Boundaries. Whew. I can't even begin to count how many life dramas that I personally could've avoided if I had simply known how to set the proper boundaries; not once the ish had already hit the fan, but from the very beginning. Everyone's story is different, but I think the reason why I struggled so much with it is because I'm a childhood abuse survivor. Abuse is all about violating and disrespecting someone's boundaries. And so, as you're in the process of trying to heal from that, it can be a lifelong journey, learning how to set boundaries and make good and damn well sure that people honor them.
It took me getting into my 30s and learning how to set some boundaries in the form of self-control within myself (which is a part of what my abstinence path has been about) that I learned how to establish boundaries with others. I read books (Boundaries is one that's a must-have). I paid attention to the wisdom of people like author and speaker Brene Brown ("Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others" is a great quote of hers). I spent time alone so that I could figure out what I needed so that I could build my relationships around that. I've "updated" my boundaries when necessary too.
And what I've learned from all of this is there are certain relationships where boundaries are an absolute must. The ones that I want to expound on today are the following seven.
Boundaries with Your Parents
Parents. Boy oh boy. Although I am not a parent myself, I am at the age where a lot of my "love" nieces and nephews are in their 20s. Just this past weekend, I saw one of them and, while I try to be intentional about treating children of any age like "little individuals", I had to remind myself that I have to come at her a different way and respect whatever it is she has going on…differently. Why? Because she's an adult now. She has her own life. All I can do is offer insight, but she's got the full right and freedom to do whatever it is that she wants to do.
It's kind of baffling, how a lot of actual parents of actual adult children don't seem to adhere to this same mindset. It's like they think that we're "grown enough" to live on our own but not grown enough to make decisions they don't agree with or like or, that it is totally ridiculous of us to tell them "no" sometimes.
I will say this—it's an epidemic, how poorly boundaries were taught in a lot of households that some of us confuse overbearing parents with toxic ones (you can read my take on toxic relatives here). On some levels, I do get how, after birthing someone and raising them for 18 years, allowing them to live their own life can be a hard pill to swallow. Still, it must be done. And so, if you are trying to figure out how to establish boundaries with your parents, check out the article "Do Not Obey Your Parents" that features a great role play example of how to say "no", no matter how much pressure or emotional manipulation your parents try and put onto you. Then check out "10 Signs You Might Have Unhealthy Boundaries With Your Mom". You might be surprised by how much you'll be able to relate to that one.
Healthy parents know that their job was to help you to become a mature and responsible adult. Once you are at that point, a part of what comes with adulthood is doing what's best for you, regardless of if they like, understand or agree. You are their child yes, but you are no longer a child.
Do not feel guilty in the least for conveying that—in your words as well as your actions. (If you are a parent of adult children, all of what I said still applies; just in the reverse.)
Boundaries with Your Spouse
Out of all of the boundaries that I'm going to set out to tackle today, I think that the most difficult to maneuver through is setting some appropriate ones with your spouse. After all, they are so close to you that, at least most folks, share a bed, bills and a last name. But marriage is not to be a dictatorship in either direction because no man wants to have sex with his mother and no woman wants to have sex with her dad. That's why it has to be a daily conscious decision to not act like your spouse's parent. Instead, treat your union like the most sacred of partnerships.
Being that boundaries are limits, as far as limits go, the first thing I would say is that your marriage vows (at least traditional ones) address boundaries of loyalty and fidelity. Aside from that, there needs to be a mutual understanding when it comes to expectations. There needs to be no abuse, of any kind. But it also needs to go deeper than that. Married people should agree to not speak negatively of one another to other people. They need to not withhold sex as a way to get what they want or to "teach a lesson". They need to respect one another's view and needs. They need to avoid going below the belt during arguments. They also need to give one another some space.
I could go on and on, but this is an article and not a book on the topic. Luckily, there is a great book that addresses all of this and more. If you are married or are contemplating getting married,Boundaries in Marriage (by Dr. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud) is definitely worth adding to your own personal library.
Boundaries with Your Significant Other
The reason why this gets its own section is because far too many of us make the grave mistake of treating someone we're dating as if they are already our spouse when they absolutely are not (check out "Why You're Always The One Who Prepares A Man For His Wife" sometime). And because they aren't, it is perfectly fine—encouraged even—to get out of anything that no longer serves you well. It doesn't have to be about abuse, them seeing other people without your knowledge or them taking you for granted. It can be as simple as you are dating to see what you want and don't want and, as you discover what that is, you are willing to release who you're with in order to get to the man who complements you best…and most.
