Parenting / Unschooling

Enough With Self-Care: What We Really Need Are Boundaries

I’m not sure about you, but a 30-minute bubble bath is not going to magically fix any of my problems.

Maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but I don’t need self-care, at least not in the way it’s currently being described. When I hear how self-care is so important and I need to make sure I’m doing it every week, with suggestions like ‘read a book, take a walk, have a bath’, what it sounds like is more things I have to add to my to-do list. Not only do I have to do all the things already on my list, but I also have to make sure I fit in self-care or I’m not doing things ‘right’?

Am I saying any of these things are bad? Nope! I love a relaxing bath as it turns out. But, if I have a million things to do, is pausing for a bath going to solve my problems? No way. Is equating self-care to something as simple as a bath helpful? No. It’s much deeper than that.

To me, true self-care is about boundaries and does not feel like a chore, or another task to complete. It’s not about taking a short break and expecting that to fix your feelings of overwhelm the rest of the week. Instead, it’s living in a way that’s sustainable. How do you do that? By getting familiar with what works for you and then protecting that by communicating your boundaries.

That’s how you care for yourself. That’s going to make a meaningful and lasting difference. That is going to be sustainable.

There is no correct formula for this. No step-by-step guide. Everyone is different, everyone has different capabilities, motivations, goals, and needs. And that’s why telling everyone to simply take a bubble bath is also laughable.

So no, I can’t tell you exactly what to do. You’re going to have to dream up your own ideal life and work out the boundaries you need to allow you to pursue that. But, let’s chat about some things that might help…

Decide What Matters

We cannot do everything. There are only so many hours in a week. So, we have to decide what actually matters, and what doesn’t. Instead of the pressure to add something in, like getting up at 5am for some alone time before the kids wake up (yay for you if you love that but no way is that happening here), focus on what you can cross out.

When I feel overwhelmed, it’s because I don’t feel that I have enough time to do all the things I need or want to do. It’s really important to decide what is actually adding value to my life and worth continuing. Not just now, but in the future too. What are the things that add value to our family, that are important for how we want our family to look and feel? What are the experiences we want to look back on?

I don’t want to look back on a whole lot of rushing through life with no time to actually experience it. I want to enjoy my children while they are living right here with me. To do that, I need to cut out what just does not practically fit in.

There is so much freedom in letting go of commitments that are not serving you, and prioritising the things that truly matter.

Practice Saying ‘No’

Once you’ve decided on your family’s vision, values, and priorities, start saying no to anything that does not align with that. It is ok to say no to opportunities, events, and experiences that would be fun but you just don’t have time for. Focus on what you are saying yes to instead. Yes to your family vision. Yes to living with your family and not just managing them while they have all the fun. You will miss out on some things and that’s ok. There are many things I’m happy for my children to miss out on but, time with me is not one of them.

Practice saying no to things that don’t align with how you want your life to look or feel. And also saying no to some things that you would actually love to do but it’s just not the right time right now! It might feel weird at first, but the more you do it the easier it gets.

‘We’re not available on that date’
‘We can’t commit to that right now’

These are powerful phrases needed to live your best life!

Give Yourself a Break

On that note, give yourself a break. A lot of what keeps people saying yes when they really want to say no is a feeling of what they ‘should’ be doing. You don’t have to be everything and do everything. Say this to yourself until you believe it. You want to be an awesome mother, but that is not defined by how much ‘stuff’ you do, but who you are.

Your kids don’t need every opportunity. Nope, not even every learning opportunity. They don’t have to be signed up for every class, attend every new museum exhibit, or have plans with friends every day of the week. We have been so focused on giving our kids everything that we are now seeing there are unintended consequences to all this overscheduling anyway.

For homeschoolers, a lot of overwhelm comes from guilt about not doing enough. Maybe sometimes this is a legitimate feeling we need to listen to and there are areas we need to be supporting our kids in more. I don’t want to invalidate that. Sometimes feelings are messengers, but sometimes they’re also a product of conditioning. We live in a society that tells us that more is better and that our kids always need more. Think about where this feeling is coming from and challenge your beliefs. Do your children need more, or do they need you to intentionally choose the things that really matter?

