It's Okay To Just Say 'No'

by Julia Pelly

Dear New Mom,

Welcome to motherhood! Congratulations on that adorable little baby of yours! You’ve no doubt been getting advice about motherhood since the day you announced your pregnancy, some of this advice is probably good, some of it is probably bad, some of it, surely, is very, very weird. Though you’re probably inclined, by this point, to nod silently and ignore most of the advice that comes your way, I do have one bit of advice that you should really take into consideration in the coming weeks and months:

It’s okay to just say “no.”

The next few weeks are probably going to be a little wild for you—don’t worry, that’s normal, your life just got blown apart in the most wonderful of ways. For a little while, you’re likely going to be tired and anxious and unable to do much of anything but take care of your baby. And that’s okay. In the first few weeks people get it. Neighbors bring frozen casseroles, aunts and uncles come fold laundry, friends bring adorable onesies and demand that you take a nap while they hold the baby. No one scoffs at the dirty dishes; no one rolls their eyes at the un-mowed lawn; and no one asks you to make anything, bake anything, or organize anything. Cherish these weeks—I know they’re hard but, if you’ve got some loving and supportive people in your life, you should be able to rest a little and focus on what matters most.

Something funny happens though, right around the time your baby turns a month old. Not with your baby, they’re usually still on the eat, sleep, poop schedule you’ve become accustomed to, but with the people all around you. See, your baby may still be brand new to you, but to others (especially others who don’t have kids), a month feels like a long time, certainly long enough that you should be jumping back into regular life right? And regular life, that one you had before the baby came, comes with all kinds of commitments that are just way harder now that you have a baby.

Yes, last fall you made six dozen cookies for the church bake sale, but this fall, just getting to the store to buy ingredients seems impossible. It’s okay to just say “no.”

Sure, when your cousin got married last year you organized her bridal shower but, now, your brains feels so fuzzy you don’t feel qualified to organize your laundry piles, let alone a luncheon for thirty. It’s okay to just say “no.”

And yes, going out to lunch with your college friends really would feel amazing, but you’re worried about germs around your baby and they’re going somewhere without room for a car seat carrier anyway. It’s okay to just say “no.”

You’re allowed to say “no” because it’s nap time or because you’re tired or because you just don’t think you can do it.

You can say “no” because your baby doesn’t do well in the afternoon, or because you’re going back to work soon and want to soak in every moment, or because breastfeeding is still hard and you want to do everything you can to get it right.

It’s alright to say “no” because you don’t want your newborn around a bunch of strangers, or because you’re worried it might be too loud, or because you just want a quiet night in with your husband. Whatever your reason, if you don’t want to do it, it’s okay to just say “no.”

Say “no” politely or say “no” forcefully, say “no” and explain why you just can’t, or say “no” and leave it at that. Whatever you do though, don’t say “yes” when you mean “no.”

Being a mother is hard no matter the age of your child, but being a mother to a newborn, or an infant or a toddler, is particularly time and labor intensive. Don’t feel guilty for putting your baby, yourself and your family first. In time, you’ll start saying “yes” again and, eventually, as your children grow, the times you say “yes” will outnumber the times you say “no.”