By Kyle Kingsley
My daughter was born with congenital heart disease. We knew this when I was 20 weeks pregnant. When she was born, we were told not to expect her to survive. She had two heart surgeries when she was only weeks old. I take my job as a parent very seriously. My husband and I are lucky enough to both freelance. I am a court reporter. He is a lighting technician for film and video. We switch off parenting duties so that one of us is always there. Our parents were always working when we were young, so we wanted to provide her with a constant.
If I tell my daughter that I’m picking her up from school, I am picking her up, not anyone else. We all know what it’s like to have to cancel plans for an expedite. Because of the nature of unexpected expedites, I insist on keeping my word. This goes to setting boundaries at work. Let them know what time you need to be done and have a replacement reporter set up to relieve you. If I tell them that I am not available on a certain day, they don’t have to bother calling me for a last-minute job because it’s my day off. If an attorney is speaking too fast, I tell them, because, again, that is part of setting boundaries. I will not let someone make my editing a living hell because I can’t speak up. Some may consider it bossy, but what is really bad about being bossy? It is always a good thing to know what you want and how to get it.
My daughter’s health conditions involved a lot of sacrifice. Caring for her, taking her to multiple doctor’s appointments, learning how to use a feeding tube, etc. is a full-time job. I had planned to get my certifications soon after she was born, but that didn’t happen. Life happened. Her health is also the reason I decided to stay at home during COVID.
Set boundaries with yourself. You know what you can handle and what you can’t. I outsource things I know I’m not good at, like cleaning the house or cooking dinner. I know I will be a giant ball of stress and anxiety if I don’t exercise, so I go out of my way to make that a priority.
Everyone wants to be supermom. It’s hard to say no to anything. No is empowerment. Why do we feel so guilty saying no? Guilt. Guilt drives “yes” syndrome. No one can do it all. But do you feel guilt over things that are beyond your control?
This passage is from the alternate ending of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein called The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries by Topher Payne:
“And as each generation played in her strong old branches, the tree often thought back to the fateful day when the boy had asked her for a house. In truth, she would have gladly given him her branches to build one. She would have given him her trunk to build a boat. She loved him that much.
“But then she would have nothing left. Not for herself, nor anyone else. And there never would have been a home for the red squirrels. There’d have been no hide and seek with the Boy’s grandchildren. No bakery with the best apple pies anyone ever tasted!
“Setting healthy boundaries is a very important part of giving. It assures you’ll always have something left to give. And so the tree was happy. Everyone was.
You will never get what you don’t ask for. So speak up, be a little bossy, say no when it’s appropriate, and set boundaries.
Kyle Kingsley is a freelancer in Baltimore, Md.