School gave us the belief that education means learning widely but shallowly, but if we create the space in our lives for it we can rediscover the pleasure of diving deep into subjects that interest us.

Give yourself a break, set down the guilt, and focus on choosing what you want to do, what your kids need, and what benefits your individual family. Change your mindset and step away from this strange competition we’ve got going on about whose child does the most activities, while also being top of their class, volunteering on the weekends, and starting their own business at age 10. You know what I actually want for my children? Not to be burdened by that kind of pressure!

Work on Your Personal Boundaries

Work on communicating your personal day-to-day boundaries within your family. You are a mother, but you are also a person with limitations, and that’s ok. Everyone is happier when their needs are met and their boundaries are respected, and you are a person too. Sometimes, when we’ve been through the process of mothering babies and tiny children, we forget this fact.

As our children get older, they are quite able to understand that other people have needs and boundaries. We can gradually teach them this by communicating our own boundaries. If you are unsure how to do this, this book has such great information and examples.

I think a lot of people feel guilty about protecting their own boundaries with their children, whether it’s ‘no sorry I don’t want to go out today because I’m tired’, or ‘I am happy to make one dinner per night and I’ll try to include something I know you definitely like, but if you are still hungry you’re free to make yourself something else’, or ‘I don’t like being jumped on, that hurts me, if you want to jump you can use the trampoline’, or ‘I understand you are not ready for bed yet, but I am very tired so I will be going to bed soon’, or ‘I know you really want to buy that toy but it’s not in my budget today’, or ‘I’m going to take 30 mins to read my book in my room right now because I need some rest, I will be back with you soon’.

There are a million ways we need to assert our boundaries every day, and our children might even get quite upset about that sometimes! You know what? Our children can feel angry or sad about our boundaries and we can still hold them anyway if they are important for us. That doesn’t mean we’re bad parents. That’s fantastic parenting! I’m not sure about you, but I definitely want my child to get used to respecting other people’s boundaries.

Please get in tune with your own needs, work on communicating your boundaries with your children, and do it every day!

Rely on Others

To be quite honest the idea of me needing ‘self-care’ makes me a little mad. Wait a second… not only do I have to look after everyone else in my family but I’m responsible for looking after myself too? Can’t someone also look after me? Yes, they bloody well can!

Now, I do know we do have to do all the good things to look after ourselves. I’m being dramatic. But the point I want to make is that what I also need is care from the people around me! That’s not too much to expect.

As well as protecting our personal boundaries about what we don’t want to do, and protecting our space and time, let’s also have some expectations of our loved ones. In my family, I expect to be cared for just like everyone else. I am just as valuable. I really don’t consent to taking on the care load alone.

I am not down for one-sided relationships that are detrimental to me in my community, friendships, or home. I expect to be cared for, just as I want those around me to expect I will care for them.

My family are great at this because they know me and I have shown and told them the things I need for a long time now. Get comfortable letting the people around you know what you need and how to care for you.

Self-care is not about the things we do. It’s not bubble baths and foot rubs, nights out or fancy meals. Those things are brilliant and they might actually be the things you do when you have time to yourself, but they’re not the important part. Telling someone to do one of these approved ‘self-care’ activities is not really going to solve any problems alone. Self-care is a mindset. It’s knowing you deserve to be cared for, being clear on your needs, and communicating your personal boundaries.

When we can do that, we’re much more likely to prevent ourselves from feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated in the first place. Instead, we have a sustainable way of caring for ourselves and we can actually enjoy our own lives!


May 4, 2024 at 8:40 am

Such a good and timely post for me! Your blog is full of so many great gems

May 7, 2024 at 7:03 am

That’s a great post Sis. So proud of you and your beautiful family. Love Mum. Xx

May 9, 2024 at 5:41 am

Thank you for this! Exactly what I needed to read 🩷

I appreciate your blog in general so much 🌸

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