I say it as often as I can because it's the truth. Your taxes say that you're single until you are legally married. Not until you've been dating someone for a long time or even until you are engaged. So, no matter how "into someone" you may be, it's OK to have firm limits and to end the relationship, for no deeper reason than you're single and you want to. It's one of the joys of singlehood. Embrace it. Unapologetically so.
Boundaries with Your Friends
Friends—good friends, that is—are one of God's greatest blessings. Hands down. And, to tell you the truth, if you've got healthy friends, this section isn't really necessary to read. I say that because it's been my personal experience and observation that the right kind of friends will honor your boundaries as you do the same. But if you've been on an emotional roller coaster ride in some of your friendships for so long that you don't even know what kind of limits to set, here are a few that you most definitely should. Express your expectations. Never tolerate disloyalty or disrespect. Do not let them monopolize your time, space or resources. Make sure they know that their opinion is not the gospel and they are your friend, not your parent. Pay attention to any behaviors that look like narcissism, always playing the victim role in order to get their way and/or being an emotional vampire. Take an issue with them gossiping about you or breaking confidentiality. Look out for jealous friends (a total oxymoron) and opportunists. Oh, and if they can't forgive but always want their mess and mistakes to be excused? That's another huge red flag.
Again, a good friend already knows all of this, but if you're constantly getting your feelings hurt or even your heart broken by a friend, chances are, it's because either no boundaries are in place or, they keep disrespecting them—and you keep allowing it.
Boundaries with Your “Enemies”
It might seem strange to have a section on enemies, but just hear me out for a sec. If you respect Scripture, even a little bit, and you live on this planet long enough, certain verses start to make more and more sense to you. Take "love your enemies" (Matthew 5:43-48), for example. Love them? If you could love them, y'all wouldn't be enemies, right? Oh, and for the record, enemies aren't just folks that you have knockout-fallouts with. By definition, an enemy may be someone who you choose to distance yourself from because they bring harm into your space, on some sort of level. You don't "hate" them; they just aren't as good for or to you as you know you deserve.
Anyway, it's a good idea to set boundaries with these kinds of people, just so that there can be peace in the midst of it all. Try and keep whatever your issues are with them private (mutually so). Avoid that cryptic-and-somewhat-silly passive aggressive banter that some people do on social media (mutually so). Whatever was shared between the two of you when you weren't enemies, it's important that you both honor that confidentiality. Should you see one another, no one has to sit in the other's lap, but do try and be cordial (and concise).
It takes quite a bit of self-awareness and personal maturity to realize that just because someone may be your enemy, you don't have to constantly be at war. But if you're able to set limits and honor them between one another, you'll be amazed by how at peace the two of you can be. Even if you're not exactly friends (or friends anymore).
Boundaries at Work
As I was in the process of writing this, I skimmed this write-up on Vice's site—"The Backlash to the Popeyes Chicken Sandwich Is Finally Here". It made me think about all of the articles I've read about how employees are working ridiculous hours with no breaks or bumps in pay. Yes, I've had the sandwich (in Durham; can't seem to get a hold of one in Nashville) and yes, it's good. Really good. But I feel a little guilty eating more of them if it comes at the expense of folks being overworked, underpaid and totally miserable (several employees have expressed those exact sentiments to me).
Thinking about what so many Popeyes employees have been going through made me also think about some conversations I've had with some of my friends about the stress and drama that they go through at their job.
A lot of it is due to a lack of boundaries. You know—constantly doing other people's work; always doing what doesn't fit their job description; doing work that they don't get paid for; enduring their employer and/or employees talking to them any ole' kind of way; being expected to honor the employee handbook when everyone around them doesn't; being called in on off days…the list goes on and on.
If this is something you can totally relate to and it's got you on the brink of straight-up snappin', when you get home tonight, have a glass of wine and read "6 Things You Don't Owe Your Boss". For now, if you just want the list, it's this—your health, family, sanity, identity, contacts and integrity. Any workplace that challenges this is a place you need to leave—quick, fast and in a super-duper hurry!
Boundaries with Your Church
If you've ever caught an episode of Larry Reid Live, you know that he is…something else. When it comes to the Church and some of the totally toxic things that transpire within it, he holds not one thing back. Some folks find him insightfully amusing while others, well, absolutely do not. But if there is one thing that I think every church-going person should watch, it's his breakdown of the Jezebel Spirit and how it functions in the Church. Then, after watching that, get free some mo' by reading "Jesus Set Boundaries".
