Respecting My Boundaries

Baseball bat at home field

It’s Victoria Day here in most of Canada so it’s been a lovely long weekend with my family. This afternoon my daughter has a baseball game, which I always enjoy going to and helping coach at. She’s the only girl on the team and has certainly earned the respect of the boys by being both a good hitter and an pitcher. Her fierceness and the focus she has this season is inspiring to this mama.

Last weekend, for Mothers’ Day (yes, the apostrophe is in the right place when it comes to our home), she gave each of us homemade cards with quotes about strong women and a personal message. Her message to me was about how happy she is that I’m now well enough to be able to return to work full-time. For 10-years-old she’s both insightful and very empathetic.

Her inspiration and my incredible love for her is at the heart of me wanting to continue to get healthier and to stay healthy. As I’ve moved back to full-time at work, I’ve been trying very hard to have respect for my own boundaries, and to have self-compassion when that means I can’t “do it all” or even close to it.

I’ve had a few opportunities come up and some new projects land on my desk in the past few weeks as I get back into the full-time groove. I’m checking in with my manager on a regular basis to make sure that I’m not  taking on / being given too much. They want me to get back to how healthy I was a year ago and that want to keep me that way, because I’m more valuable to them when I’m running on cylinders, but more importantly, because they care about me. 

I was asked by a faculty member to be on a research team with him last week. I had already been honest with him about the past few months and made it clear that I needed to stick to my boundaries of not taking on too much when I asked him how much of a time commitment it would be. Another colleague emailed me about something he’d like me to be doing and while at first my reaction to his request was for my chest to tighten and my head to start spinning a bit, I stepped away from it and realized that it’s nothing anything pressing and I can go to him and explain that we need to figure out how to do this on an appropriate scale and timeline. So I’m doing what I can to make sure others respect my boundaries.

While that’s part of me also respect my boundaries, I haven’t been my best at this lately. I commented to my manager that I still don’t respond to any work related emails when I’m not at work and she nodded and said that that was good but … and then accurately suggested that while I’m not responding she thinks that I’ve returned to reading them when not at work. Busted. In fact that’s how I know about that email my colleague sent this morning, on a holiday when the university is closed. After writing that last sentence I turned my work email off on both my phone and the iPad I’m typing this on.

If I’m going to expect others to respect my boundaries as part of my efforts to remain healthy, I need to do two things. I need to make those boundaries clear to them, and when appropriate, explain why that’s important. Second, and I think more importantly, I need to have respect for my own boundaries. If I don’t, I won’t stand firm with them with myself or others.

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