Dear Friend/Fellow PTA Mom/Family Member/In-Law/Church Leader/Prospective Employer:
Thank you for thinking of me for this volunteer position/paid job/ongoing responsibility. It was kind of you to notice me, match this opportunity to my skill-set, and suggest that I contribute. I do love to help out. And, of course, this opportunity is something you are passionate about and would allow us to work together side by side, which would be fun for both of us. Unfortunately, I have to say no.
Please believe me when I say that saying “no” is one of the most difficult things I have learned to do since become an adult. Everything in me wants to be a “people pleaser” and say yes to everything that everyone asks. But, that’s exactly the problem. When I say “yes” to everything, there’s nothing left of me to give to my husband, my children, and to my own personal health, rest, and development.
What you are suggesting is a good thing. It’s awesome to realize that there are many, many good things in life (despite what the news tells us!). So many ways we can organize our days, months, and years. So many of the options are good, but the time in which to put them is not infinite.
My children are 3 and 5 years old this year. I can’t believe it was 5 years ago that I first looked at my son! What everyone told me about the “days being long but the years being short” was so true. This fall when pre-K started, I was startled to realize that this is my last year to take him to the museum, to go to the zoo, to play in the backyard in our pajamas on a weekday morning. Next year it will be just my daughter and I, and the year after that I will be alone.
In this last year of being “at home” with my two small children, I want to be relaxed, loving and fun. I want us to have all the cute conversations without feeling rushed. I don’t want to be constantly waking them up from naps to rush off somewhere that I will put them in childcare while I work on something else. I don’t want to spend all the money I would make working extra just to spend it on babysitters. When I go to bed at night, I want to be grateful for the day with them, not worried about who I can get to watch them tomorrow so I can accomplish more of my own agenda.
Speaking of night, I want to spend those last few hours between when the kids (finally) fall asleep and when I have to go to sleep with my husband -sometimes. I hear you when you explain that I can do the thing you’re suggesting “at night and on weekends”, but where does that leave my marriage? I have been in the position in the past where I don’t see my husband for days even though we live in the same house, because we just trade off the kids when he gets home. That is bound to happen sometimes in this season of life, but I have to say “no” to otherwise good things to make sure it does not become a habit. One day, our kids will be grown and gone. I want to still be friends with the man I will still be spending every day with, and not confronted with a stranger.
Thank you again for offering me this opportunity to develop myself outside of just being a mom. I want to assure you that I do claim time for myself, even as I say no to this particular chance. I still teach my fitness classes, have 3 hours of a preschool day to myself, 3 times a week. I grocery shop on my own. I have those magical online friends inside my phone. And the ones I see at Book Club and at the park.
If there is anything I have learned lately and then seen in action, it is that my saying “no” will enable someone else to say “yes”. Their “yes” may be full of so much more skill, more time, and more enthusiasm than my “yes” would be right now. I have plenty more “yeses” left in my life in the upcoming years. Please feel free to always ask me, because I want to help. I will be honest with you about my capacity. I hope that you will understand because you are making the same kind of prioritization decisions in your own life.
This post was inspired by the book The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst, which so many of us are reading right now. If you haven’t read it, I definitely recommend it!