Boundaries: Blasphemy or Blessing? by @CafeGirlsPress

by Caroline O’Neil | Featured Contributor

My elderly, disabled mother cares for my father who is recovering from a stroke.  You don’t have to be a fulltime caretaker yourself to imagine the stress and strain of caring for yourself and your dependent partner 24/7.  No vacation days, ever.

That being the case, I was stunned when my mother confessed feeling some resentment toward her friend Linda, who asked to be picked up from the airport at close to midnight!  My mother had agreed.

Instantly I was transported (Dr. Who-style) back in time to a business lunch where one colleague stated flatly:  “Stress is hearing your mind scream no at the same time your mouth is saying Yes, of course, I’d be glad to.

Then, Whomp! back to my mom.  “I know,” Mom said, “but it’s Linda, my very best friend.”

I bleated an ear piercing, “What?!”  And felt a strong urge to call Linda and blast her up one side of the street and down the other.

The fact that Linda is my mother’s lifelong BFF simply made me more irate. “Does she not understand what you’re going through?”

I had to get into my asana state of mind and do yoga breathing in order to calm my heart rate and return to stasis.  As I sifted through my burning need to protect my mother from doing too much, I realized a few things:  today life gives us each a figurative backyard, in the form of twenty-four hours, and that yard comes with a metaphorical fence and gate

  1. You decide what sort of fence you want.  Full-on six foot tall uber-privacy fence, or the more inviting white picket fence.
  2. You alone operate the gate.  This means:
  3. You alone get to decide who is allowed into your backyard.
  4. Cleaning up your backyard is your job.
  5. Your neighbor is responsible for her own backyard.

Problems arise when we help ourselves to someone else’s backyard without being invited.  We don’t want to intrude, but we do.  Especially when other people—in the name of kindness– make the mistake of leaving their gates wide open, allowing for every possible kind of intrusion.  And talk about resentment:  let somebody bumble into the yard and start rearranging our patio furniture.

Human beings are social. We enjoy connecting.  The most appealing communities have picket fences versus No Trespassing chain link barriers and guard dogs.  It’s pleasant to wave to one’s neighbor.

What’s not pleasant is to jump your neighbor’s fence at midnight when they need to be sleeping and pound on the door.  “Hey, wake up in there!  I need a ride to the airport.”

As female entrepreneurs, we have to be vigilant about gatekeeping.

Especially if we work in the job force and then come home to fulltime parenting.  And some of us are “sandwich generationers” who also oversee our parents’ well-being.

(Where is my Wonder Woman outfit?  Oh yeah, waiting to be picked up from the organic cleaners.)

Anyway, just because we women can successfully undertake several projects at once doesn’t mean we should.

Guard your gate.  Post a pleasant sign stating visiting hours.  Then honor yourself by honoring those boundaries.  Your backyard will become a thriving, happy environment that you enjoy, and you’ll have healthier relationships within your cherished community.

~~Caroline O’Neil, MA, MFA

Photo Credit: Romantic Home via Compfight cc


Caroline O’Neil – Multimedia Entrepreneur from CafeGirlsPress – Los Angeles, CA

2Theatrical CarolineCaroline O’Neil, MA, MFA, has adventured through life as an educator, healer, and above all as “a daisy chain of creative ferocity.”

Founder and CEO of CafeGirlsPress,  and long a supporter of the independent film movement, Caroline’s mission is both to create multimedia entertainment content,  and to encourage young professionals to pursue their gifts within the various fields of creative arts and technology.

Combining her drive, ambition, and focus with warmth, humor, and dedication to social justice, she challenges artists to educate through entertainment.

Caroline is inspired by her own two children, often her creative collaborators, as they develop stories by exploring America’s blue highways, the independent film culture, and California’s best Mom and Pop dining.

Caroline holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and is a member of the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG-AFTRA).  She lives in California and North Carolina.

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Twitter: @CafeGirlsPress

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2 Replies to “Boundaries: Blasphemy or Blessing? by @CafeGirlsPress”

  1. Stephanie Sterner

    Sometimes it’s shocking what people are willing to ask for. That’s when it’s our job to educate them. I love your backyard metaphor. A client of mine put it beautifully: “I teach people how to treat me.”

    So many people find it difficult to set good boundaries – especially with those closest to them. Sometimes it’s because they don’t know how to say “no” nicely. You might find out if that’s the case with your mom. If it is, you could offer to spend some time with her coming up with a few responses she feels comfortable with.

    As entrepreneurs, we could all benefit by spending some time thinking about where our boundaries lie and how to express them gracefully. And when we don’t have the words ready, it helps to buy some time. Even five minutes can be enough to clear our heads and make a better decision. Setting boundaries is probably the most important time management strategy we’ll ever learn.

  2. Marcia Reich

    You are so right, Caroline. I loved how you expressed this with your metaphorical fence. It is so difficult for people to create good, healthy boundaries for themselves and feel good about themselves. The default setting for most people is to please others at the expense of themselves. It is better to say “no” than say yes and be enraged. Shame on your mom’s friend for not knowing better. And thanks for the great post.

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