“Just say no.”
How often do you do things you really don’t want to do? Before we get too far, I’m not talking about grocery shopping, cleaning up after your pet, or filling out expense reports at work. There are some things we have to do as part of our role as functioning adults.
I mean how often do you agree to do things that you don’t really have to do, things to which you could simply say no?
Whether joining a committee, planning a birthday party for your child, or doing workplace tasks that shouldn’t fall on your plate, how often do you say “yes” to things when you’d really rather say no?
I’ve recently seen a couple posts on social media that have made me want to write about this topic – the first, what I believe is a big part of the problem, the second, what I believe is a big part of the solution.
I’ve hesitated to write about this because I know it could come off as negative, unsupportive, or judgmental. But if you go into it with an open mind, I hope you’ll see this for what it is.
And those of you non-parents, please stick with me and read on, there’s a good takeaway in here for you, too.
#1 You’re In Control
I recently saw a long rant posted on social from a, presumably, exhausted, frustrated mother. It detailed all the expectations on mothers with a light dose of sarcasm and bitching about her (and all mothers’) unfair situation. The frustrations that we “have” to behave a certain way, parent our kids a certain way, and make time for everything when there’s no time for anything.
The first instinct upon seeing these posts, at least I believe, is to sympathize, even give it a “preach!” response. And I get why, especially for mothers. Motherhood is hard. Sometimes, it does seem unfair. But this type of post bothers me and here’s why.
I hate to be the bearer of reasonable news and piss off half the population with a dose of sensibility – but these kinds of rants remove the idea that we’re in control of our situations. They make it acceptable to place blame on someone or something else when, the reality is, the situations in which we find ourselves are largely due to our own choices.
That’s right, choices. We all have the wonderful privilege to make choices.
But Do You Have To…Really?
There are certain things you have to do. Then there are others you maybe feel like you have to do. I’ll set it straight with a few examples:
You don’t have to volunteer for a committee or fundraiser.
You don’t have to cook perfect meals every single time.
You don’t have to respond to every email, text, and phone call immediately.
You don’t have to look wonderfully put together all the time.
You don’t have to do things for the sole reason of having perfect photos to post on social media.
I don’t know your situation. I really don’t. So I get it if some days you’re stressed and tired for one thing or another. Being a parent is hard. But it shouldn’t be so hard. Life shouldn’t be so hard that we stop enjoying it and feel the need to complain about it.
You Choose What To Do – And What Not To Do
Again, I don’t know you, your situation, or why you’re in this broken place you’re in. But what I do know is that you don’t have to do any of those things I just mentioned – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Last year, I could have felt bad about not dressing up my 6-month-old son in a Halloween costume. But I didn’t. It wasn’t something I wanted to do so I decided to skip the stress of finding him the perfect costume. And guess what? He still looked adorable and had a fun Halloween.
You may feel like your inbox is constantly blowing up, you need to see what’s going on with every single social notification on your phone. But you don’t. Here’s why to shut off notifications and don’t worry about it so much – it’s something I do and it works for me.
And for those of you who work, you may feel like you have to overwork yourself to get a promotion. I’m not sure when it became not okay to be happy with your job and simply want to do it well but I’m here to tell you – man or woman – just because you’re not clamoring to be a vice president, a director, or a manager, doesn’t mean you can’t have a challenging, fulfilling career. I’m none of those things and I love my job. Bonus, I’m not working or worrying about work all the time.
My point in all this isn’t to judge other people and parents for their choices. Trust me, I’m a first-time parent and a working mom, and I’m on your side. Feed your baby formula, let him cry it out, and please don’t worry if she throws a tantrum in the middle of the cereal aisle. I’ve got your back and you’re doing a great job.
My point is to remind everyone, parents and non-parents, that nobody needs to be perfect. No one needs to do all the things. No one needs to be “shoulding” all over him/herself. No one needs to stress out to a breaking point just to appear to have it all together. And if that means setting boundaries and saying no to things, do it.
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and to vent frustrations from time to time. It’s not okay to blame society, unfair expectations, and other people for a situation that’s a result of your own choices.
I think, too we can all be better in doing our part to create a world in which no one feels like they have to or should do it all. Maybe take some of the pressure off everyone feeling like they need to do it all. Let’s give each other – and ourselves – permission to not do it all. Permission to say NO.
It’s great timing that it’s November, because what a perfect time to work on saying No. I mean, it’s in the name – NOvember!
This idea also came from another social media post I saw, I’m pretty sure it was shared by my friend, fitness expert, and all-around awesome woman, Mariah Prussia. The concept of NO-vember is a reminder that it’s healthy to say no to things that you don’t want to make time for or don’t bring you joy.
Let’s extend it to just saying no as a healthy way to set boundaries, give yourself a break, help keep you sane, and make it more realistic to prioritize time for the things you really want and need to do. And do it without the guilt.
It’s Okay to Say No
When you say no to something you don’t want to do, you’re saying yes to other things that bring happiness or improve your wellness. If you’d rather not spend an hour shopping for the latest, trendy boots or responding to emails that can wait, but you would like an hour to sleep more, exercise, or read a book (but, you know, you “don’t have time” for those) consider how you’re choosing to spend your time.
I think there’s a misconception that setting boundaries, declining to participate in certain activities, and saying no are signs of being difficult when, actually, they’re all very healthy practices and good for time prioritization.
So if you don’t want to spend your time planning a Pinterest-worthy birthday party, securing donations for a charity auction, or packing perfect lunches, just say no. Or, if you do want to do all those things, by all means, do them. Just don’t bitch about how society tells you that you have to do all these things.
Okay, time for your thoughts. What do you think about NO-vember and beyond, giving yourself permission to set boundaries and just say no? The comments are yours so please leave one.