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Boundaries - Not Just for Military Takeovers Anymore

By Dawn Goldberg

In December, I took two weeks vacation at home.

I repeat, I took two weeks vacation at home; I didn't go anywhere. I stayed put.

I think it's very important to take a vacation at home, and I don't mean just for a day or two. That doesn't really do it. When you're at home for an extended period of time, and you're not working, you get perspective on what your normal, everyday life is like when you are working - whether that's working in the home or outside the home.

What this perspective showed me and what I have learned is monumental and has actually spurred me on to make great changes in my life and in my business.

Things that I thought were okay, really weren't. For example, my girls are pretty self-sufficient when it comes to homework. They do their homework, practice their piano lessons, and read their requisite chapters after school. All I'm really required to do is to monitor, yell "Time!" when the required 20 minutes of reading is over, check over homework answers, and make sure that all homework is completed. I don't need to sit there and watch them do each problem. So, I became a little complacent and began filling in this "free" time doing work.

Sure, I could have gotten away with working. I was available if the kids needed me. But I was missing out on something - time away from work and enjoying this quiet, yet busy, homework time with my kids.

It might have been okay for them (the girls really didn't need me to be right there, and I could get some work done), but it wasn't okay for me. It meant that I was spending all my energy around working - "Oh, I can work at this time, and this time," and "I can shove this in here." That boundary around work and home had started to slip, and this vacation showed me that I needed that boundary so I could enjoy my whole life.

Do you know what I did during homework time on my vacation? I quilted while girls did piano practice. I folded laundry while they did their math problems, and I read while they read.

I had been missing out on this (okay, maybe I wasn't really missing out on folding laundry, but it did feel good to get it done). And I decided that I don't want to miss out on it. I need time away from work. So, I have to put up my boundaries again and defend them - from myself.

This reminds me of our wonderful pediatrician, Dr. Mella (who I hope is around forever, or at least until my younger daughter turns eighteen), who explained to us years ago that kids act out so that parents can set those boundaries to make their world a little smaller and a little safer. Our toddler needed boundaries, rules, and limits to rein in this world that just kept getting bigger for her. Set a limit, put a boundary on it, and the world seems manageable for her again.

Well, the hard thing for us parents is that there isn't anyone who can put those boundaries in place for us. It's up to us to keep the boundaries intact and strong. We have to do it ourselves. And that can be hard. It's much easier to go along with the way things are and be unhappy or complain.

So, the happy ending (which is really a beginning) is that when I came back to work after Christmas, I refortified my boundaries: my workday ends at 3:00 p.m. when the girls come home, there will be no quick checking of e-mail, and on those days in which we don't have piano lessons or gymnastics to go to, I'm quilting while they practice their piano songs.

As a matter of fact, I'm looking at my entire business, and I'm in the process of restructuring it so that it's easier for me to keep those boundaries in place.

My goal is that I don't have to wait until next Christmas to have some space and enjoy my time at home. I want that every day of the year.

About The Author

Dawn Goldberg is a Certified Virtual Assistant, COO of Assist University, mother, community leader, and former teacher. Her vision is to create a resource that helps parents find ways to enjoy valuable, constructive time with their children every day. Contact her at or visit

Copyright 2006 Dawn Goldberg. You are welcome to use this article online in electronic newsletters and e-zines as long as it remains complete and unaltered (including the "about the author" information).

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