This week has been interesting for me. I have been reminded on several occasions that boundaries in our relationships are undeniably important. I've also been reminded that I don't guard my boundaries well which has led to a number of complications and unnecessary stress. The lines around our personal space, both in the mental and emotional sphere are often blurred and sometimes, erased into non-existence.
My relationship with my inlaws has never been easy for me. I must admit that our communication has improved greatly over the past 2 years. There is also a better sense of understanding of each other's differences. Nevertheless, there are still times when things are sensitive, potentially bringing up all the unhappy sentiments from the past. I agree that they desire to be closer to us, in particular to Osh Osh and I am happy for them to develop their relationship with him. However, there are times when the three of us want to have family time alone. It's difficult to communicate that at times, short of telling them directly that we want some time alone. DH finds it hard being caught in the middle and I hate to be the "bad guy" to have to tell them that we need some space. This weekend, I had to do that and I felt really bad later. DH called his father that evening to clear the air. It's good that my relationship with my father in law is on a more solid ground now and he didn't take any offence to my directness. As a matter of fact, he apologised for not realising that we needed some space and for overstepping his boundaries. It's a delicate dance that we all have to learn and master. More often than not, I have clumsily and unintentionally stepped on their toes.
Another boundary issue was between our contractor and us. We have been nice and friendly, perhaps a bit too friendly, with our contractor that he has ended up taking us for granted. As a result, there has been mistakes in the renovation works as well as delays. We had a meeting with him yesterday evening. It wasn't an easy one. I was very stressed about it for the past few days leading to it but DH remained calm throughout. The outcome of the meeting was good. Yes, the completion of the works is delayed until end of January next year but we have made it clear that we will not tolerate any more neglect on his part. The lesson for me here is that we should always be careful not to mistake a professional relationship as friendship by being too trusting.
As we returned home late that night, Osh Osh was needy as he missed me. However, I had to rush as I needed to attend a teleconference by dialling in from home that night. I had less than half an hour to shower, grab a quick dinner and prepare for it. That was another boundary issue for me. The conflict of letting work eat into my family time. I had to fulfil my work obligations as that is what I am paid to do. That fact didn't help me though when I saw Osh Osh's eyes tear up when I told him, "Mummy has to lock herself in the room to make this phone call." He didn't say a word but kept looking at me pitifully. With a heavy heart, I walked away from him. I made it up to him once the call ended by reading 4 story books with him. Of course, he ended up sleeping later than his usual bedtime but he went to bed happy. I hate having to choose work over him and this is something that I have to continually grapple with.
Finally, there is one other boundary issue that hits even closer to home. This time, the only person involved is me. I let the boundaries of rational thought and practical advice overlap with my own irrational worries and fear. As a result of not protecting the mental boundaries in my head, I was unnecessarily stressed, lost sleep over the past few nights and had headaches. I had prayed about the situation but somehow, I didn't surrender it all to God. Looking back, worrying about it and fearing the worst wasn't worth it. All it resulted in was an increased number of gray hairs!
I have learnt that the boundary lines in our lives are to be vigilantly protected and respected. They are there to enable us to live a happy fulfilling life. If we let the lines blur into oblivion, our lives would be a mess. We would be tossed about by every obstacle and pulled in all different directions, not knowing where our centre of focus should be. The boundaries that we set in our relationships are not meant to make us into selfish people. On the contrary, when we know where we stand in our relationships, we feel more secure and are better equipped to fulfil the needs that each relationship demands of us. On that note, I intend to vigilantly protect my time with DH and Osh Osh when we are all home later this evening. I know Osh Osh will be thrilled!