Let's end this article with this point as it relates to where you may attend on Sabbath or Sunday. If the leadership pressures you to give outside of tithing (especially to the point that you can't pay your own bills); if they expect you to be there at the drop of a dime, regardless of what you've personally got going on (whether you're married or single); if you feel manipulated into doing things; if they act like what is going on inside of the church walls is more important than what is transpiring within the four walls of your own home; if they think their vision deserves more attention than your own; if they are never open to correction or rebuke (I Corinthians 5:12 speaks of church folks needing to be more concerned with what's going on inside than outside anyway) and/or if you feel taken for granted or mistreated and, when it's brought to the leadership's attention, it is not promptly addressed—these are just some examples of your boundaries being violated…yes, at your very own church. And violated boundaries, including at a place of worship, should not be overlooked.
A wise person once said, "If someone throws a fit because you set boundaries, it's just more evidence that boundaries are needed." That said, don't you, for one moment ever, feel guilty about setting a boundary. Be clear. Be firm. Be kind. But yes, set them—for the sake of your health, mental sanity and overall quality of life. Amen? Hallelujah indeed.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
I'm Good Luv, Enjoy: How Saying 'No' Keeps Your Life Balance In Check
Unhealthy Workplace Stresses You Need To Break Free From
6 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Ending Your Marriage
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Introducing Chief Mom Officer: Where Working Moms Come First
xoNecole's Chief Mom Officer explores the 18-month post-pregnancy journey through the lens of our very own Chief Mom Officer, Shakyna Bolden. The series will serve as an inspirational and resourceful guide to help get through the early days of new motherhood as working moms knowing they are not alone in the hardships.
“I want to build my work around my life, and not my life around my work.”
I typed these words in my iPhone Notes as I fed my newborn daughter one morning during the first few weeks of having her earthside. I didn’t have much time for page-filled journal entries as my days were filled with nonstop feedings, soothing, and recovery…but I knew I needed to give those words space and life.
Prior to my maternity leave, I, like most working moms, was burning fumes juggling work and life. Since 2019, I’ve been running revenue operations here at this really cool company you may have heard of called xoNecole (hehe). I’ve been behind the scenes building our brand partnerships and negotiating deals with companies such as Ulta Beauty, Toyota, Target, Spotify, SheaMoisture, etc.
Courtesy of Shakyna Bolden
I’ve co-produced our signature events like ElevateHER and Pajamas & Lipstick while conceptualizing, selling, building, and distributing our original video and podcast content and podcast. The list goes on and on. I’ve helped build this small but brilliant company into what it is today, all while running my own small family. And that is not an easy feat.
In all truth, trying to be the best mom and partner I can be while also leading in my job has felt at times like a whirlwind where the rest of my life is passing me by. I don’t quite know where or when it happened, but I swear somebody pushed the fast-forward button in life, and I’m losing my edges trying to keep up.
My mind and body get so preoccupied with the management of life that my soul sits on the sidelines, waiting to take the reins and intentionally live it.
So many facets of my life, from my health and well-being to my hobbies and passions, have been placed on the back burner while tending to my young family and growing in my career has taken center stage. And for the longest time, I’ve wanted to flip the switch, but the pace of life just hasn’t let me restack my priorities.
That is, until now.
Courtesy of Shakyna Bolden
When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter last year, I couldn’t imagine adding more to my already full plate. Simultaneously, I was also relieved to know that my upcoming maternity leave would force me to press pause and catch my breath. Her birth in January 2023 was a much-needed reset, to say the least.
My maternity leave was the first time since 2019 that I had a second for dreams that were buried in the back of my heart to bubble up to the surface of my reality. I got a taste of what it was like to solely focus on my well-being and my home life. And I liked it a lot. My healing. My recovery. Sitting and really taking quiet time with God to search the unattended areas in the garden of my life.
I was cooking homemade meals on the regular and actually sitting down with my family at the table to eat. As grueling as those first newborn weeks can be, I was enjoying the long-awaited shift in my priorities; and I wanted that shift to stick. I didn’t want it to fade away after my maternity leave.
I want to build my work around my life and not my life around my work.
As a leader of an organization that speaks to millions of women every day about their well-being (and also in leading a team of majority women), I feel it’s my responsibility to carry this shift forward boldly. This is why I’m launching a new column here at xoNecole: Chief Mom Officer!
As I return to work full-time this month from my maternity leave, I want to regularly share my experience of trying to harmonize work and life. As an audience, you all share your raw, unfiltered journeys with us. For years, they’ve undoubtedly inspired me. I want to show up and do the same because I know this shift in my life will be quite the journey.
So for all my Chief Mom Officers—those of us who are constantly merging the imperfect and chaotic worlds of leadership in the office and wearing our crowns at home—I invite you to come on this journey with me and celebrate the ebbs and flows in how we show up for each.
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Featured image courtesy of Shakyna Bolden