Mother and Daughters

How To Say “No” And Feel Good About It – 5 Tips For Moms

Learning how to say “no” and feel good about can be challenging, especially for moms.

We feel like we can and “should” want to do so much for so many people. There are things we have to do, things we need to do, and goodness, even some things we want to do. But sometimes, we can and should say “no,” or least, “not right now.”

Why It’s Important to Learn How to Say “No”

You’ve heard the saying that “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” right? Your cup only has so much that it can hold at one time. I pour into my relationship with God, my marriage, my kids, other relationships, daily tasks, hobbies and passions…I mean, I can make this list really lengthy. But where does it end? I only have so much of my time and energy to give.

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She Believed She Could, But…

“She believed she could, so she did.” I’ve used this before to encourage others to meet goals and to stir up motivation in myself. I’ve also heard a few variations…”she believed she could, but she took a nap instead” or my personal favorite “she believed she could, so she did, and now she’s in timeout.” πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ that has my youngest daughter written all over it.

…still laughing…haha.

But what about this one – “she believed she could, but didn’t want to.” Ahhh yes.

In a totally modest way, let me say, not many things intimidate me. Generally speaking, I am pretty confident in myself and the things set before me. I may not excel at everything (or anything πŸ€ͺ), but “believing” I can do something is not my struggle. Now, put me in a room full of total strangers and tell me to be social and I’ll run the other way (the “party” scenes in movies…my worst nightmare, haha).

But here’s the issue with that – because I “believe” I can do so many things, it is super easy for me to over-commit and over-extend myself. And when that happens, I get frazzled and snarky and nobody wins. The worst part is that it is usually self-inflicted.

Side note: Just because I feel like I can do “all the things,” doesn’t mean that I want to…and it definitely doesn’t mean that you should expect me to 😏.

Feel good about limiting commitments

As a busy mom, I have to learn how to say no to some things and to not let it make me feel guilty. I have to know my personal limit and set healthy boundaries.

Who To Say “No” To

It would be super helpful if I could just write you a list and say ” go ahead and say no to Sally down the street and feel good about it,” or whoever it might be (we don’t actually have a neighbor that I know of named Sally πŸ˜‰).

If only it was that easy!

But we both know I can’t do that and even if I could, the list would change based on the day and circumstance.

Let’s address the obvious first – although there are definitely times when you can and should say no, your spouse and kids get dibs. I’ve addressed before the importance of priorities and putting God, your spouse, and your children first (and in that order). A lot of times that’s easier said than done, but it is an area that I am trying to improve on myself.

I also would not recommend saying “no” to your boss regularly. Just saying.

Moms Can Feel Good About Saying “No” To…

What about friends? Just because you say “no” and feel good about it doesn’t mean what you’re saying “no” to is bad. Maybe it’s a playdate that you just can’t squeeze in that week. What if they need a favor from you and you just can’t make it happen? Help by all means if you can, but if you can’t and they’re really your friend, they will understand.

Can you say “no” and feel good about not hosting (or attending) an event? Being a minister’s wife is a hectic (and wonderful) life. Some weeks, every evening is accounted for. It’s not that I don’t want to go to your (fill in the blank) event, but what we already have scheduled takes priority.

Mmm, what about yourself? Self-care is important, but how frequently do you tell yourself “no” to some non-essentials? I can *always* find something I’d like to do or spend money on. It’s a gift and a curse πŸ˜‰.

For example, I would really really like to renovate our back patio area. The dogs have so politely dug a little trench by the house that I assume is for me to make into a flower bed. I’ve also been daydreaming about hanging some romantic outdoor string lights. Now that we’re towards the end of the year, it’s about to be the best season to live in central Florida and I’d like to spend even more time in the backyard. But these projects I want to do take time and effort (and money). Are they worth that right now? Apparently not because I haven’t done them yet, but you get what I mean.

Jesus’s Example of Saying “No”

Do you realize that by saying “no” every now and then, you aren’t doing anything wrong? Yup, it’s true. Give yourself permission to say “no” now and then…it’s ok and GOOD for you.

Need me to prove it? You can say no and feel good about it because Jesus himself did it!

Jesus Needed Time by Himself

Yes, Jesus was fully God, but he also humbled himself to become fully human (Philippians 2:5-9). Kinda hard to fathom, I know. And as a human, Jesus needed rest. He needed quiet time away from the crowds to pray and feel renewed.

Several times throughout his ministry, we read of Jesus withdrawing from everyone and going to a quiet place (Matt 14:13, Luke 5:16, John 6:15), most memorably before his crucifixion (Luke 22:39-46).

I’ve noticed that when I’m feeling frazzled, a few minutes of fresh air works wonders. It’s interesting to think about Jesus having a similar experience. And then even more interesting to think about him enjoying the fresh air and nature around him that he himself created!

Remember the saying about how you “can’t pour from an empty cup?” You need time alone so that you can get a refill.

Taking time by yourself can be challenging (or seem impossible) some days, but for moms, we can say “no” and feel good about it so that we can continue to pour and fill so many others.

