Priorities, Boundaries and New Seasons (Episode 95)

In this episode, host Kay Coughlin talks about how setting boundaries is a two-for-one deal: when you set boundaries, you’re also setting priorities. As always, no judgment, no guilt, and no pressure.

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Transcript of episode is below.

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Transcript: Priorities, Boundaries and Holidays? (Episode 95) 

You’re listening to From One Caregiver to Another. I’m your host, Kay Coughlin. I’m a business coach and an advocate for people with family caregiver responsibilities. I’m a family caregiver for my mother, too, and I just don’t believe that we caregivers have to put ourselves last. I believe that our families, government, and society in general owe us a lot more help than we usually get. And I’m here to help you learn to speak up for yourself so you can live your own life again.

This is episode 95.

I am recording this in very early January of 2023, so we are right at the new year, right? We can also look at this as a new season, which is a typical time for a lot of us to do some regrouping and planning and taking a good long look at what we want in the upcoming seasons or the upcoming year, or however you want to take a look at that.

I also want to take a minute right now to celebrate that, as of this week, I have been recording this podcast for two years. That is really exciting, and I think it’s a really big accomplishment. Sometime back, my podcast producer told me that the vast majority of podcasts don’t ever make it past the first 10 episodes, and this is episode number 95 for me. Well, you know, in fact, I have produced a few other special episodes that I didn’t number, and that’s like my series on overwhelm that I did in 2021. So I’m actually at well over a hundred episodes that I’ve produced now.

As I like to say to my clients quite often, it is so good to take a minute and celebrate the wins we have, no matter what size they are, because I think we just don’t take the time to do that often enough.

I am recording this episode today as both a family caregiver and as a business owner. And actually, that is going to be true for this podcast from now on. I’m doing that because one of the things I’ve noticed in the past two years, as I’ve really been focused on family caregivers, is that there aren’t a lot of voices talking about how to stay in the workplace and keep earning a living if you are a family caregiver now.

I made that choice and I made a way to do that for myself by owning my own business and building a business that can support my life, which also includes family caregiving responsibilities.

One of the things that troubles me the most is that in the United States, there is no safety net for family caregivers who stop earning their own income. We don’t have a universal guaranteed income. We don’t have guaranteed health insurance, and that also leads up to the fact that we won’t have a way to save for our retirement years if we stop working.

But interestingly, there are a lot of voices out there that really encourage us to do the quote unquote right thing and quit our jobs so that we can care for someone else full-time.

I don’t think it’s so easy to call that a right thing to do, though. I know that it is right for some people, but it’s not right for everybody. And the last really good statistic that we had on this was from a couple of years ago when we knew that about 62% of family caregivers also have a job. So there’s 62% of us who need to hear how to stay in the workplace.

And what this means for me right now is that I’m going to change direction a little bit, and I’m going to start talking about this. I am a business coach for solopreneurs and small business leaders. That’s what I do to earn revenue, and so this is something that I hear a lot from people. They say to me, “how do I juggle all of this? How do I take care of myself and earn a living and also take care of the people I need to take care of?”

There’s another thing that I hear a lot from family caregivers and it’s that they didn’t have a choice about leaving their jobs or about taking a lower paying job so that they could care for family members.

Now, if this is something that’s happened to you or something that you’ve said, I want you to know that I believe you. I’m not here to tell you that you’re wrong about this. I bet that there was nobody in your life telling you anything else or helping you decide if this decision really was right for you.

In fact, most of us hear over and over that the only option we have is to do all of the care ourselves, all of the work for that person ourselves. And so that’s what we tend to believe. That is a message that we hear because it makes life so much more convenient for everybody else if we take that all on our shoulders.

So if you’ve heard that a lot, I believe you.

Please don’t hear me putting shame on anyone. I’m not shaming any family caregivers who’ve had to make that hard choice to quit a job and take care of somebody. I’m not blaming anyone for doing that. As I said, I believe that that was the best choice or maybe the only choice for you at the time.

What I want to do is change this belief. It is the prevailing story that we hear right now, and I want to change it. I want for family caregivers to know that if you want to stay in the workforce or if you have to stay in the workforce or both, like me, that you can make that happen.

And I’m not about to tell you that you can do it all either. I don’t believe that, and I don’t think it’s healthy to pretend that anybody can do it all for longer than a few weeks.

So, in the podcast from now on, I am still going to talk about family caregiver issues at large. I’m going to talk about how I take care of my family caregiver issues. But I’m also going to talk about the changes that I’m making in my business, and I’m going to talk about business coaching topics that typical business coaches talk about.

And I’m still going to talk about boundaries and Human Giver Syndrome because believe it or not, that’s a big part of what I do with my clients as a business coach. And the reason that comes up so much, even in my work as a business coach, is because boundaries and human giver syndrome are vital for us to understand if we’re going to find a way to take care of ourselves, too.

And for a lot of us, that does mean working for a living. As I said, that might be because we have to, or maybe it’s because we enjoy it. And for me it is both reasons. I do need to work to help support my family, and I also need to work because it’s part of who I am right now. My work does not define me and it doesn’t rule my life, but it’s an important part of me and I’m a much better person because I own this business and I work at it, and I have a routine and because as part of my business, I get to help people. That just makes me a better person all around.

