I recently read a quote about how saying "no" is more important than saying "yes." The idea was that saying "yes" to non-essential things ultimately gets in the way of devoting your full attention to what you should really focus on.
Well that pretty much rocked my world. Because I feel like a "yes" machine. Sure! I'll volunteer to raise money for the new school gymnasium. No problem! I'll pick up so-and-so from practice; I'm picking up my child anyway, so what's an extra 15 minutes to take your kid home? Yes, honey! I'll wash your jacket for the third time this week. It's not like you meant to walk on it with muddy boots. Again.
But I'm starting to see how saying "yes" is slowly but surely defeating me. Most parents can relate. You're so busy that you aren't doing anything well. How can you? It's not like you can prepare a nutritious, balanced meal for your family from the driver's seat of the minivan you've been driving back and forth all day.
With that in mind, I'm determined to start saying "no" a lot more this year. I'll start with:
1. Making my daughter's bed. She's 8. Those extra couple of minutes could be spent doing something she can't do on her own, like making my coffee.
2. Skipping breakfast. My kids are always fed in the morning. But me? Rarely, unless you count caffeine as a food group. It's about time I start putting my basic needs above silly things, like making sure my kids' socks match. They can do that.
3. Feeling guilty if I'm late. I'm doing the best I can, so I've got to stop beating myself up if we end up running to the bus stop. We always make it. Enough with the mental lashing!
4. Checking my emails obsessively. This is the year I am going to set more boundaries around my personal time. There's no reason to be "on the clock" at my kids' swimming lessons. It's a habit that creates anxiety and pulls me away from being in the moment, and it needs to stop.
5. Telling my husband I don't have time to talk. During the day, he'll call to check in, and I'll brush him off, saying I'm busy. But I need to prioritize our connection throughout the day, instead of always floating "us" to the back of my to-do list.
6. Having sex after 11 p.m. By the same token, I refuse to give into my husband's "needs" when they don't work for me. He always tries to start something around the exact moment I'm ready to crash. If he wants "it," he'd better make a move at a more civil hour for a working mom-of-three.
7. Serving my kids chicken nuggets every night. I'll admit I've gotten into the habit of mechanically heating up nuggets or a frozen pizza more nights than not. I've got to get out of this rut, which will be easier if I start saying "no" to more activities that leave me time-crunched and energy-drained.
8. Volunteering for anything at my kids' schools. I hate to say it, but volunteering is something that has to go. I ALWAYS end up regretting it, because inevitably, I spend more time than I planned, doing inane things like putting muffins on a plate for a PTA meeting. And if I'm struggling to make a good dinner for my kids, this has to go.
9. Eating dinner after 9 p.m. This is another habit my husband and I have fallen into, as a result of our over-packed schedules. By the time we feed and bathe the kids, help with homework and get them to bed, our own dinner is an afterthought. But 9 o'clock is too late to start cooking (or, more often, ordering take-out), especially when I go to bed at 10.
10. Coming upstairs, again, after the kids go to bed. "Can I have a cup of water?" "Can I tell you one more thing?" NO! My kids are in for a rude awakening when I stop giving in to their nighttime whims so my husband and I can enjoy adult time. I'm realizing that, without happy parents, we can't have a happy family.
11. Laying out my kids' clothes for them. Here again is something I'm doing for my kids—ages 8, 6, and 3—that they can do for themselves. I pledge to stop babying them this year. Not only will they gain more independence from doing more on their own, but I will have more time, too.
12. Letting everyone come into the bathroom with me. Why is it that any time my kids are in the bathroom, they demand privacy, yet when I'm in there, my family feels it's an open-door policy? I don't ask for much alone time, but this is one room of the house where I've got to claim some.
13. Being rigid about screen time. The AAP recommends that kids should not get more than 90 minutes of screen time in a given day. And to say I follow that guideline to a T is an understatement. But sometimes letting my kids play on iPads for a bit longer is okay. On another day, maybe we're out and busy, and they don't even turn them on. As long as most days my kids aren't parked in front of screens for hours on end, I think we're good.
14. Pressuring myself to be perfect. Note to self: If I don't sew every new patch on the Girl Scout sash by the meeting, the world will not end.
15. Never taking time off. The other day I had the stomach flu and was up all night puking my guts out. My husband had to beg me to call out of work. Um, yeah. I think it's time I started just saying "no" a lot more.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.