Boundaries

On a brisk and sunny Sunday three weeks ago, prior to heading out to a Christmas concert, I made my family a healthy and tasty lunch.  Both of my kids (ages 6 and 3) scoffed at it and my husband had to beg them to take their (mostly full) plates to the kitchen.  I cleaned the kitchen by myself while my husband and the kids played, and then we headed out, leaving behind a living room covered in toys and puzzles that I didn’t have the energy to fight about.

On the way to the concert, both kids began to whine that they were hungry and wanted to go to a restaurant.  My husband told them that we’d go to one after the concert. We arrived early, so my husband and the kids played on the lawn while I sat in the sunlight, too exhausted from making breakfast, cleaning the kitchen, folding the laundry, doing the groceries, putting them away, cleaning out the fridge, unloading the dishwasher, making lunch and cleaning the kitchen again (plus putting in a 50-hour workweek at school, commuting, and making daily breakfasts, lunches and dinners).

A mixture of anger and sadness welled up inside me.  Where had it all gone wrong?!  Here I was, Ms. Full Montessori, with all my degrees, certifications, research and experience… And my kids were acting like entitled little brats!  Furious thoughts whirled through my mind as we entered the chapel where the concert was being held.  I tried to breathe out the negative thoughts and enjoy the music, but then my son began whining because I wouldn’t buy him a cookie from the concession stand and my daughter started melting down (because, no lunch, remember?).  Something inside of me snapped, and the tears began streaming down my cheeks.

We left the concert at intermission (see: pre-schooler and mommy meltdowns) and quietly piled back into the car.  We drove home in silence, and as soon as we got there I grabbed notebook and pen and fled the scene.  I needed to think, to reassess our lives.

I sat at a coffee shop and furiously made a list of all the responsibilities I shouldered in our home.  It was two pages long.  Then I marked those tasks that could be done by either my husband or my children, and sorted them into lists under their names.  As I crossed out chores from my list, I felt a considerable weight lifting off my shoulders.  I wrote out a “Who Does What” plan for mornings, evenings and weekends.  Then I headed home.

That evening, I called a family meeting and explained that I was feeling overwhelmed by all the responsibilities I had chosen to undertake.  I apologized for failing to give them opportunities to contribute to the household, and pointed out how capable they had become in just a few short years.  I shared all of the tasks I knew they were capable of doing, and showed them the plan that outlined all the family contributions.

I also talked about lifestyle changes: no eating between meals; restaurant dinners were limited to Friday evenings or special occasions; and my husband and I would leave the kids with the babysitter and go on date nights every other Saturday.  At the bottom of the list I wrote: “No moaning/groaning/whining.”

My kids seemed excited by most of the changes.  My husband, not so much…

Stay tuned to find out how our lives have evolved in the past three weeks since I set these new boundaries and expectations, and what tools I’ve been using to shift us towards more gratitude and less entitlement!

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6 Comments on “Boundaries

  1. You definitely caught my attention with this one. All the degrees, education and time spent into bettering children’s lives – what about our own! As a single mom with an incredible almost 9 year old I’m inspired to chart out our home life that will include family expectations that we GET to share! Can’t wait to hear your follow up!

    • Yes, we often forget about ourselves. And yet, we’re our children’s role models! They have a right to hard work and the satisfaction that goes with it. We just have to change our perspective. Have a wonderful journey!!

  2. Thank you so much, and thank you for your honesty. When I’m overwhelmed by mothering, I often turn to Montessori sites or books for inspiration, and I often have a version of FOMO (fear of missing out): this feeling that I’m missing out on a perfect Montessori life of well-lit wooden shelving and primary colors, where the floor is always clean and the strawberries perfectly sliced, and it’s just great to see a writer being honest about HARD it all is. I see a post on how someone’s two-year-old loves doing laundry, and I look around at the clothes scattered in my house. I think about how I spent all morning cooking and cleaning, without somehow being able to figure out how to involve my toddler in that process, while constantly fending off her requests for attention. And I wonder what I’m doing wrong, how I get a life like one of those on a website. I’m not sure you’ve answered my question here, but to a large degree it is about setting boundaries with people in our lives, communicating with them clearly about the things making us angry and sad. Also hopeful that these new boundaries mean more time for posts from you! I’m grateful for the work you do.

    • Thank you for your honesty, Melissa. We all struggle in one way or another, some people are just better at hiding it (and some of us just don’t have the energy to do even that!) 🙂

  3. Very much looking forward to reading any follow up posts, I recognise this so much, I’m not sure that we have chosen to do so much but that started as an act of love received by our family with gratitude becomes an obligation barely noticed by our family!

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