Having a baby is a life-changing event. While many people focus on the new baby coming into the world, it’s essential to remember that a mother is born that day, too. While the birth of a newborn is usually a joyous occasion, there are often many reasons for a new mom to feel stressed out, and setting boundaries with family members shortly after birth is one of them.
Whether this is your first baby or not, learning to communicate your feelings and set up appropriate boundaries around your time and space as a new mother is critical for your health and wellbeing. Many times, it’s impossible to predict how you’ll be feeling after delivery, but it’s best to have a loose game-plan in order (and make sure your partner is on board, too!).
Boundaries are the limits that we set on our time, energy, and space with ourselves or another person. There are times that boundaries can feel challenging to set – like during pregnancy or as a new mom – but they are necessary to help protect your health and wellbeing.
If you do a quick web search, you will see there are many different types of boundaries but I like to focus on two: internal and external.
These are the limits that you set with yourself and are extremely personal. In general, I like to describe having strong internal boundaries as keeping promises to yourself.
Unlike internal boundaries, these are the types of boundaries that include another person or persons, like your mother-in-law, partner, or care provider.
When you become a mom, your whole world shifts in a matter of moments, it’s no longer you just you and your partner; there is now a little life that will demand your time and energy almost every moment.
Having strong and supportive boundaries is critical for your mental and physical health, especially after birth. Boundaries can also help you to:
Discovering how to set boundaries isn’t always easy, but the learning curve is worth the benefits received. If you’re a mom-to-be or a new mom, setting boundaries is critical to your health and will allow you to be protective of your postpartum experience.
The process of setting boundaries is never cut and dry. It can time many years of practice and self-work to get more comfortable with saying No to others. It’s essential to acknowledge this fact but not let it deter you from creating limits in your life with family members, friends, caregivers, etc.
Many times I’ve heard others say that they feel guilty setting boundaries, especially with family members. The truth is, your guilt may never entirely disappear, but you’ll become more confident in your requests over time, and your desire for self-preservation will feel more overpowering than your guilt.
I am worthy of setting boundaries, even when it feels scary or difficult.
…and determine them in the first place!
It’s impossible to set boundaries without first knowing what’s worth protecting. Spend some time writing down what you hope to gain during your postpartum phase through setting boundaries.
Are you wanting to protect your new family?
Are you hoping to have sacred time alone?
Are you worried about having to “show up” if others are around?
Get clear on your top priorities, and then you can begin to take more informed action around setting boundaries with others.
When I have clarity, I can create and protect more fiercely.
Setting effective boundaries requires honest communication – with yourself, your partner, your mother-in-law – and vulnerability.
I’ve found that it’s more impactful to start statements around boundaries with the words “I feel” instead of “you”. When we begin to set a boundary with an I-statement, it encourages the boundary setter (you) to get more in touch with what you truly want.
When I communicate clearly, my boundaries have a chance to take hold.
Some common telltale signs that you’d benefit from setting boundaries in your life are:
While the above is not an exhaustive list, it’s a great starting point to assess your current relationship with boundaries.
I believe that creating boundaries is one of the most transformational ways to create self-care in your life. Learning how to say No and set limits with others might require practice and some ruffled feathers, but when you place guidelines on how you’d like others to show in in your life, you are creating a space for lasting change and healthier relationships.
Keep in mind that the goal of setting boundaries isn’t to keep the other person from getting upset. Instead, the goal of setting healthy boundaries is to ensure that your needs as a new mother are met, considered, and respected.
Below are some helpful one-liners that you can use to set boundaries with your in-laws, your parents, your healthcare team, etc. as a new mother.
“At this time, we’d like the hours/days after birth to be solely for our new family. We can’t wait for you to meet baby once we’re ready!”
“I appreciate your offer to help, but you know what we could really use instead? (Add in what’d be supportive for you)”
“Thanks so much for your input, but I am choosing to do XYZ instead.”
“Something doesn’t feel right to me. Can you help me out by telling me more/looking at this/examining baby or me?”
Check out the below resources to help you better navigate the world of setting boundaries. Your mother-in-law might not love it, but you’re worthy of protecting your space, mama.
Needing something more supportive and in-depth? Couples therapy through online resources such as ReGain could help you and your partner better navigate parenthood.
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