BOUNDARIES! One of the hardest parts of Doula Life, Loree has some thoughts...
Hello Doulas! I think the time is right for a little discussion about boundaries. Hang on to your gecko clothes ladies, as this is about to stretch you in growth!
Often doulas think they have checks and balances in place when dealing with boundaries between their personal and professional lives. What I have found though, is those boundaries are often nonexistent. Sometimes the very nature of our work makes it impossible to enjoy the nine-to-five, but it shouldn’t stop you from remembering first and foremost this is a business. And if you don’t have solid boundaries, you will go up in flames eventually.
I really want you all to think about this. How many of you are a slave to your phone? How many times in one day do you ignore your spouse, your children, or your own needs to answer a text message or an email? Would the world end if you waited 30 minutes to respond? An hour? An evening? A day? Do you know how to triage your clients and their questions and concerns? Are you?
In order to claim some sanity in my life, I integrated a system with my current clientele that offers that immediate response versus one that can wait for a bit. If someone calls me, I will always answer. A call means, this is important, labour has started, or something is happening that could be life-threatening. All other forms of communication simply mean to me that a client can wait for a bit of time for a response. If someone texts me, they know that it could take up to an hour or longer for me to respond. If someone emails me, that may mean I could respond within 12 hours. If someone connects with me on social media, well now, that may take a day or longer. If my phone is not ringing, I will enjoy the time I have with my family without constantly checking my cell.
Now some of you may argue that this goes against the on-call availability you may promote as a doula. Does it really? Do you not shower? Do you not sleep? Having a discussion with your clients on how and when to communicate can go a long way to protecting yourself and establishing the boundary that you share with your family.
For years my spouse would get fed up with my face constantly glued to my phone. What was I subconsciously telling my husband by carrying my phone around like a lost body part? I was telling him that he was secondary in my life. He was not a priority. I was telling the man I loved, he was not important! Do you like to be treated as an after-thought? Really process that.
My children, having lived an on-call life right alongside me, carry trigger responses to my phone. Immediately they will stiffen, or withdraw when my phone rings or beeps because for years I treated them as secondary to my clients. Don't do this to your kids! Your passion for this profession will never outweigh their need for a present, engaging mother. While my boys are proud of what I have done, and what I continue to do as a doula, they have a long-standing resentment as well.
OTHER DOULAS and YOUR COMMUNITY
How much time are you investing in your peers? Do you volunteer your time for doula organizations or associations? How many of you get contacted by people who potentially want to be doulas? How much time is taken away from your day in doing so? On average I field about 10 inquiries from people wanting to be doulas in any given month. I am not a trainer, but I get asked anyway. There is a heck of a lot of people that want to take me for coffee to pick my brain! I will not do that anymore. No, I am not being mean, I am establishing a boundary. My time. My call on what I do with it. I will no longer sacrifice the emotional currency in investing in people who 90% of the time don't proceed with training and education. I send them to Doula Essentials for information. If they are serious about learning, they will connect with Heather eventually.
If it is a peer who wants to communicate, I refer them to how I manage my clients. Call if it's life-threatening or your emotional state is bankrupt. Text, email or send me a private message on Facebook, to which I will respond to, but not immediately. I may offer my time by doing live video or attending a meeting with you all, but I will no longer meet people on their own whim. There is simply not enough time in a day to make everyone else a priority.
If you are a part of an organization or an association, do your work when all your counterparts are together. Plan for meetings and do what work is needed IN those meetings. Organize how and when you will respond to incoming questions or concerns. These are VOLUNTEER positions. Manage your time wisely. When I was the managing editor for International Doula, I sent emails to source articles on Sundays and communicated with the board or authors on Wednesdays. When an issue was in final edits, I communicated with the production team on a set date that had been pre-planned to finalize the issue. I ran a well-oiled machine. Learn the art of automated responses. Again, the world will not end, if you can't respond immediately to someone's question about fees, website listing, or the referral line. Everyone else, please understand that these doulas are doing their best to represent you, but they have lives too.
No matter how hard we try, we cannot pour from an empty cup. If your need to run yourself into the ground to be at the beck and call of your clients is your idea of how to run a successful business, think again. Take it from someone who knows, and still continues to struggle with this boundary. You need to recharge. You cannot burn the candle at both ends for too long without your body, your mind, or your heart causing a revolt. What are you doing for yourself? Is it enough? When is the last time you did something totally for you? Know your limits. Listen to your body. And for goodness sake, understand you are no good to anyone if you cannot take care of yourself first. We mentor mothers for a living. What message are you sending when you show them you don't take care of yourself either?
Think about ways to covet the time you share with your family, the time you spend with your spouse, the need to have self-care and sharing your passion with your peers. You will actually be a better doula to your clients. Trust me. In my heyday, I was carrying upwards of 40 clients a month (people due, people postpartum, childbirth education clients and placenta service clientele). Now imagine if those 40 clients contacted me every hour of every day and expected me to immediately respond to their needs? What quality of life would I have had? Even 2 high-need clients can wreak havoc on your life. Draw a line and be firm with it. Strong boundaries will benefit you in the long run.
I want to see the lot of you still around in the next decade.
Loree Siermachesky, Alberta's very own Doula OG. With 20 years of experience as a DONA certified birth doula, and a personal history of assisting at more than 1500 births, she has blended the heart work of being a doula with the reality of running a thriving full-time business. Loree not only has received the recognition of her community as the 2013 Medicine Hat Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year recipient, a 2016 Medicine Hat Women in Business Inspire Award nominee, the 2016 Prodoula Diamond Award recipient, she is widely respected within the international Doula Community.
As one of the founders of Elite Doula Group Inc. Loree has proven time and time again she is fiercely committed to the new families of Southern Alberta, and commits her time to sharing knowledge and mentoring new doulas through her advanced doula courses.
Loree lives in Medicine Hat, AB with her husband of 23 years, her sons and her much loved Sheltie and two cats. She is an avid gardener and when she’s not in the labor room, she’s usually outside…or sleeping.