All right, so now that I got that out of the way today, I want to talk about boundaries, of course, again, because it’s in the title and also because I talk about it a lot.

But what I really want to talk about is something that we get wrong about boundaries. We get this wrong about the way boundaries function in our home lives and also in our workplaces. And by “we” I mean society, like the bigger cultural norm, the expectation going on around us.

What we get wrong about boundaries is that we think they make us selfish or weak. Or that they make us suckers because only a loser or a sucker would go through life letting people walk all over them, right, before they finally stood up and said no. And we also fear saying that ultimate boundary statement, the word “no,” because we think we might be perceived by other people as weak or unhelpful, or ungenerous, or unambitious.

Okay. The truth about this is that boundaries actually force you to look at your priorities and make choices about your life and work. I know that because the first part of the definition of boundaries that I use in my work is, “making decisions about what’s okay and not okay with you.”

Now, the second part of that definition is communicating those decisions to people when you need to, but that’s not my focus for today.

When you decide what’s okay and not okay with you, you are actually making a bigger decision about who you are and about your life. You’re defining yourself and what you want. You’re asking questions like what’s important to me, but also what’s not important to me. You’re asking what do I believe in and what don’t I believe in? And you’re choosing some answers for yourself. You are making decisions so that you can stand up for yourself and the things you believe.

When you make these boundary decisions about what you want and don’t want, you are putting yourself on equal footing, equal footing with the people around you. You are saying, to them and to yourself, I am a whole person. I am just as valuable and worthy as the people I serve in my business and work, and I am just as valuable as the people I care for too. What you’re saying by making these boundary decisions for yourself is, I have human needs too, and I’m going to make sure that I’m taking care of myself, too

You’re saying I matter, too, I take up space in this workplace and I take up space in my family and in my community, and that’s okay. And I’m going to stand up for that. I’m going to stand up for my wholeness as a person.

So, this is not weakness. This is the opposite of that. I would call it strength and confidence.

This is getting clear about what you stand for in the world, about how people can treat you and how they can’t treat you, and about what’s important to you.

In other words, boundaries help you decide your priorities, and they help you talk about your priorities to other people. When you start choosing which things are and are not important to you, that actually is the work of prioritizing. So, this comes full circle.

And by the way, if you’ve been paying attention, because it’s January, there are lots of people talking about setting priorities right now. That’s something people work on in the new year, and I don’t know if that’s because it’s a natural cycle or it’s what people tell us to do, or maybe it’s a combination of both.

But what I’m saying is that you, if you are really interested in your priorities and in setting priorities, thinking about your boundaries is a crucial part of that work. And that is true whether we’re talking about being a family caregiver and having family caregiver responsibilities and all those family dynamics, or whether we’re talking about being a business leader.

When it comes to business, if you have a priority to work with great clients like I do, then you’re going to set boundaries about how clients can treat you. One of my priorities in my own business is to be an example of how this works and what’s possible when you do this work of recalibrating your life and work so that there’s plenty of room for you.

What that means is that I have to set clear expectations with the people in my life and with my clients, and when I need to set boundaries, I do that too. I want you to be able to set expectations and have healthy boundaries too. This is going to help you be steady and sincere in your personal life and with your family, in your professional world, with your colleagues and your clients.

And boundaries can help you be a mover and shaker too, if that’s what you want. That’s what I want, and it’s what I’m creating in my business for myself and for my clients. Okay, that’s it for today.

No matter what season you’re in right now, whether it’s the new year or another season of life entirely, whenever you’re listening to this, please remember if you happen to have family caregiver responsibilities, you have a right to anything else that’s important to you too. Including staying in the workforce or getting back into the workforce so that you can take good care of yourself today and in the future and in whatever seasons of life that you happen to be in.

And before you go, if you enjoyed this episode, you can really help the podcast grow and reach more people by doing a couple of really simple things. You can subscribe so that you know when new episodes are available, and you can share this podcast with a friend, too.

Thanks for being with me here today. You can find out more about all of this work at Facilitator On Fire dot net. That’s Facilitator On Fire dot net.

If you haven’t already joined my free Boundaries community, what’s stopping you? It is the place to explore setting boundaries without judgment or guilt. There, you’re going to find just real talk about how humans really work. And you can find that community at Facilitator On Fire dot net slash Boundaries. I can’t wait to be with you again in the next episode, From One Caregiver to Another.

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your guide

Kay Coughlin, CEO of Facilitator On Fire, is a business coach for the non-profit sector and social justice businesses. She is also well-known for being an advocate for family caregivers.

In every forum she can find, she shouts that it's OK for every human to earn a living, set and enforce boundaries around their bodies, thoughts, feelings and actions. You can join Kay's free, private online community to talk about boundaries here.

Kay also teaches about emotional labor, how to rest, and Human Giver Syndrome, and is the host of the "From One Caregiver to Another" podcast and author of "From One Caregiver to Another - Overcoming Your Emotional Grind."

Kay is well-known for her public speaking on boundaries and self-care. 

Facilitator on Fire is a subsidiary of Donor Relations Mindset LLC, which Kay founded in 2015. She lives with her husband and children in central Ohio, and is the primary caregiver for her own mother, who lives right next door. Kay can be found on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Copyright 2022. All rights reserved, Julia Kay Coughlin and Facilitator On Fire.

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