Working daughters, you know you have the right to have a life, don’t you? The Working Daughter Bill of Rights says so. It also says you have the right to set boundaries — to balance your needs with the needs of the people you care for, to set personal limits and to say no to requests that push those limits.
So, how do you best set those boundaries?
Here are 6 tips for setting boundaries when you are a caregiver.
Part four in our series on caregiving with intention.
- Eliminate the shoulds. By know you probably know how I feel about should. I think it should be spelled s-h-u-d because it might as well be a bad, four-letter word. When you start a sentence or a thought with, “I should,” that is an indicator that you have internalized someone else’s expectations and values. “I should visit more often.” “I should sacrifice more.” “I should be a better daughter.” Listen; there are no shoulds in caregiving (or any other part of life for that matter). Erase the word from your vocabulary.
- Act on want tos, not have tos. Guess what? You don’t have to run that errand for your parent. You don’t have to take them to visit a friend on Sunday. Do you want to and therefore will you? Probably. You are a good daughter after all. But be clear about why you are doing something. No one, not even your parents, and especially not your siblings, get to tell you what you have to do. Do it because you want to. In the space between having to and wanting to, lie your personal boundaries.
- Know your non-negotiables. Do you have a list of non-negotiables – the things in your life that absolutely are not open to negotiation? Boundaries protect things. So you can’t set boundaries if you don’t know what it is you are protecting. Maybe it’s your health, or your career, or time with your kids. Maybe it’s visiting your parent at the nursing home daily. Your non-negotiable list is what you say yes to. Anything that interferes with that list is a clear and simple no.
- Stop talking. Speaking of saying no, when you do use that powerful little word, don’t say anything else. If your sister asks you to take her caregiving shift during your workout time, and exercise is on your non-negotiables list, then say, “No.” Not “No because I really want to go to the spin class.” Not “No, I really want to exercise.” Not “No, I missed a workout last week and…” Just “No. “ And then…
- Make an offer. A simple no can feel harsh and cold to you and the person who receives it, so follow up with an offer (if you want to). “No, I can’t take that shift, but I could take this weekend.” “No, I can’t take you to the store this afternoon, but I can take you tomorrow or I can run the errand on my own later today. Which do you prefer?”
- Get support. Setting boundaries can feel uncomfortable, maybe even selfish. (But of course you know it would be selfish not to take care of your own needs, right?) So assemble a cheering squad before you do. Enlist your best friend or another working daughter to cheer you on as you begin to prioritize your own life. I know a great group of working daughters…
Setting boundaries takes practice. Why not start practicing today? You have the right.