The Art of Saying No
August 26, 2013 by Stephanie O'Dea
It’s back to school season, and this is usually the time of the year where I re-prioritize my goals and daily activities. I’ve got a seventh grader, a fourth grader, and a preschooler this year.
The preschooler is only in school 6 hours a week, because I’m just not ready to let her go for more hours, yet. This means that I really need to manage my time wisely to make sure I meet all of my assigned (and self-assigned) tasks.
I’ve not always been the best about saying NO. I used to try really hard to get people/aquaintances/complete strangers to “like me” and ended up over-extending myself. I wanted to be the go-to responsible person for the PTA, or for girl scouts, or to help volunteer at the library. I wanted to be the trusted afterschool babysitter, and I wanted to be the carpool mom. I thought that was who I was, what my identity was.
And then I snapped.
I shared through email with my friend Crystal, of Money Saving Mom, what my tipping point was and after typing it out, thought perhaps it’d be best to share it “out loud” —- because I do believe we are all on our own personal journey. We are all just trying to do the very best we can on a day-to-day basis. Crystal helped me to remember that I have not always been the way I am now. I used to hold my breath to get through my day — as she words it: I wasn’t living; I was surviving.
Anyhow. Back in 2008, when I was in the final quarter of my Year of Slow Cooking, I kind of had a breakdown. It was September, and it was back-to-school night. Things were going well with the site, and I had just signed a book deal for Make it Fast, Cook it Slow. I had appeared on The Rachael Ray Show, and because of that, the site traffic had quintupled. I was working on the site, working for BlogHer ads, and was working for Bay Area Parent. I only had two children at the time, but I was fully responsible for all things in regards to them — afterall, I was home.
I came home from Back to School night and crumpled to the floor. I had on a cute outfit, I remember changing my clothes a few times before leaving the house to man the PTA table. My hair was straightened, and I had spent more time then I care to admit on my makeup. My goal was to look breezy and put-together, and trendy-but-not-too-trendy. I shook hands and made small talk.
I probably looked the way I wanted to look. I probably fooled a bunch of people.
but the second it was all over, I remember hugging my knees to my chest in the corner of my bedroom and sobbing. For hours.
the very next day I quit almost everything. I’m sure I disappointed quite a few, but I took back my time. I took back my priorities.
and to this day, it was one of the best decisions of my life.
This “take back” of my time is why I don’t have a personal Facebook account. This is also why I don’t own a smart phone.
excerpt from Totally Together: Shortcuts to an Organized Life
It is a wonderful feeling when a trusted friend, co-worker, or supervisor asks for your help. It is difficult to not let ego take over when you are told that you are “perfect” for something or that the school’s Popsicle eating contest “can’t be done” without you.
Don’t get talked into doing something that your heart isn’t in. Someone else will step forward, and if not, the world will not stop spinning if the Popsicle eating contest doesn’t happen as scheduled. If somebody complains, let that somebody be in charge. It is not worth stretching yourself thin to please other people—you and your family come first.
Say no to the committees, say no to the bake sales, and say no to anything that you don’t really and truly want to do. If later on in the year, you find that your time is a bit more free, there are numerous ways to ease back in to service. It’s always better to say “no” right away than to say “yes” and then fall short of the required responsibilities.
Learn also to say “no” when choosing sports, musical instruments, enrichment classes, or out-of-school camps with your children that might stretch your calendar thin. It is so easy to sign up for more than you or your child can handle, and the outside obligation can quickly take over family life.
Pick and choose carefully, and ensure that you and your children completely understand the commitment and responsibility required. Some families have found that limiting choices to one indoor and one outdoor activity at a time works well.
My days now feel more balanced. I’m not perfect, and I still lose my patience and temper more than I probably should, but I feel much more at peace than I used to.
and that’s a great feeling.