When they get older logo

Boundaries for over-50s self-employed women with elderly care responsibilities

When you’re working from home or self-employed, there’s an assumption that you have much more flexibility. Hence, you are everything to everybody at the drop of a hat.

In my situation, my sister lives in the UK, and our mother lives near me in France. It’s a no-brainer that I would be the one to take care of my mother. However, the fact that I work from home creates other issues. Everyone would take on an equal part in a perfect world, but we are not in an ideal world.

I need to be involved in my mother’s care. However, I am running a business, so creating boundaries becomes paramount for juggling the two. My mother fell twice and landed in rehabilitation in two different hospitals. The abundant use of drugs was terrifying. I took her out at the first rehabilitation centre. However, the second fall during Covid was more challenging. These experiences make it personally crucial for me to be a carer.

All carers will want to do their best, but sometimes circumstances can be problematic.

Good fortune has allowed her to continue to live in her own house despite being physically challenged.

My former career in travel meant I was away for periods. Covid allowed me to activate my reinvention plans, work remotely and write ‘Forward After 50’, plus it gave me the flexibility to look after my 92-year-old mother. However, in all situations, creating a balance is essential for a workable relationship with your parent(s).

If you’re working from home, then boundaries are essential, or the perception might be you are there for one reason – your elderly parents.

The first thing you need to do is…

Get Clarity

How much time do you need for your business, partner, and yourself?

I spend an hour to two hours daily on my mother’s needs. This is non-negotiable. This includes shopping, emailing her, and ensuring her needs are looked after, such as nurses, physiotherapists, medicines, entertainment, as well as my daily visits. The 22 hours left are mine for work and play.

Creating a structure will benefit you and your parent(s). However, in your caring strategy, you must prioritise yourself to survive.

To create a structure, you need to understand what’s working and not, so spend some time getting clarity. Then you can; start to set boundaries.

If you have difficulty saying no to your parents and people giving you ‘advice’, it’s time to create boundaries.

Ask yourself the following questions.

  • Do your family and friends expect you to say yes when you wish you were saying no? When you say yes, you’re effectively saying no to yourself
  • Do you feel pushed around? By family or friends who don’t respect your feelings?
  • Are you settling for things in your life that you don’t want?

If you have answered ‘yes’ to these questions, it’s time to set some boundaries.

Create Boundaries

Here are some strategies to start putting into place if you need to set some boundaries in your life:

  • Decide where you need/want to set boundaries
  • Set out what is/isn’t necessary or acceptable to you
  • Then, plan out some phrases to make it easier to say no

Choose one area to begin.

For example, you could say ‘Unfortunately, although there is beautiful weather today, I won’t be able to take you/mother out for a drive as I have a deadline to keep’. Sometimes, people, including the parent involved, don’t understand when you work from home, Explain the advantages of flexible time; for example, travelling hours to work are now your caring hours.

Yet, you must organise your time differently so that your work doesn’t fall behind or interfere with the caring hours. Please spend some time talking about your employment/housework or project with your parent and siblings so they recognise you are not in semi-retirement and that they feel involved and not excluded.

Simple Tips for Boundary Setting

  • Commit to change/doing things differently, one step at a time
  • Say no to people who cross your boundaries
  • Say no to things you don’t want to do
  • Say no to friends/family/colleagues/negativity
  • Say no to people who expect too much
  • Say no to people you don’t know

Setting boundaries for yourself is not debatable, as it is your survival tactic.

Communicate your boundaries

I often remind my mother that I must put myself first to enable my being there for her.

Setting boundaries and saying ‘no’ is discouraged from the beginning. However, it’s a word you need to survive. You don’t want to end up bedraggled and bitter.

Don’t let other people’s judgement of how you care for yourself, and your parents get in the way. Judging whether you are doing enough or too much is inevitable. What’s important is doing what you can.

You may feel guilty whether it’s necessary or not, mainly if you are concerned with how your relations react to your care tactics. For example, are you giving enough or the proper care for the parent and yourself too?

Don’t let other people’s needs raise feelings of guilt in you.

Everyone else will have their interpretation as to what you should or should not be doing.

‘Oh, dear poor Mum/Auntie’ is a phrase I hear often. Of course, having less mobility or simply having less anything is not what any of us desire.

Instead of agreeing, it might work to explain how you and your parent are making the best of the situation or ask the person commenting if they could offer help.

Setting boundaries isn’t for the fainthearted. People won’t like you changing and may tell you that, but remember you have to teach them how to behave with you on the subject of caring and anything else you feel they don’t understand.

Stay calm, confident and rational! When setting boundaries with people, do this with kindness. Remember, you are retraining people to deal with you differently. Saying no isn’t easy, but practice makes perfect.

About the author

This article was written by Rebecca Ronane, who is the author of ‘Forward after Fifty: The Rising Reinventors’, a book encouraging women over 50 to embrace ageing, stop people-pleasing, and reclaim their superpowers. Out now in paperback and eBook online, and in all good bookshops: www.rebeccaronane.com


Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Share this article:
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x