My mother is a big reason I do the work that I do. Some years ago, when she got a deeper understanding of my professional mission, especially with with assertive communication trainings, she sent me a WhatsApp that said the following: “Ale, write me a quick assertive sentence please. I need it to place a boundary with my girlfriends about playing cards today. I don’t feel like it.. But I don’t want to disappoint them!” 😊
Contrary to the cliché that we shouldn’t coach our families and friends, I tried to make her understand that it was OK to also say that she was tired and that she could give herself permission to skip this one and tell the truth about it, simply by saying she was tired. She said “mmm.. still, I feel guilty! Give me a quick sentence where I can also offer them an alternative or so!” I was giggling and well, I created an assertive sentence for her to send to her girlfriends over WhatsApp (for the record, I don’t recommend having difficult conversations, disagreements or cancelling appointments on WhatsApp, better the old good phone call!). Two, three hours passed by and I had no news from my mum. I assumed everything went smoothly. I decided to check on her, just in case. I asked her how the assertive boundary creation had gone. She replied “I call you later, I am playing cards!!”
Of course you can imagine my laughter and surprise at the same time, since I really thought she could do it, and we had discussed about the value of energy management and healthy boundaries many times, and now she was ending up playing cards unwillingly. In the end, she did not want to disappoint her girlfriends. And what about her own disappointment, I asked herself in a phone call later on? It did not seem to be a big deal in the equation.
My mum is incredible. She is always there for everybody, she gives them encouragement, energy and always a good word, but I feel she struggles with personal boundaries when it comes to take breaks or simply to say a few NOs to people she deeply loves. At the same time, she is the most outspoken person I know. She used to go to my sister’s school reunions and tell teachers VERY assertively what she believed was not going on well in the school or with some specific school program (as a teacher herself, she has experience in this), suggesting improvements and disagreeing when she found teachers were being way too strict, or simply was having a meaningful and peaceful dialogue with parents and teachers and was involved in our extra curricular activities.
I definitely created my assertiveness coaching program thinking of many families situations where perhaps she was not as outspoken as she was with school teachers, or also thinking of how she sacrificed way too much of her own time for us, to drive us around for 567 activities as kids, I thought about how she juggled many things with work and being a 100% mum on all aspects, I thought about her energy management when she was taking care of my grandma for so many years and I definitely work on my clients a lot on burnout prevention distress not only because of my corporate experience, but because I think my mom knows resilience. Sometimes she worries a lot, and I think that anxiety conversations and first aid is a big part of my work as well perhaps to also understand what happens in the mind when a person is constantly alert.
The last month was a challenge for her holistic health due to some symptoms of what seems to be Long Covid, and now she is getting better. Perhaps it was one of the first times when I saw her not always in control, not always 100% and needing our support. A paradox, right? I always felt she needed to take a break from always being on top of everything, and as soon as I experienced her facing a health challenge I was naturally scared and I wished she would go back to her usual self, always running around.
I am super glad she is taking it easy and now turning WhatsApp off at night, and putting her self-care first, which is even making me think she was following my workshop on digital wellbeing 😉
All in all, our family experiences tell us a lot about our work and the relationship we will establish with our clients as well. Ourselves or our families are sort of our first clients, aren’t they?
I get a lot of inspiration from my mom’s life stories every day. Even when it is just about playing cards!