Prioritizing Your Needs by Saying “No”

As mothers and women, we are faced with so many choices and obligations. Maintaining friendships, volunteering, being involved in your child’s classroom, navigating everybody’s activity calendars, and so much more.

Throw in marriage and a job outside of the home, and I’m stressed out just thinking of how to balance it all. 

And although I definitely do not classify myself as a people pleaser, I have felt the pressure to keep adding more and more to my plate.

I am a true introvert — I need time alone to recharge. If I don’t have time to myself, I’m not my best self. I cannot possibly say yes to everything, or I will burn myself out.

What does that mean? I have learned to say no, and prioritize my own needs and the needs of my family. 

I have three things that I try to remember when faced with a decision:

Saying No: 3 Decision-Making Mantras

1. If it’s not a “heck yes” it’s a “no.”

I have intentionally tried to slow down when making a decision. That way, I can decide if I’m saying yes to something I’m not thrilled about.

Recently, I had the chance to volunteer on the board for an activity one of my children is involved in. My child likes this activity, and it would have been a good opportunity for me. In the past, I would have committed to this right away, and then regretted it later.

But on this occasion I took some time to think about it. And realized I wasn’t terribly excited about the opportunity. So, I said no. It wasn’t a “heck yes!” — so it was a “no.” 

2. “No” is a complete sentence.

When we feel guilty about saying no to something, we tend to over-explain ourselves.

For example, a friend asks to spend the weekend at your house last minute instead of getting a hotel. Instantly dread sets in because your kids have activities that weekend, the sheets aren’t cleaned, and you have a crazy week at work. You would love to see your friend, but what you really need is a weekend with your family to regroup and recharge.

So, you tell your friend no, but do it in a much longer way than necessary (and maybe throw a white lie or two in there).

This doesn’t help anyone out. Next time you feel guilty for saying no and feel the urge to ramble on and justify the decision, take a minute before responding and remind yourself that all you need to say is “no.”

That’s good enough.

“No” is a complete sentence. 

3. Every “yes” is a “no” to something else.

This one is pretty self-explanatory — every time you say “yes” to something, you say “no” to something else. I don’t know why, but sometimes it feels easier to say no to our family members and loved ones rather than to a stranger. If I would have said “yes” to the volunteer opportunity at my child’s activity, I would be saying “no” to time with my family.

I would be overextending myself and not being my best self for the people who matter most. Now, if it was “yes” to an opportunity I was excited about, then maybe the “no” would be worth it. 

Juggling It All

I recently read a quote by Nora Roberts that reminds me of this. Someone asked her how she balanced writing and kids, and she said, “The key to juggling is to know that some of the balls you have in the air are made of plastic and some are made of glass.”

It’s important to prioritize which balls you keep in the air at once. Sometimes, you have to say no to bringing snacks to your kid’s classroom (plastic ball) to be present at an important meeting for work (glass ball). Or sometimes you say no to an office meeting that can be rescheduled (plastic ball) to be able to go to your children’s holiday program (glass ball). 

Next time you think about agreeing to something you don’t really want to do, take a moment to think it through. If you say yes to an extra opportunity at work, does it outweigh what you are saying no to? 

I am, by no means, an expert on any of this. At times I still find myself saying “yes” to things I instantly regret — but by incorporating these three mantras into my decision-making, I slow down. And I prioritize myself and my family, because that is what’s most important.

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Anna is a Fargo native and currently practices family law. She lives in Fargo with her husband William, Goldendoodle Rory, and two children, Kensington and West. Anna is passionate about building connections in motherhood, because she didn't realize how much she needed other moms around her until she became one herself. In her free time, she enjoys cycling classes, yoga, reading, and the Green Bay Packers (even though they break her heart every year). Anna's guilty pleasures include Bravo reality TV and a good glass of Prosecco.

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