Point to Ponder:
Is there an area in your life where you can benefit from adding a healthy boundary?
by Neissa Brown Springmann
Several weeks ago I let Martha Lynn Mangum, iGnite member and my professional coach, know that I wanted to take the week of February 20- February 24 off. My children had the week off from school for what’s called Ski Week. No, this isn’t Spring Break, as that’s not until April. Ski Week is just a random week off designed to torture parents. HA! Really, I have no idea why, but my guess is with the President’s Day holiday, families were taking extra long weekends to go to skiing and as a means to avoid losing money (from the state), the district decided it was best to extend the school year and give the students the whole week off.
All that to say, I wanted to commit the entire week to spending time, having fun and fully focusing on Durant and Malaine, something I shamefully don’t allow myself to do or give them, ever. With the exception of a Saturday or major holiday, I am a slave to my email and anything work related takes precedent. If I’m not physically working, my brain is consumed with it. I’m a work-a-holic and am horrible at setting work-related boundaries. The result is that I spend much of my time multi-tasking between the needs of my family, household and work. On the outside looking in, it might appear that I am cool, calm and collected, but on the inside, I’m a mental mess. I, like most women, am a great multi-tasker, which I think is helpful and likely a God-given gift to women. During multi-tasking moments, I often experience an adrenalin high but I also feel like I am in a constant state of intellectual frenzy. Meanwhile, taking legitimate and real time off never occurs to me. Why? Because I don’t know how to.
As I spoke to Martha about what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it, I expressed that I just wanted to just hang out with the kiddos. I wanted to give them my undivided attention and not put them on hold, like I frequently do. I also wanted to be fun, and not the crazed mom that I often become when I am striving to accomplish too many things at one time. And yet, as I discussed this with Martha, taking a full week off felt daunting because getting behind on emails and work didn’t seem worth it. Furthermore, with family and hard work being two of my core values, taking time off I felt as though I was not being a supportive team/family member to the iGnite team and family and it just feels wrong not to work!
As you are reading, you are likely seeing my own hypocrisy and wanting to shake me while screaming, “Isn’t taking the week off so you can spend time with your children/family in complete alignment with your family core value?” Of course you are right, but my deranged brain couldn’t see that. And, to exploit my hypocrisy even more, Martha reminded me that even though I always support and encourage our amazing iGnite team to take time off, (because I truly believe we all need it and are energized after a good break and extra fun) by not walking my talk I am non-verbally communicating that I really don’t expect them to take time off either. NOOOOO that’s not true, but clearly I’m being a hypocrite!
Realizing that I was being a total phony sealed the deal, so with Martha’s coaching (because I really didn’t know how to take time off), she directed me on the simple steps:
1). communicate my plans to our team, and 2) to set an email vacation reminder so when someone emailed me and I didn’t respond, they’d know that I I wasn’t ignoring them and I’d get back to them after my time off. And so, I followed Martha’s instructions and last Monday morning I began my week off. As a result, here’s what I learned:
I have very unhealthy work boundaries which are all self-induced, and even though I am deeply passionate about iGnite and it feeds every ounce of my body, mind and spirit, it is essential that I step away, just as I would advise our iGnite team and/or any mom to do from her family, despite her intense love for them.
In addition, taking the week off was the single greatest gift I could have given myself and my family–we had a blast! Because I set my email vacation reminder I didn’t feel obligated to check my email, or guilty or irresponsible for not responding. Was I perfect, no, as there were a few times when I needed to check on time-sensitive items, but I felt zero urge to check my email. All in all, I can’t give myself an A+, but I do give myself an A-. Now that I’ve officially taken time off and know how to, I’ll be able to do it better next time and the next time.
What I’ve learned in life is that I’m never alone in anything, and if I have a difficult time setting boundaries, then it’s likely that someone else does too. There’s no doubt that setting healthy boundaries around work can be tricky for anyone, but in particular for women, I think when it comes to our family, friends, volunteering, and just doing and giving to people in general (as I feel in iGnite), keeping healthy boundaries is as tricky as walking a tightrope. Honoring and keeping our personal and family-time separate and sacred, even from things such as social media, technology, television, and the plethora of activities and opportunities that vie for our attention is a real challenge, but its necessary. In the words of Susan Biali, Life Coach and Medical Doctor, she says it best in her article from Psychology Today titled, “7 Ways to Protect Your Energy & Enforce Healthy Boundaries”, you are here for a reason, and we need you to be at your best. We need you to be rested, and to have time available to do what you were put on this earth to do, no matter how big or small. You need time for you and for those you love most, in order for you to be happy and healthy and a blessing to all of us. This is really important, it isn’t selfish. Guard your life energy, it’s the most important currency you have.”
Establish a healthy boundary in an area in your life, and focus on it for a week. If need be, ask for guidance and find an accountability partner. At the end of your week, evaluate your progress and determine what, if anything, changed for you.