The Power of NO

10:41 AMHeather

They sat in my living room, as they do every Sunday night for life group. Jostling their babies while they eat dinner, trading their little ones off with their husbands. Then, settling in as we talk and discuss together. This last Sunday night, a common thread quickly became apparent and I wanted to remind them of a truth that I've learned. 

It's the secret that we moms tend to ignore. We bury it under our busy schedules and our attempts to keep up with it all. We sweep this truth under the rug and it gets lost in our frenzied activity to live out the exact contradiction of this truth. 

In this last week of summer, I feel the need to remind us all. ALL of us--moms or not-- this secret that we ignore.

Here it is.

You cannot do it all.

You can't.

Harsh reality. Or freeing truth. Depending on how you look at it. 

Supergirl may be a new show coming to prime time television. But it's not a standard that any of us can ever achieve. Ever. Ever. Ever.

We cannot ALL be super moms and Wonder Womans and we have limits and we have boundaries and we only have so much time in the day. 

Look, I don't care what your perception is of that lady you know who seems to pull off perfection with kids, career, volunteer hours, an HGTV worthy house and very Pinteresting get-togethers.

It's a lie. 

It's a vicious lie that steals our joy and deceives us into living out some hyper busy life that we were never intended to live.

Say it with me.


I'm telling you loud and proud so you (and I) can let ourselves off the hook. Here's something I need every mom to lean in and hear clearly.

Your first ministry is to your family. Flat out. For real. The moment that child was placed in your arms, through birth or adoption or fostering, God was calling you to a sacred job. A sacred activity. A lifetime of mothering and investing yourself in the life of the next generation. 

And it's precious and valuable and priceless. 

It just doesn't feel that way when your world shrinks to meeting the needs of a dependent baby requiring your daily schedule to include the following: Feed. Change. Clean up spit. Try to convince them to sleep. Repeat. Ad nauseum.

But, it's big time stuff. This raising of children. And the moment we become mothers, it's one of the biggest "YES!" you will ever say. 

However. In light of this very big YES, we tend to forget the secret. 

Which is that when you say yes to one thing, you have to say no to another. And in the case of mothering, this can mean saying no to lots of things. Because let's face it-- our littles and not-so-littles require a lot from us. 

So when you say yes to your husband and then y'all said yes to parenting, what must follow is some no's. It means that when your family of origin faces some health crisis or other demands, you are not available in the same way that you were pre-children. 

And I want to be the boss of you and tell you to release the guilt. Guilt and conviction are two very different things. Guilt belittles you and bullies you into doing something. It's not from God. 
Conviction challenges you and says you got what it takes to do more.  It is from God.

So, repeat after me. This is just for the young moms of littles.

N-O. "No, I'm sorry. I'm not able to do that at this time. It's not my season."

No explanation needed. It's no one else's business. When you have littles who require so much of you, it's a short season. Full of very long days with a million demands. And it consumes your energy. (Can I hear an Amen?)

So, this is not the season to say yes to lots of other things. It's the season to shelf some things. Some dreams you are eager to pursue. Some things you are happy to have an excuse to ignore. Some needs of family members even. 

Because your season is about your first ministry to your family. And it's time for someone else to fill some gaps as you offer what you are able to offer. No apologies needed.

NOW, my soap box rant continues for those of us who are, shall we say, not as young in our mothering. Our littles are now taller than us. Or nearly so. And the demands at home look different. When we surpass the stage of feeding, diapering, and caring for our children's needs and they gain more ability to care for themselves, it's very easy to feel the pull of THAT MOM.

You know the one. She takes care of hearth and home, holds down a job, volunteers at everything, works out regularly, feeds her family with incredibly healthy homemade meals, and regularly plans incredibly fun things for her family to do. 

So when she, in her cape and tights, comes to you to ask if you can be room mom pretty please, you feel that sinking feeling in your stomach.

How can you say no?

Here's how. Like this. N-O. 

We are not called to be THAT MOM. Maybe THAT MOM is called to do it all, but that doesn't mean it's a standard we have to uphold. (For the record, you may decide that being home room mom for one year is fine. More power to you! By all means, say yes now and then to some select few things. But not to all things).

I was reminded of this as I sat at lunch with a friend discussing some plans for the upcoming school year. She has a lot on her plate, and I told her that I gave her full permission to cry uncle about our joint plans.

I'm telling you the very same thing. Not that you need my permission. Alright, alright--to be perfectly honest-- I'm really telling MYSELF this because I have a hard time giving myself permission to say no. I'm all about my performance and earning approval and doing and going.

But "no" is not a bad word. We need this reminder as we are about to receive in influx of sign up sheets and needs at the schools and our schedules are about to go into hyper drive.

Let's remind ourselves that we don't have to be THAT MOM. That it's okay to say no and to realize we can't do it all. It's okay to not kill ourselves with overcommitment. 

Because this season is short. I had the epiphany yesterday that next summer is the last summer EVER that I won't be getting a child ready to go to college.

And I wanted to melt into a puddle and call every single mom I know and be that sweet old lady who says, "Oh, treasure this season. It goes by so quickly."

So here I am, in this blog post, being that sweet old lady who told a very pregnant ME that very same thing when I had two little boys hanging on my legs in the middle of the baby aisle at Target. I was living on the edge, corralling my boys and shopping for baby sister who was about to come any old day. And the boys were fussing and I was big as a whale and she had the nerve to smile so sweetly and tell me, "Oh, treasure this season. It goes by so quickly."

And I remember offering her a smile and mumbling a thank you, all the while thinking, "IF ONLY. IF ONLY this season would go by so quickly."


It did.

So here I am. The week before I sent my kids off to 11th, 9th and 6th grade. And I'm that sweet well-meaning old lady telling you all.

This season will go by so quickly. So let's join hands and look at each other and say--it'll be okay. Give it all you got. Or whatever you got left to give. Say no to other things. Because you can't do it all. And that's okay. We gotta put first things first and be okay saying no to some things. Or maybe just--"no for now."

Because these kids hanging on our legs will be off on their own in the blink of an eye. And we don't ever want to regret how we spent our years that they were in our homes. Our kids won't stand at our funeral and say, "The thing I remember most about my mom and that I most appreciate is that she was always running around doing so many things and volunteering all the time and stressing herself out."

No, bloggy friends. Let's remember the incredible impact of our presence and our availability and our steadfastness to the mundane tasks. It may not be glamorous. Some days, it may not feel like we are accomplishing much. But every moment invested in our kids will indeed have far reaching ripple effects. And it's an investment of YES that is quite worthy of offering some NO's to other things.

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