Erica's New Book Releasing the Mother Load is officially out! Order your copy today!
LEARN MORE
Erica's New Book Releasing the Mother Load is officially out! Order your copy today!
LEARN MORE

February 20, 2024

November 3, 2021

Setting Boundaries With Moms & Mothers-In-Law

E:
93
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder of Psyched Mommy

What You'll Learn

  • Evaluating Your Parents’ Parenting
  • Setting Boundaries Without Upsetting Anyone
  • Boundary Setting As Mental Health
  • Dealing With Inappropriate Gift Giving
  • Helping Our Kids Set Boundaries With Physical Touch
  • The Boundary Violator vs. Boundary Errors

Do you struggle with family showing up unannounced? Does your family buy too many gifts for your child? Does your mother or mother-in-law ignore your parenting values and do things their own way? You are not alone. In today’s episode, Dr. Ream and I answer your questions to help unpack why boundary setting feels so difficult especially when it comes to dealing with our moms and mothers-in-law, and provide some advice for how to set those boundaries. 

Evaluating Your Parents’ Parenting

Once you have a child, you start to see your parents differently, because now you’re a parent. If you have a challenging relationship with your parents or a traumatic upbringing all of that can resurface as you enter parenthood, because you’re seeing things from a new perspective.

You’re seeing things from a new perspective.

Dr. Ream and her husband recently talked about how day-to-day interactions with their parents shaped how they respond to things. Her mother lives nearby and when she sees similar interactions between her mother and her son, it bothers her because she doesn’t want it to affect him the same way.

“We feel like we need to change something because we know the impact,” she said. “And that’s not necessarily to place blame or say you did it to hurt me.” But now that we understand the impact these interactions have, we want to do better for our children.

Setting Boundaries Without Upsetting Anyone

“What we’re doing is internal work for ourselves,” Dr. Ream said. When we set boundaries, we have to decide what we’re going to tolerate and what we’re not. We have to decide what we were programmed to think we need versus what we actually need. 

We may be afraid that setting boundaries will be met with a hostile reaction. If we have a parent who may be a little bit narcissistic, we have actually been met with these hostile reactions in the past. We may have been taught to prioritize our parents' needs over our own.

Setting boundaries is hard work. It’s not always going to feel nice, but not setting the boundaries feels worse. We can be brave for a few minutes, or deal with the alternative indefinitely.

We may not set the boundary thinking we can avoid conflict, but putting someone else’s need above our own is a great way to fester resentment. Not saying anything when we’re bothered by something—not setting the boundary—sets up the space for resentment to grow in our relationships. 

Our needs have to be met somewhere. Without setting the boundary it could become passive-aggressive comments or riffs with our partner because they’re not setting boundaries with their mom, or even because they are and we wish we were too.

“My mom had a really hard time setting boundaries when I was growing up,” Dr. Ream said. “And I noticed how this impacted me, because I kind of latched onto a lot of the same patterns, but then when she didn’t want to do something she would avoid it and tell a white lie.”

Dr. Ream felt she picked up these behaviours to the point she couldn’t even talk to people about potential conflicts without becoming really emotional, so she had to start doing the work of setting small boundaries every day.

Boundary Setting As Mental Health

“If we don’t have something that contains us, surrounds us, defines us then people won’t know who we are,” Dr. Ream said. Without boundaries, people don’t know what we’re okay with. 

Without boundaries, people don’t know what we’re okay with.

Boundary setting is a skill that we learn that may not have been modeled for us. Knowing how to communicate our boundaries can be difficult if you’ve never done it before or this isn’t a skill you have. Dr. Ream and I are hosting a live boundary-setting workshop on November 12 to help navigate knowing where to set your boundaries and how to communicate that.

I’ve had to set boundaries with my mom that weren’t fun for either of us. But once we’ve had that discussion it gave us a chance to be on the same page, communicate better, and made our relationship closer.

It doesn’t feel good to set a boundary while you’re doing it, but you’ve done other hard things in your life. You can do this too. 

We also let our anxiety play a role in boundary-setting by assuming what someone’s response is going to be. We imagine they’re going to be so upset they turn a table over or something extreme, but most of the time it doesn’t go over that badly.

Dealing With Inappropriate Gift Giving

Dr. Ream dealt with this personally recently. Her child had a birthday and she asked everyone weeks in advance not to bring a gift. People were shocked they shouldn’t bring gifts for the party, but she set up a link to St. Jude’s so they could donate to a cause instead. The birthday came around and there were no gifts! 

Sometimes gift-giving is more about the giver than the person on the receiving end. My mom is a gift giver. I can’t even remember the last time she came over without a gift, but I don’t want more toys in my house! I’ve been able to redirect this with small statements like, “If you want to bring something, my son has outgrown his shoes.”

