Balance is Bunk! How to Set Healthier Working Parent Boundaries in Your New Year

Dad and daughter looking at laptop screen while sitting on the floor in front of a couch
Photo by Cottonbro via Pexels

One effective way to adjust to new working parenthood is through boundaries. Boundary management techniques such as examining and redrawing or redefining what you want your boundaries to look like between work and home can help you move toward your values. 

Practically speaking, how do we move ourselves away from the false notion of balance and toward supporting ourselves by setting, then managing, healthy boundaries? 

First, look inward to uncover and confront your inner monologue and address any lingering bias about boundaries. 

Fear of disappointing others is a big part of the emotional baggage that comes with boundary setting. We must overcome that fear and lovingly take those risks if we want to build a life where work and family peacefully coexist.

Take a minute to write down your default notions about boundaries (writing it down makes it real and actionable). Here are some common thoughts I hear from clients:

  • “I will hurt someone’s feelings if I say no.”
  • “I’ll lose my job if I say I won’t check email on the weekends.”
  • “I’m great at boundaries, it’s my [boss, mom, partner, friend] who is bad at them.”

In this exercise, you may have exposed some received ideas about boundaries that do not serve you and prevent you from setting boundaries that could improve your well-being and help you live your values. 

In fact, it’s being clear about your unique values that will help you decide what boundaries will help you stay focused on what is essential for you as a working parent – and give you the courage to enforce them. (Watch for our upcoming blog post about values!)

Next, take a moment to reframe one of your thoughts about boundaries and come up with a conscious alternative. For example, if your current thinking was, “I will hurt someone’s feelings if I say no,” then you might reframe it as “Saying no and setting a boundary here will make space for me to say yes to something more aligned with my values.” The more you can practice doing this and coming up with your alternative reframes the better you will get at the mindset shifts needed to set values driven boundaries.

Once you have reframed any attitudinal roadblocks about boundaries, you can move toward identifying ways to set and hold them.

Steps to Setting and Holding Boundaries: Checklist 

⬜ Uncover old notions that could stop you from setting healthy boundaries

⬜ Decide what boundaries are needed and communicate them

⬜ Uphold them over time and in the face of competing demands on your time

⬜ Tweak them when you come to information that you determine changes them (permeability!)

⬜ Observe their impact on helping you live your values

For more information on establishing and holding boundaries, including learning about various types and strengths of boundaries, as well as boundary management styles, see The Parental Leave Playbook (Wiley 2021), Chapter 14, Touchpoint 9: Adjustment.

Small steps WORKING PARENTS can take to improve leave in our country:

Small steps EMPLOYERS can take to improve their employee’s leave experience

Comments are closed.