or so – those hormones that race through us ensure we do. But beyond that, it’s a programming thing. Programming and awareness. And it all comes down to boundaries.
Boundaries. A sense of space around you and within you that is yours, despite the hands and mouths and cries. A way of protecting that fragile spirit that is doing it’s very best but is silently screaming for quiet. An awareness that your worries about your little one’s health are just as important as the concerns about your own.
But how? How do we have strong boundaries as mamas and wives and women when our children are clamouring for our attention 24/7?
We build them in our minds.
This isn’t about closing yourself off from your loved ones, diving into that rabbit hole in your mind that this is all too hard and you can’t possibly give anymore. This is about tuning into your energy and yourself and protecting what is left of your sense of self. You don’t have to give them your all, mama. Actually, you can’t. If you give all of yourself to everyone around you, you start to show up each day an empty shell. A shell that is raw and flimsy and easily shattered. And we all know what that feels like.
In your head, tune into where your boundaries are right now. Do you protect yourself in those moments of overwhelm? Can you find a way to give to your family but still save something for yourself?
- Fill yourself up.
This isn’t about squeezing out some me time. This is about your thoughts, breath and mind filling yourself back up, even when you’re in the middle of a full mummy-demanding-session. We’re all energetic beings, and whether you’re aware of it or not, your energy is something you can and are controlling at all times. So, if you’re feeling drained, it’s because you are. You’re being drained. The anecdote? Fill yourself back up.
Breathe in, and feel your body build strength from the inside. It takes practice, but the more you do this, the more you can feel your breath actually building that boundary around you. Imagine it like a shield or protective barrier around you. You are still loving and present and completely there for everyone, but within you, you’re strong. You’re protected.
- Look at the scene as your future self
When I was on the couch recently with all three trying to squeeze in around me, despite there being another whole, much larger couch completely empty right next to us, there was a moment of complete claustrophobia. Their energy was crowding in around me, hanging off of me, squishing me. Even my husband looked at me and shook his head – they just won’t leave you alone! But rather letting that voice get louder in my head, I took an energetic step back, and looked down at the scene as a small window of my life with humour. I could see how crazy this looked, and how intense this was. No denying it – it’s nuts that they are all climbing over each other to get closer to me! Nuts. And you’ve got to laugh.
- Tell them.
Here’s the tough truth I’ve had to learn over the years: I’m not a bad mama just because I don’t want them all over me all of the time. I’m not screwing it up if I don’t want one in my bed tonight. I’m not a horrible person if I simply can’t handle another moment of them interrupting today. Our job is to show them how to deal with their emotions, by dealing with ours. So, when I’m feeling all tapped out, I tell them. I say ‘mummy just needs a little space right now, beautiful. I love you, but I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. Can you give me a few minutes to catch my breath?’
We can’t show up everyday with an empty tank. And even though we’ll probably always ask about our kids’ health before our own, even the smallest shift in awareness about just how little we’re focusing on our own needs brings enormous change. This is not the time to hit pause on your life completely, and give yourself to your family. That is not your soul’s mission right now.
Boundaries is not a dirty word: they are essential to your happiness, mama.