Helping Our Kids Set Boundaries With Physical Touch

This is something that comes up in two age ranges: the newborn everyone wants to kiss, and then the interaction with the older kids who just don’t want to be kissed or hugged. In one area, we’re setting boundaries with our own safety preferences, and in the other, we’re dealing with our kid’s comfort level.

We’re setting boundaries with our own safety preferences and also our kid’s comfort level.

You may find yourself with a mom or mother-in-law who wants to hug and kiss a child who may not want to be hugged or kissed. This is a boundary that needs to be set, but it can be awkward because Grandma is just trying to show affection.

“I think before you’re in the position, it’s always good to set the boundary ahead of time,” Dr. Ream said. “You want to make it clear, and you want to make it streamlined for everyone.”

We have to be clear and direct, and sometimes we think we’re being direct, but we’re not. Instead of saying, “We don’t usually kiss the baby on the face,” say “Please, don’t kiss my baby. We’re worried about germs.” Or don’t give any explanation at all.

“Some people may not be comfortable with that, but that’s okay. Making other people comfortable isn’t your job with setting boundaries,” Dr. Ream said.

Making other people comfortable isn’t your job with setting boundaries.

When it comes to unwanted touches, Dr. Ream has found it very helpful to explain to her family that she wants her son’s wishes respected to help teach consent, and that by allowing him autonomy over his body now, he’ll know it exists later.

The Boundary Violator vs. Boundary Errors

“If we’re not clear in defining what it is, people don’t realize that we even have a boundary. So, when they’re crossing a boundary that they don’t know exists, that’s a boundary error. Because they don’t even know what the boundary is,” Dr. Ream explained.

“A boundary violation is when you have been clear, you have been firm, when you have repeated the boundary you told people, and they choose to just push back. They’re choosing to cross that boundary,” she explained.

Errors are going to occur, because people can’t read our minds.

The boundary workshop is going to be helpful with setting boundaries and restating those boundaries as we need to, because we all have people in our lives who can cross boundaries. 

NEWSLETTER

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Tags:

boundaries with moms and mothers-in-law

Stage:

Postpartum, Motherhood

Share Now:

OUR GUEST

Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder of Psyched Mommy

Dr. Ashurina Ream, PMH-C is a licensed clinical psychologist with advanced training in maternal mental health. Her passion for maternal mental health arose after becoming a mother herself. In addition to this specialty, Dr. Ream has trained in various disciplines as it pertains to the field of psychology. She has worked with those struggling with body image, eating disorders, parenting, health-related mood impairment, cognitive functioning, and general mental health. Dr. Ream is a wife, mother, and friend. She enjoys being connected with others, finding humor in life, and advocating for those who struggle to find their voice.

