As mothers, we spend a lot of time saying the word “no.”
No, you can’t have a snack.
No, you may not have the keys to the car tonight.
No, I will not come out of this closet and yell at your brother because he stole your ‘Harry Potter’ book.
We create excuses to stay home in our pajamas on cold winter days, and we say no to committee work because who the hell has time to plan a school carnival? Our partners hear no in the bedroom more than they’d like because we are ashamed of our bodies or from exhaustion deep in our bones. We skip exercise routines in favor of blaming our kids and their crazy, jam-packed schedules.
We say no to prevent our kids from getting too high on a jungle gym, and we steer our kids away from being friends with kids who have parents we don’t like. If you are an introvert like myself, you say no to well-meaning parents when they invite you over for a playdate. Why “people” unless it’s absolutely necessary, amiright, fellow introverts?
All day, every day, we say no, no, nope, no way, and nooooo. There’s a reason moms have a reputation for always saying no, people. We say it all. the. time.
What if, even 50% of the time, we simply said yes and followed where things go from there?
What if we said yes to ourselves once in a while?
When I first had my children, I put every bit of energy I had into making sure we were all breathing at the end of the day. I worked myself ragged doing midnight feedings, playing with playdough for hours, and coaxing small humans into eating something besides blueberries. I spent little time with my friends beyond the sporadic playgroup gathering, and I’d go months at a time without wearing makeup or putting on clothing that didn’t make me appear that I was about to exercise (I wasn’t). When my son was 4 and my daughter was 1, I walked by a mirror and realized I looked like hell.
And not fresh hell, mind you. I looked like hell that had dried up like gum under someone’s shoe in a men’s bathroom. My hair was bad, I didn’t recognize my face due to dark circles and worry lines, and when I took a good close look at myself, I realized my body had taken on epic proportions. My ass was the size of Texas, and I was winded when I walked up the stairs. It was like I had said a giant “NOPE” to my entire being.
As this unrecognizable woman stared back at me in the mirror, it was obvious that I’d been saying no to myself for a long time. I don’t know if it was the way the morning light made my skin look greasy and sallow or if it was the sight of my muffin top spilling over my too-tight yoga pants, but something made me decide on the spot that I deserved to say yes to me.
And I did.
I started to prioritize where my noes went: No, I won’t wake up with the kids on Saturday morning because I’m saying yes to a run (read: a brisk walk with heavy breathing so loud that I scared the neighbors). No, I can’t do bath time tonight because I said yes to a spin class with friends. The word “no” was still in my vernacular, but I stopped saying it to myself. I lost 30 pounds of baby weight simply by saying yes to me and my needs. Come to think of it, I should probably say no to ice cream a little more often, but I digress.
And I make no apologies for continuing to say yes to my needs.
Women, and mothers in particular, are programmed to be the doers, the planners, and the fixers of all things. Our kids and family members look to us to problem solve, make dinners, and find soccer cleats. Our lives are in constant chaos, and often we can barely have a coherent thought, let alone a minute to think about expanding our businesses or chasing a new job opportunity. Saying no makes our lives easier and allows us to ignore what might actually be a good thing for us down the line.
Why can’t we reprioritize our noes so that our lives are more fulfilling?
A friend recently told me she’d applied for a new job and said she was worried that she’d bitten of more than she could chew. The job was an exciting new challenge and is a position that she’s been working toward for a long time. When the opportunity knocked, she told me she’d briefly considered saying no because the logistics for her busy family hurt her head. But she decided to “lean in” and figure it all out later. She said it was hard to say yes to herself but she’s glad she did. She also said she used it as an opportunity to go shopping for new clothes. Good on her, I say.
Saying yes doesn’t mean that we are shirking our responsibilities as moms. Saying yes also isn’t a free pass to dump on our spouses or our colleagues. It’s simply a mindset, a paradigm shift, if you will, that we need to embrace to remind ourselves that we are worthy of our goals and dreams. Yes is hard but worth it. I am worthy of achieving my dreams, even if my dream on that day is to have a cup of coffee alone in a coffee shop for a half hour. And while I’m practicing saying yes more often in my life, I’m always going to say no to Justin Bieber. Because NO.