Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Learning to say No

You all need to celebrate with me today because it is a momentous day in my life.
Today I have officially TURNED DOWN a leadership position in a mothers organization in which I participate.

It was so hard. But it was so necessary.

Saying "No" to commitments and tasks is not easy for a lot of folks, especially for this gal. I am a people-pleaser by nature and hate letting others down. Most of the time, I am generally interested in whatever position I'm considering. I say "yes" and enjoy myself. The end result, though, is always the same--feeling swamped, overwhelmed and overcommitted. I've lived this way most of my life. These days those sentiments affect not only me, but most importantly my precious family. That's when saying "yes" becomes selfish and prideful and hurtful. And that's when the buck stops.

Three weeks ago I got a reality check through a diagnosis that sent me reeling: Mononucleosis. I was a 30-year-old mom to three young boys with mono. The doc asked if I had felt tired recently. I laughed and replied, "Ma'am, I have three boys under 4. I'm always tired." Our family has limped along since, getting much needed help from family and learning some valuable lessons about ourselves, our limits, and God's great Mercy. We're pretty sure the worst is behind us, thanks be to God.

In addition to all of this, my "yes" husband has also recently declined an invitation to lead our church's Knights of Columbus group. He was very honored, but also honest in his response, sharing with the men his own tendency to overcommit and his need to prioritize family right now. A busy job leaves little spare time for a father to devote to the ones he loves! I am so proud of him for making such a decision--it was also hard for him to refuse, yet led me toward making a similar choice with regard to my group.

Last night I scurried around the kitchen getting ready for the mothers' group monthly meeting. My table was responsible for the food, so I whipped up a couple dishes as I fed dinner to the kids and marveled at my completely dirty kitchen. I had less than a loving attitude because of my stress and found myself curtly responding to the kids' requests.

Needless to say, my decision to say, "No" has been resoundingly affirmed.
Thank you today, Lord, for the strength to prioritize my primary vocation in the home!


Anonymous said...

God bless you! Sometimes I think praying for wisdom ought to be higher on most mommies' lists. I meet SO many overcommitted, frazzled, sometimes-happy-but not-joyful or peaceful women. And God bless your husband.

Jess said...

Way to go!! Knowing your priorities and limits only makes you able to help them more and better.

Sandy said...

Congratualations! Learning to say no is so hard, but so important. Often, people don't understand why we have to say no, making it all the more difficult. When you can look back and know you've been a good mom, it will all be worth it.

AWOL Mommy said...

B - well done. This so necessary.

However, I have a caveat to this principle of turning commitments down. What about teaching CCD? I mean, I have no idea how I would fit that into our lives, but I think it is so important. Also, when people like you and me and us -- with our burgeoning NFP Catholic families-- turn down the jobs, that leaves others to step in. I recently had a strange encounter with the preschool CCD teacher at our parish who made a comment that was rather hostile toward large families?! I had been considering putting my 4.5 year old into this woman's care for one hour a week, but now I am left questioning the Catholic formation and fidelity of these volunteers. I mean, I am grateful that these parents selflessly volunteer their time, but if they are not orthodox Catholics shouldn't I suck it up and volunteer to teach next year? I mean, I already know the answer is no, but it does tug at my heart. Thoughts?

Kat said...

AWOL, I understand your sentiments and have had the same thoughts as you! The pastor of our church is very wise and has offered the nursery for free to parents who volunteer to teach CCE. This has made it possible for me to teach CCE while C attends the class next door and Maria plays in the nursery - otherwise I wouldn't have been able to make this commitment!

Logger Blogger Mom said...

I believe the Lord will bless us for having the courage to say "No" to new commitments when we are putting our families first. It may be hard for you to believe now that your children will some day become more self-sufficient and you will actually have more time to devote to volunteer activities but it is true. The time you have with your babies in the home is precious and short. Noone can replace you there.

I also believe that the Lord will give you capacity you cannot imagine for doing His work. Even the busiest mom can probably commit to teaching the faith to children for one hour each weekend. It is a job you really don't want to trust to just anyone. It is best done by well-formed Catholic mothers who prepare themselves (one lesson at a time, and often just in the nick of time!) to teach what the Church holds as truth and not just what they remember or care to believe. It is also helpful to ask the coordinator of the chidren's catechesis program to pair you up with a co-teacher so you each have a built-in backup and can remain responsive to family priorities. My children are all out of the house now but I continue to teach CCD at whatever grade level there is a need. I love that I am constantly learning my faith and discovering new depths. I fall more and more in love with the truth that resides in the Church. I am also grateful for the outlet to share it with others, particularly those eager young minds that really hunger to talk about really big and important stuff.

Juris Mater said...

Thanks for this discussion, B-mama and all! If only there was an easy solution for striking a balance where we're generous with our time but never forced to that place of "curt responses" (GREAT description) and frustrated sighs when kids are making requests. I'm glad to hear you all discuss CCD too... I've really been thinking recently about more parish involvement.

Juris Mater said...

Thanks for this discussion, B-mama and all! If only there was an easy solution for striking a balance where we're generous with our time but never forced to that place of "curt responses" (GREAT description) and frustrated sighs when kids are making requests. I'm glad to hear you all discuss CCD too... I've really been thinking recently about more parish involvement.

Anonymous said...

I too am an older mom (my youngest is now 7) and agree with Logger Mom. Looking back, I now realize that I did too much, too soon when my children were babies. I remember one day my mom said to me "Someday you will stop banging your head against the wall and it will feel good! Harder isn't always better". It was a sobering thought and a wake up call to me.

What I found was, when the time wasn't right to do something, and I went ahead and did it anyway, I found that inevitably I would give it up. For good. What is difficult when you have toddlers in diapers or preschoolers or kindergarten age kids isn't necessarily so hard when they are older. CCD will be there in a few years!

I now homeschool my older children in CCD with a group of like minded moms. We do it at our homes, in the evenings, and we all really enjoy it.

I was a volunteer CCD teacher when my children were little. For two straight months in the winter atleast one child was sick, or I was sick, and I just felt terrible. I gave it up after that year and only returned to it a few years ago.

Keep on fighting the fight, but do it on your terms, one that will benefit your family. The world will always be there and there will always be good people filling in the slots until you are ready!

Right Said Red said...

I'm a little late on this, but good for you B-Mama for learning to say no! As your former college roommate, I'm very happy to see that you have finally learned this very important skill ;-) I still don't think I remember a time when I actually saw you sleeping!

South Paw said...

Oh B-mama! Yaaaay for you. I'm sorry to hear you have mono and hope you get lots of rest. Sending prayers to you, C "Niff"