Roles and boundaries in the level 4 home environment…

On a group call this week, a fellow coach mentioned that before a specific conversation, she put her “coaching hat” on. Clearly, this was a metaphor, but it got me thinking.

As most of us continue to be limited to living our numerous roles within the same four walls, many people are struggling with the enmeshedness of it all. It feels like work has intruded and taken over our personal space. Work needs to be done, but so do household tasks, there are meals to prepare. There may be children running around in the background while I am on a zoom work call. My children may need to do schoolwork, and this involves me too for now. Is it possible to find some other way of re-instating the boundaries that have been blurred during the last five weeks?

I am never bored because I have a number of different “jobs”, but recently I started feeling overwhelmed by the enmeshing of these work roles. There was a growing pile on my desk that I would have to search through to find the relevant information for the job at hand. The answer to this problem was relatively easy. I tidied up my desk, and organised a bookshelf so that each job has an allocated space. The external order brought a sense of internal order with it. What other outside order can I leverage to increase the inside order?

During lock-down, I have been privileged to be in a house with many rooms. I have tried to be in different places for different roles, to use the external environment to set a boundary in a new way. I sit at my desk to work for two of my jobs. I tend to sit at an outside table when I am coaching, using earphones. I have catch up conversations with friends and family in the lounge or kitchen, the places they used to join me in. I school with the kids in their bedrooms or sometimes in the kitchen. It may not always be possible to sit in a different room, but I have also experimented with sitting on a different chair e.g. when I read for relaxation.

Over the years of homeschooling, I have tried to establish a daily routine, that separates my roles. At this stage it looks something like this: Housekeeping chores are done in the early morning, I then try to get some work done before being available for school. Then it’s back to housekeeping, making lunch. We eat lunch together. Then I try get some work done again – If it is luxury fudge I am making for an order, it’s back to the kitchen. On the days where the routine works, I feel less frazzled.

During the last few weeks, I have discovered another helpful way of creating a boundary: I do work conversations on zoom on a laptop, and private conversations from my phone, even if they use the same app. Writing poems or prose has been my way of processing my life, so the first draft feels personal, and usually happens on my phone. Even so, I realise the phone remains by biggest challenge in separating my roles – private, and all manner of work communication shows up at unsolicited times, without any consideration for boundaries I am putting in place. This is definitely a work in progress – perhaps I can write work emails only from my laptop, during specific hours, and the more personal messages from my phone? Perhaps I can leave my phone to charge in another room during specific periods of concentration? Perhaps I could have a new phone number for some work? I am open to ideas…

I may not yet have put on a different cap for different roles, but I have noticed a tendency to change my hairstyle once I am relaxing, proverbially letting my hair down…and changing clothes is certainly something I am willing to try – maybe next week I will wear a smart jacket for a particular job!

What have you found helpful in defining your roles and boundaries?

2 Comments

    1. Thanks, Chrissi. Some of us may find we have more roles than rooms available, but perhaps we can then try chairs or clothes…

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