Breaking Point: How Ignoring Boundaries Fuels the Burnout Crisis

The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything – Warren Buffett


A working mother without boundaries is a woman in perpetual crisis. I say this because the role of a working mother requires you to be responsive to multiple highly demanding stakeholders. To meet all their demands, you have to have the organisational skills of God herself. Anything less and you will have screaming stakeholders both young and old. This can be destabilising for even the most robust of people.


So why for the love of God do some people go about with very porous boundaries? 


Why do they fail to realise that they can’t be everyone’s best friend and the answer has to be ‘no’ to some people?  Why do you want to be everyone’s best friend anyway? Have you no standards?


Having no boundaries is unfair to you, your children, your partner, your boss, your employees and everyone involved in your life. They need to know where they stand and they need to know that if you say you are going to do something, you are going to deliver. They don’t want to receive a last minute call with you telling them that your impossible schedule collapsed in on itself. Why? Because now you can’t be at that birthday party that you agreed to bake a gluten and dairy-free cake for. Your child is disappointed they can’t go to the party, you have left the host running round like a maniac looking for gluten and dairy-free cake at the last minute because little Tommy and Rosie who are allergic are going to be at the party and their parents have been promised cake just for them.


Do yourself a favour, either say no to baking the cake or say no to your boss who is suddenly without notice, knowing that you have a small kid has decided that you are the only member of the team that can deal with that work emergency. Although that may appeal to your ego, I promise you there are other members with less demanding stakeholders in the team, dying for the opportunity to shine this very weekend. Why are you answering work calls at the weekend anyway? Unless you are in the life-saving industry, do shift work or you are on call, work calls on the weekend should be a no no. This makes you a person with firm, clean boundaries and it is good for your mental health.


There are people whose self-esteem is only anchored in what they do for a living so unless they are killing themselves working crazy hours, they feel they are wasting their lives. Apart from this being a rather sad way to live, (if in doubt, go to a nursing home and see how many ex-work colleagues are visiting the old people there) it is not good for your well-being and your productivity.


Smart bosses should know that well-rested employees are more productive. Employees who are ‘always on’, are also always terrified and emotionally drained. They are not the ones thinking outside the box and coming up with innovative ideas. They are too busy ‘doing’ to see the wood for the trees. More importantly, they are burnt out. Not much left in the tank!


Sustainability is the buzzword these days and it is used for everything from the environment to strategy. If you want your workforce to be sustainable and productive, there have to be boundaries that everyone respects. The boss has to have boundaries and the employees have to do the same.


There is no point in having boundaries if they are not enforced and you need a healthy self-esteem to be able to enforce your boundaries. You need to know that you matter and you make a difference. You matter enough that if you don’t turn up with the promised gluten and dairy-free cake, someone’s party is going to be ruined. You make a difference because your children’s emotional well-being depends on you doing the work on your self-esteem to enforce your boundaries so you are not run ragged.


So here is my challenge to you, rather than burning yourself out, which to some working mothers is just the accepted price to pay, are you going to do the smart thing and take care of your children’s emotional well-being?

If you’re a working mother and you’re having a hard time with boundaries and self-esteem, grab a chat with me here. If you want to hear more from me, you might be interested in my FREE masterclass – register here to watch anytime.