Saying No: Fewer Commitments Leads to more Quality Time
by Amy Mascott
One day, not so long ago, I was venting to a friend; I was frazzled, exhausted, and overwhelmed, and I was telling her how angry I was that I didn’t have a second to myself all weekend. I had been cleaning, grocery shopping, organizing, working, carting kids from one activity to the next, attending family gatherings, volunteering at church—you name it. The weekend was packed before it began. And I was throwing it all on her plate, right there in the parking lot. In the rain. And the more I talked, the later I was becoming for a conference call I had scheduled too close to drop-off.
You know what? she said. I have one two words for you that will make your life a whole lot easier and a whole lot less stressful. Ready for this? Two words: Say. No.
I mean, really, Amy. How much of what you did this weekend did you have to do? Do your kids really need to go to every birthday party, even those that are 30 minutes away? Do they need to play two sports each? Do you have to attend every single family function, every single weekend? No, no and no.
Come on girl. Say no now, and then it’ll be easier later. And when you say “no”, say it without an apology—without an explanation. Did you know you can do that? That it’s actually permitted to just say “no”? Really. Try it. Soon. Or you’re going to lose your mind.
Was she right? Two simple words and I could regain control of my life and my family—which was beginning to spiral out of control? Was this—hectic, chaotic, and running from one thing to another—the kind of life I wanted to lead? The kind of life I wanted for my family?
What I realized that day from my friend who had children who were just a bit older than my own, from a friend who at the time was a bit braver and stronger than I, was that it’s okay to say “No.” In fact, it’s not only okay to say “no” but it’s necessary to say “no” so that we can preserve our own sanity and live the lives that we want to lead.
As a consummate “YES!” person for the majority of my life, my new “saying NO!” persona was a bit hard to move into at first. I wasn’t always comfortable saying “no” and I certainly wasn’t comfortable saying “no” without an apology or explanation. But as time wore on, I became more and more comfortable in these new shoes.
I still wanted to do what I could, but I started saying “no” to:
- Any more than one birthday party for each of my kids each month.
- New roles and responsibilities at my children’s school—I contributed in 2-3 ways each year, and that was enough. Another parent could do what I was not able to do.
- Any function that overlapped another. In the past, I would scramble to make two activities or events work when there was a bit of overlap. Now, I just said “no” and kept things simple.
- More than one big activity for each of my children per season. This has helped keep us all happier. One sport and their religious school was enough.
- Any activity on Friday evening. That night we reserved for our family, whether it be a movie night, game night, or dinner out.
I tried to make it work for my family and me. And though this was not set in stone, it gave me an outline, or a starting point, each month. Creating these “Say No” guidelines gave me a rule of sorts to follow with my time. It helped.
I’m still learning, but as time goes on and I allow myself more and more practice, saying “no” isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.
Do you have “say no” guidelines for your family? How has it worked? Do you abide by them? Let us know!
Amy Mascott is the creator of teachmama.com, where she shares tools and resources parents can use to become the best teachers for their children. Recognizing the need for more peer collaboration, three years ago, Amy built the community “we teach” a network of parents and teachers who connect online and offline, share ideas, and grow as educators—no matter the classroom.
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