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Nothing is more exciting to a family than the arrival of a baby. For new moms though, it can be a time fraught with anxiety. Learning how to take care of a newborn is challenging enough. Throw in a highly contagious virus and it’s a whole different game.
How can mothers firmly and successfully set boundaries for their own family members?
Board-certified perinatal psychiatrist, Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, gave excellent advice in an article she wrote for Romper.
Setting limits and voicing your choices gives a sense of agency. It’s a way to exert control in a chaotic and scary world, and now more than ever, it’s critical for moms to focus on taking care of themselves and their families. While setting boundaries is not a substitute for professional treatment of a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, it can be a coping strategy to modify your external environment and to manage stress levels.
Here are some of her strategies.
1. Set boundaries before your baby enters the world.
If you get clear with your family members of your expectations about their arrivals into your home, lengths of visits, what you’re willing to do as far as hosting way ahead of time, that will give them a period of adjustment and management of their own disappointment.
2. Make your choices work for you.
New moms are only responsible for themselves and their baby, not the feelings of extended family. Only you know what will work for you and your child. Be open to negotiate some time for video calls or porch drop-offs for baby gifts, but stand firm on keeping you and your baby safe and comfortable.
3. Write down why your boundaries are important to you.
If you anticipate the conversations you need to have will be emotional and difficult, you can read what you wrote to remind you why they are necessary. It will help if you can reconnect with your why.
4. Surround yourself with supportive people.
Draw from their love and strength, especially when you’re getting criticism about your decisions from more difficult family members.
5. Keep your boundary message short and sweet.
Dr. Lakshimn says:
Don’t over-explain. You want to be clear this is not a decision that is up for discussion. Especially if you have family members who historically have not respected boundaries, you will want to make sure this message is short and sweet.
6. It’s perfectly acceptable to use email or your spouse to relay your wishes.
You don’t have to rehash the same phone call to different family members. An email gives you a chance to word exactly what you want to say in the right tone. And, if your in-laws tend to be overly sensitive to boundary-setting, let your spouse run interference.
7. It’s best not to let guilt change your mind.
Dr. Lakshmin says this about guilt:
Just because you feel guilty does not mean you are doing something wrong. If you struggle with people-pleasing, you will feel guilty when setting these limits. Setting boundaries is like building a new muscle. It hurts in the beginning, but as the muscle grows stronger it becomes easier over time.
If you are concerned about your perinatal mental health, it’s more important than ever you take the steps you need to protect the boundaries that make sense for you and your baby. You are in control and this is your life. If boundary setting and having conversations about them are distressing, check out the resources at Postpartum Support International.
Last of all, find and develop the inner strength that will get you and your baby through these times. You’ll find confidence there you can draw for the rest of your life.
That’s what we have, but we want to hear from you! What are your best strategies for setting boundaries? Let us know in the comments!