Erica Djossa
Erica Djossa
PMH-C | Founder of Momwell
Erica is the founder of Momwell, providing educational resources and virtual therapy for moms. She is a mom of three boys and a registered psychotherapist. Erica’s work has been featured in the Toronto Star, Breakfast Television, Scary Mommy, Medium, Pop Sugar, and Romper. how they want it.
RELATED ARTICLES
June 19, 2024
June 19, 2024
Navigating Culture and Mental Health in Motherhood: Traditions, Boundaries, and Carving Out Your Own Path
E:
230
with
Sahaj Kaur Kohli
Founder of Brown Girl Therapy and Author
June 5, 2024
April 17, 2024
How to Maintain Friendships (and Make Friends) as a Mom
E:
221
with
Danielle Bayard Jackson
Author
March 18, 2024
February 21, 2024
Understanding Postpartum Depression in Dads and Non-Birthing Partners
E:
213
with
Mark Williams
International Advocate for Perinatal Mental Health and Author
June 5, 2024
February 14, 2024
Rekindling Your Sex Life After Baby: Communication Is Key
E:
212
with
Vanessa & Xander Marin
bestselling authors & hosts of the podcast Pillow Talks
February 20, 2024
December 6, 2023
Navigating Different Sex Drives in Parenthood: What Impacts Libido and How to Reconnect
E:
202
with
Dr. Lauren Fogel Mersy & Dr. Jennifer Vencill
Licensed Psychologists and Authors
February 20, 2024
November 22, 2023
Erica’s Husband Reflects on Sharing the Invisible Load
E:
200
with
Frenel Djossa
Erica’s Husband & Co-Founder of Momwell
February 20, 2024
November 15, 2023
Breaking Generational Trauma Cycles: Healing Our Past and Moving Forward in Motherhood
E:
199
with
Dr. Mariel Buqué
Psychologist and the author of the book Break the Cycle: A Guide to Healing Intergenerational Trauma
February 20, 2024
November 1, 2023
Breaking Out of the Default Parent Role: How to Communicate with Your Partner and Change Patterns
E:
197
with
Erin & Stephen Mitchell
Founders of Couples Counseling for Parents
February 20, 2024
October 18, 2023
Rebuilding Connection and Intimacy After Baby: How Family Systems Can Help Us Navigate Relationship Challenges
E:
195
with
Aaron Steinberg
Co-Founder of Babyproofing Your Relationship
February 20, 2024
September 27, 2023
Understanding Overfunctioning in Relationships: How to Change Dynamics After Baby
E:
192
with
Dr. Tracy Dalgleish
Clinical Psychologist and Relationship Expert
February 20, 2024
August 2, 2023
Establishing Family Values: How to Identify What Matters and Avoid Comparison
E:
184
with
Mell & Joe Hashey
Founders of Strong Family Co.
February 20, 2024
July 26, 2023
The Journey of a Bereaved Parent: Stefania Thomson’s Story of Navigating Grief and Loss
E:
183
with
Stefania Thomson
Bereavement and Grief Advocate
February 20, 2024
April 26, 2023
Working Through Conflict About Growing Your Family: What to Do When Only One Partner Wants Another Baby
E:
170
with
Elizabeth Earnshaw
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
March 15, 2023
Real Self-Care for Moms: Why Mindset Matters More Than Massages
E:
164
with
Dr. Pooja Lakshmin
Psychiatrist
February 20, 2024
January 18, 2023
Resolving Conflict in Your Relationship After Baby
E:
156
with
Sheina Schochet
Mental Health Counselor
February 20, 2024
January 4, 2023
Reestablishing Sex After Baby: Why Communication Matters and How to Create a New Normal
E:
154
with
Travis Goodman
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
December 28, 2022
Coping During Postpartum with No Family Support: When Reality Clashes with Expectations
E:
153
with
Emmalee Bierly and Jennifer Chaiken
Founders of ShrinkChicks
February 20, 2024
November 2, 2022
How To Deal With Toxic Positivity As a Mom: What To Do When Someone Invalidates Your Feelings
E:
145
with
Whitney Goodman
Marriage and Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
September 14, 2022
Dividing Labour Fairly in the Home: Redistributing the Mental Load of Motherhood
E:
138
with
Dr. Darcy Lockman
Author and Psychologist
February 20, 2024
December 8, 2021
Learning to Fight Fair
E:
98
with
Elizabeth Earnshaw
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
February 20, 2024
November 3, 2021
Setting Boundaries With Moms & Mothers-In-Law
E:
93
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder of Psyched Mommy
February 20, 2024
October 27, 2021
Co-Parenting and Blending Families
E:
92
with
Abbey Williams
Therapist
February 20, 2024
October 20, 2021
Social Justice Parenting
E:
91
with
Dr. Traci Baxley
Author
February 20, 2024
September 15, 2021
Babyproofing Our Relationships
E:
86
with
Kameela Osman
Social Worker and Psychotherapist
February 20, 2024
July 14, 2021
Modeling Consent in Parenthood
E:
77
with
Jess VanderWier
Psychotherapist
February 20, 2024
June 30, 2021
Sex As a Mother
E:
75
with
Dr. Sara Reardon
Physical Therapist
February 20, 2024
April 28, 2021
A Deeper Look into the Mother Wound
E:
66
with
Bethany Webster
Author
February 20, 2024
April 21, 2021
Making—And Keeping—Mommy Friends
E:
65
with
Dr. Miriam Kirmayer
Clinical Psychologist
February 20, 2024
April 14, 2021
Breaking Cycles And Interdependence
E:
64
with
Sian Crossley
Psychotherapist
February 20, 2024
March 17, 2021
Replay of Navigating Intimacy After Children
E:
60
with
Dr. Tracy Dalgleish
Psychologist
February 20, 2024
March 10, 2021
Respectful Parenting as a Team
E:
59
with
Janet Lansbury
Author
February 20, 2024
March 3, 2021
Overcoming Resentment in Our Relationships
E:
58
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder of Psyched Mommy
February 20, 2024
February 24, 2021
Understanding the Mother Wound
E:
57
with
Bethany Webster
Author
February 20, 2024
November 25, 2020
Conscious Boundary Setting
E:
47
with
Ashleigh Warner
Family Psychologist
February 20, 2024
September 16, 2020
Celebrating 1 Year - A Look Back at the Top 5 Episodes
E:
42
with
Erica Djossa
Founder of Momwell
February 20, 2024
November 20, 2019
Navigating Intimacy After Children
E:
14
with
Dr. Tracy Dalgleish
Psychologist
February 20, 2024
November 27, 2019
Loneliness and Isolation In Motherhood
E:
15
with
Dr. Ashurina Ream
Founder of Psyched Mommy
February 20, 2024
October 30, 2019
Navigating Boundaries in Motherhood
E:
11
with
Nedra Tawwab
Therapist