How Boundaries Improved My Parenting

Recently this link was shared with me in two different places.

It’s a very sweet video, and I think the message is great. Cherish your time with your children, because that time goes by more quickly than you can imagine.

However, this video also caused me a moment or two of indignation. It’s very easy to misinterpret the video into a message of enjoying every single moment with your kids. As Glennon Melton pointed out in her viral post, Don’t Carpe Diem, trying to celebrate and love every moment of parenthood is just not possible.

When I first had my child, I was bombarded with the advice to enjoy every minute. Even the minutes when she was crying, or pooping on me, or spitting up, or chewing my nipples. When she screamed, people told me to be happy that she had great lungs. When I complained, I was told to be glad that she was healthy. It seemed like a conspiracy to deny any negative feelings or emotions related to motherhood. And I agree with Glennon: that’s insane.

Here’s how I’ve chosen to deal with this pressure. Instead of trying to enjoy every minute, I choose to be fully present for just some of the minutes. When I am with my daughter, I am fully present to her. If we are outside and she wants to spend five minutes looking at a flower, we look at that flower. When she wants to read a book 15 times in a row, I read it 15 times. But when I am cooking dinner, I put her in front of Sesame Street so I don’t have to divide my attention. One morning a week her dad is responsible for getting her up, dressed, and fed. On that morning, I will sit quietly and enjoy my own morning ritual, being fully present to my self, my prayers, or whatever activity I have chosen.

Instead of frantically trying to do everything and be fully present to my child 100% of the time, I created boundaries and made a deliberate choice to only be fully present to her part of the time. In part I did this because I had post partum depression, and setting those boundaries was an important piece of my recovery. My way is not the only way, or even the best way, but it is the best and only way for me.