This article should really be titled “boundaries I need as a paid-working Mum” because God knows, it’s all work but not all of it is paid!
However, what I’m talking about in this blog is my return to work, my burnout and what I needed to put in place to prevent it from happening again. Actually, not just to prevent burnout but to show up as my best self at home and at work.
For more about my burnout journey, you can read this blog. But the shortened version is I returned to work doing a four-day week after parental leave. This worked for me as I got to spend three days over the weekend with my little boy – this time with him filled me up. However, shortly after returning from parental leave, I was promoted to Ops Director, the pressure of the role had me logging on every evening after I’d put my little boy to bed. My days were long, up each day at 5 am (my son’s an early riser!), an hour commute each way to the office, home, tea, bath time and then at the laptop again before my bedtime. Rinse and repeat. To add to this, I was asked to go back five days a week – I didn’t want to but after being promoted to Ops Director I felt the pressure. Why should I work four days when everyone else worked five – this was the belief system I held. This was the unravelling of me.
During my burnout recovery, I rested… a lot. I also established some much-needed, long-overdue boundaries.
Sticking to my working hours
My working hours were Monday-Friday 8 am-4 pm. Throughout my whole career, I have started early and worked late. I believed you had to hustle to stand out. I tried to keep up this same behaviour after becoming a Mum but as I found out, it isn’t sustainable.
To clarify, throughout my career I have always loved my job. I love working in marketing, it’s creative, logical, and social – it’s an environment I’ve always thrived in. I didn’t want to show up half-baked at work or at home.
Creativity needs space and sticking to my core hours meant I was present at home for my family and showing up with the energy to go again the next day at work.
I’m a Mum of two now and “me time” is always up there at the top of my priority list. You cannot pour from an empty cup! But as a first-time Mum, this was a lesson hard-learned.
I breastfed, and my little boy refused a bottle, so my story might be slightly more intense than some Mums but I felt I couldn’t leave him for a second when he was very little. I lived in constant fear he’d be hungry and I was the only one who could feed him. But the more I gave, the more I shrunk away.
You have to do things that make you feel like you, no matter how big or small. I remember the first time I nipped to the shops (leaving baby with Dad) and had the music blasting in the car – I felt free!
Me time for me includes; getting my nails done, reading a book, running a bath, working out, walking the dog, having a nap, and having brunch with friends. To name a few.
Limiting social media
As the saying goes, ‘comparison is the killer of joy’ and man can social media kill joy for Mums. If you’re watching friends who don’t have children or those that have children but they’re at a different stage to you – look how much fun they’re having! How often they’re out! That holiday they’re on! Everyone is having a better time than you. Sat there in your PJs, nap trapped! That’s how it feels right?
If social media sends you to a bad place. Cut it out! Or put some serious boundaries around it. I would limit my social time to a max of an hour in the evening. This stopped me from jumping from app to app on refresh.
I’ve found with my second child social media has allowed me to connect with some different groups but the first time around it had me feeling alone and left out. Boundaries are different for everyone and you will need different boundaries at different stages of your life.
Working part-time / four-day work week
This was the last boundary I implemented but the one that made the biggest difference. When I upped my hours to a five-day work week again, something didn’t feel right but I pushed it down and carried on regardless.
The more I pushed that feeling down the further away from myself I felt. Eventually, after a few breakdowns and working with a life coach, I realised I wanted my Fridays back with my baby. It was a non-negotiable. The thought of having the conversation to go back to a four-day work sent chills down my spine – I felt so much pressure and had so many beliefs about how I should show up as a leader within the business.
But the truth is, I wasn’t showing up. I was there physically but not mentally. After I’d agreed to a four-day work week again I slowly started to return to myself. I felt a lightness. I started to engage with and lead the team again, from a place that felt right for me.
The transition in to Motherhood is hard, your whole world is turned upside down. I’ve created a reflections sheet to help you figure out what boundaries you need now. I’m working my way through this again as a mum of two – as your world and responsibilities change, it’s important you listen in to what you need.
- Your working life might have looked very different pre-children. Your whole world has changed – has your working behaviour?
- How does your work-life balance make you feel? Having boundaries in place is about thriving at home and at work, not just surviving
- What are your non-negotiables you need for your work-life balance?