“It’s me, hi. I’m the problem. It’s me.” – Taylor Swift, singing Anti-Hero, and also me when people wonder why they can’t kiss my baby at the height of RSV season.
I’ll admit, before my baby was born, I had a lot of trouble asserting myself and enforcing boundaries. I often said yes to things I really didn’t want to say yes to and I was agreeable in situations that made me uncomfortable, but the thought of making someone else uncomfortable made me even more anxious.
I think when our children are born, they give us strength we never knew we had. Sure, it could have a lot to do with wanting to protect them, and that’s a big part of it — but I think even if we are nervous about becoming new parents, we gain a lot of assurance from ourselves and our babies during this transition. Of course, I sought advice from family, friends, and my doula but ultimately I made decisions based on what worked for the baby and me. I made decisions that were the best for my family.
When I first brought her home, I understood the excitement people felt about her arrival. I know a lot of our parents grew up in a time where boundaries weren’t really talked about as openly as they are now, much less enforced. How often did you hear “Well, we did X and you turned out fine”, right? Well, that’s great mom and dad, but I’ll be the judge of that (ha! just kidding, kind of).
If you don’t want someone to hug or kiss your baby, that is okay. If you don’t want certain people to watch your baby alone, that is okay. If you aren’t ready for sleepovers or vacations with extended family, or whatever it is that others try to get you to agree to, that is totally your prerogative. For me, I don’t want anyone kissing her or posting her on social media. Could I go into a long list of “reasons why” to those friends and family wondering? Sure, but I’ve also started to embrace that “No.” is a full sentence and if her father and I say we don’t want you to kiss our baby, that should be all you need to hear.
It can be awkward at times enforcing boundaries, but for the most part the people you love and respect should extend those same things to you. Most of the time, you won’t have to push back. You might fight more with yourself to enforce them than anything, but on the occasion you do find yourself faced with someone challenging your boundaries, here are some things you can do:
1. Restate your boundary, clearly. Sometimes people think there is a gray area when you have “vague boundaries” so it’s important to clearly state your boundary so there’s little room for misinterpretation.
2. Set a consequence. If you’ve set a boundary and someone crosses it, you have the power to let them know what will happen if they don’t respect you. I can’t tell you what that consequence will be. That’s for you and your partner to decide. An example may be: “If you keep kissing the baby when I’ve asked you not to, I’m going to have to hold her.”
3. Limit your engagement. Sometimes this is harder for others, but limiting your engagement in certain situations where possible is another way to maintain your boundaries. This may help show them you won’t tolerate disrespect. Limiting engagement does not mean cutting off family and friends entirely. It can simply mean spending less time with someone, ending conversations that are going nowhere, and in more serious cases going no contact.
4. Be persistent – staying firm on your boundaries when someone regularly crosses them shows that you respect yourself, whereas if you give in when someone disrespects the boundaries you’ve clearly communicated, it sends the message that it’s okay for them to cross that line. This can lead to a lot of resentment built up within yourself.
Sound off, mamas! How do you hold true your boundaries and/or what challenges do you face with boundary setting?