The Need for Boundaries part 1: The Slippery Slope
I was really nervous when I first mentioned the idea of staying home to my beloved RJ. I was talking to him on the phone as I drove home from my job as an administrative assistant when I threw caution into the wind and brought it up. We’d only been married for 3 years and it was still just the two of us and I knew the idea of unnecessarily living off of one income sounded ridiculous. I still consider it a blessing and a mark of his character, that he responded with thoughtfulness as opposed to disbelief. As we contemplated plans for our upcoming move and his first “real” job we knew we’d be strapped with a house payment and probably a car payment (unless I walked everywhere-which ended up being something of a reality for a while) and who knows what else. But we had high hopes that our sweet blonde child would be on her way to us soon so we decided we didn’t have much to lose and I would test the homemaking waters. We both liked the idea of one member of our household being “available” and as I filled my days with caring for our home and for RJ, I was grateful for the opportunities I had to offer time to other people as well.
As the months and then years wore on and there was no change in our family situation, I began to think that perhaps I needed to do more helping and maybe that would somehow heal the cavernous and deepening void in my soul. I threw myself into service with a storied zeal and decided to try the Savior’s invitation to lose myself in His service. I wondered if perhaps there was something I needed to learn or do or become that would somehow qualify me for this blessing I was so desperately seeking.
There was joy in the opportunity to bring relief to others and I realized that mothering takes many forms. But like many mothers, I began to slide my needs further and further from my consciousness as I sought to respond to the beck and call of everyone else. Eventually this started to wear on me, but because I am stubborn and have always been a big believer in faith, I determined that I simply needed to cultivate more faith in order to manage the increasing demands on my time, strength and emotions. Eventually (and fortunately) this approach landed me in the aforementioned psychologist’s office, tired, disillusioned, resentful and really sad. As I worked through the mountain of hard things I’d accumulated, the idea of personal boundaries kept resurfacing. Apparently I didn’t have any. Not even one to speak of. I could do pretty well keeping boundaries other people set for me (religious, familial) but my boundary-setting skill-set was still sitting unopened, perfectly shrink-wrapped in a distant and forgotten corner of my brain. Fortunately this wise woman seemed adept at assisting lost souls like mine and she began to help me see a few places where I could get to know and then reclaim myself so that I might more fully offer myself to others. At this point, anxiety abounded and I was desperate for any help so I wasn’t about to turn up my nose at her counter-intuitive advice. And I felt like there was truth in her words so I had hope that somewhere along the way the ideas would align themselves with the promise the Savior offered. During the years that have followed, as I’ve gotten more comfortable with the idea of saying no sometimes, I can see the beginnings of a beautiful and different fulfillment of His promise.