You Don’t Have to Say Yes

This has been something that’s been on my heart a lot lately. And something that has taken me years to implement in my own life after learning the hard way.

As women, I think it’s in our nature to want to care for people. We can outwardly express this in many ways. Maybe for you this means committing to care for others outside of your home, or participating in every church function, or running errands for a friend who is down. All of these are noble and worthwhile pursuits, but that doesn’t mean we have to do them at any cost.

When my son was little, we “went to town” frequently. We went to visit friends and relatives often, and often volunteered to help out in any way we could. I put pleasing others above the needs of myself and my family. And for a while it worked. My husband never complained. My son seemed happy. But I was worn out.

I think it was easy for me to say ‘yes’ because I was home. I didn’t have a real job to go to, so I was the first and obvious choice for certain things. And I think in general, that’s how society looks at women who choose to stay home and care for the family. Honestly, I think it is a huge bonus to not being tied down to a 9-5 job. I’ve able to coordinate and accompany my elderly grandmother to appointments. I’m able to help my aunt who broke her hip. I’ve been able to plan and execute birthday parties and holidays. I feel very blessed to have this flexibility in my schedule. And equally blessed that my husband both supports and encourages this.

While listening to a favorite podcast a while back, I heard one mom say that she was constantly asked by other moms, “how do you do it all? You cook, you clean, your kids are so well-behaved. What’s your secret?” And she replied “I’m a stay at home mom.” To which the other woman replied “I know that, but how do you do all that?” and her response was very thought provoking to me. “No, you don’t get it. I stay home. My job is at home with my family. I don’t feel the need to be on the go because society says I don’t have a real job.” The point is, when we choose to stay home to raise our children, in order to do that well, we have to actually stay home and raise our children.

But it wasn’t until I went to a retreat for other homeschool mama’s like myself that it truly clicked for me. We did an activity that had us break down whether something was life-giving or life-draining. This was VERY eye opening for me. It wasn’t necessarily a new concept, but being forced to evaluate each of my activities and obligations, as well as discuss them with other moms with similar priorities, was profound. We discussed how things such as family holiday get-togethers can be life draining if we aren’t careful with managing our time. I realized that things that I was committing do were pulling me away from the things that I had deemed important or high priority, and that it was ok to say no sometimes if it meant that another aspect of my life would suffer. And I don’t mean suffer literally, but hopefully you get the idea.

My goal and priority, for this current season of life anyway, is to be a caring and attentive mother and loving wife. Don’t get me wrong, there are LOTS more things that I’d love to do with my time. I’m one of those people who has way too many hobbies and is constantly trying to learn and soak up everything I possibly can. I also have a passion for working with my hands creating things, whether it be cooking, sewing, soap making, gardening, etc. It is hard for me to say no to things that interest me. But I have to remind myself, I can do anything, but I can’t do everything. So sometimes that means putting my hobbies on the back burner, for now. Other times I can manage a few extra things on my plate, but if I can’t, I don’t let it bother me. I know that there will come a time down the road that I will have more time to focus on different things. And I’m ok with that. Truly. This doesn’t mean I don’t cook elaborate meals for my family on occasion. It just means that when I am tired after a long day, I remind myself that cooking an elaborate meal isn’t my priority, feeding my family is. So I turn to a simple, quick, and easy dinner on those nights. If completing a sewing project means I won’t get to play a card game with my son, I put the sewing project on the back burner because being attentive to my son is more important to me. If we are feeling run down and going across town to a party will be more draining than it is fun, we respectfully decline. I can’t do everything.

It breaks my mama heart to hear about other moms who constantly go-go-go because they feel like that’s what they are supposed to do. Dragging your kids to every party, game, and social event is only necessary if you want it to be. And if doing that truly fills your cup and makes you feel like a better mom, by all means, continue on. But the impression I get from most is that it is incredibly draining. Why do we feel the need to do all of this? Do we feel like our kids will be unhappy if we don’t? We all know that kids don’t need much to be happy, but that a stressed out and tired mom certainly isn’t part of the equation. Of course the kids will have fun at soccer practice. But they’ll have just as much fun making cookies with mom, or going on a walk around the neighborhood with the family dog. Do we do it because we don’t want to let our friends down? This is understandable, but really if your friends give you a hard time for missing their party, what kind of friend is that?

I just want to be encouraging to other mamas that you don’t always have to say yes. It’s ok to decline an invitation, or miss a big event, just for the sake of staying home and loving on your family. Like I said before, if the go-go-go lifestyle truly suits you, carry on. But if it doesn’t, be honest with yourself and take a step back. You don’t want to look back and regret that you didn’t.

Obviously I’m not talking about the big stuff. Life happens. Grandparents get sick and need help. People fall and break bones and need to be driven to appointments. I’m not saying we should all say ‘no’ to these big things. But the smaller, simpler day-to-day things that seem insignificant until they pile up and wear us down. That’s what I’m talking about. We could do with less of that.

I say this with compassion because I’ve been there. I’ve been the tired, worn down mom who didn’t have the energy or the gumption to play with my son after a long day giving myself to others. I’ve been the cranky wife who passed the baby to my husband upon his return home from work because I was checked out for the day. I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to be that woman. It is much more fulfilling to be a happy, energetic mom and wife. To be able to greet my husband with a smile and a kiss when he gets home from work, and to get down on the floor with my son and play cards, is very rewarding. And truthfully, I don’t have time for anything that interferes with that.

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  1. Lacy Robinson

    This really resonated with me as I had this exact mindset change when we moved our family halfway across the country in 2019, I was constantly in the jumble of park visits, family trips, play dates, and activities and that lifestyle was not up to speed with my mental health. When we moved, the pandemic set in and it gave us a reason to just be and not go anywhere or do anything. It was the best thing that could have happened for us and we are so much happier staying home and just being a family together. Thanks for writing this article!

    1. Sarah

      I agree, Lacy! Silver linings. I think most of us have to have something major like that slap us in the face, unfortunately. I know that’s what happened to me!

  2. Terri

    ❤️ Well it’s too late for me as my kids are grown. I only wish I could have lived a slower, simpler life with my wonderful boys! I was a stressed out and impatient mom so I’m sure that was no fun for the boys. It just seemed like there was always so much to do and just me to do it. I’m different with my sweet granddaughter because I’ve learned exactly what you’re saying here. If only we could go back and do it better….but we can’t!

    1. Sarah

      You are so right. We can’t go back. All we can do is move forward doing the best that we can!

  3. Lauren

    I love this and try to live by it- I do love helping people out but knowing when to say NO is so important. I think having supportive friends, like yourself, who JUST GET IT is also so so important. Just because we have to reschedule a dinner or miss a birthday party doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate or value your family any less but unfortunately , a lot of people take it to heart. I read an article a while back that talked about all the stress around the holidays and how it can really steal all of the joy and that really resonated with me. Are those homemade rolls really worth it if all you’re doing is yelling at your kids to get out of the kitchen or too stressed out to enjoy anything with your family? It’s all about finding a happy balance to really indulge in the happy moments with those who you love

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