Jesus Had Limits

When I say “limits” I do not mean that Jesus was “limited,” but he did have a specific purpose while on earth.

In Matthew 15:21-28, we read of a Caananite woman coming to Jesus and asking him to heal her daughter. Jesus tells her that he was sent to minister to the people of Israel. Does that mean that Jesus didn’t love her? No. Did it mean he didn’t care about her or her daughter? Not at all. But, it wasn’t within the scope of his role at that time.

Sometimes, good things need to be done, but it might not always be your time and place to do them. Don’t get me wrong, do all the good you can! However, make sure that by doing all of these other “good things,” you don’t neglect your own family and role as a mom.

P.S., because of her great faith and humble nature, Jesus actually does make an exception and heal the woman’s daughter ❀.

You can say no and feel good about it because as moms, our own home and families need us.

Why do moms feel guilt about a non-moral issue?

I really enjoyed this video from Sharon Stokes about how to say “no” and stop being a people pleaser without feeling guilty.

I’d definitely recommend you watch her short video, but here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“Why are we so concerned about how the other person is going to feel or react to us saying no…we don’t actually know how they’re going to feel or react?…Why do we feel so important that we’re going to crumble their world by saying no?”

“How is saying “no” doing something ‘wrong?’ Saying ‘no’ isn’t a moral issue! Ask yourself why you feel guilt for something that you know you’re not doing ‘wrong.'”

Ok Moms, So How Do You Say “No” Without Feeling Guilty?

I really like this quote from Parents.com.

Saying “no” is like a muscle. The more you flex it, the easier it becomes. Warm it up by leveling with yourself about how much you canβ€”and want toβ€”take on.

Actually being able to say no and feel good about it will take practice, especially for moms because our to-do list is never-ending and expectations are high!

Sometimes I wonder what expectations would be like if we didn’t have Instagram-glam mom or Pinterest-perfect mama to compare ourselves to. But if I had to guess, I’d assume the generations before us felt the exact same way. Drop a comment below this post and let me know your experiences – I’d love to hear them!

Anyways, here’s a few ideas on how to say no and feel good about it for moms:

Prioritize.

You are pretty great. But, you only have so much time each day. When faced with a yes or no choice, think about your priorities. Remember, saying “no” doesn’t make the thing bad, but it is realizing that it is less of a priority.

One thing that has given me more free time is to do a little bit of cleaning each day instead of having a “laundry day” or a “cleaning day.” You can read more about how I maintain a clean home here. With only 6 simple suggestions, it’s really not as hard as you may think.

As far as daily tasks, I really like these prioritizing sticky notes. Not everything can be done in a day, so this is a good way to keep track of what needs to be done ASAP, what can wait a little bit, and what doesn’t need to be stressed over at all (but still list-worthy πŸ˜‰).

When you say no to something that is less of a priority, you can feel good about it because you know your time will be spent on what is a priority.

Feel Good About Saying No by Giving Yourself Healthy Limits.

Setting Healthy Limits – Personal Example

I’l throw myself under the bus here – I love to do this blog. I love to think about how I can improve it, what my next topic will be, how to design my upcoming visuals, ways to increase traffic…all of it! Well not long ago, I found myself able to work on it for hours each day – there is always something to do or learn and it’s enjoyable to me, so the time flies. Anyways, my oldest daughter was having a little bit of a whiny afternoon and I finally snapped on her.

I remember thinking “ugh, I just want to finish what I’m working on!” but then realized how much time I had actually spent on it that day already. Then I realized that while I love working on my blog, it’s not my “real job” and all of the pressure I felt was only coming from myself.

I apologized to my daughter and turned off the computer. I told my husband (so that it felt extra official) that I would primarily work on my site during naptime and after bedtime.

Every now and then I do get on and do a few things while they’re awake because 1) it’s good for them to see mommy work and do things that she enjoys and 2) it is good for them to learn how to play independently and entertain themselves.

Prioritize time for family and self

So, think about you. Is there something you need to give healthy boundaries to? What is your busyness threshold before you panic? What can you commit to and what should you scale back on?

For moms, sometimes setting healthy limits involves us saying no to ourselves.

Take a social media break.

I’m a pretty big fan of this one. It’s amazing how reducing your time on social media can free up space in your day. Those scrolling rabbit holes are no joke!

There was a time when I realized that my Facebook was taking over my free-time. I wrote a more lengthy post about it here, but the one thing I did to break that habit was to remove the app icon from my home screen. Yup, that’s it.

If you’re interested in other ways to break your social media habit, check out this post for 5 additional suggestions.

Bonus, by seeing less of what always-looks-put-together mom and perfect-birthday-party-planner mom are doing, you won’t be as tempted to compare yourself and worry about what you’re doing “wrong” as a mom.

P.S., you probably aren’t doing anything “wrong” and they wish they were more like you too.

Do something else instead.

Whenever I watch House Hunters, they always seem to see a patio or deck and say ridiculous things like “oh, I could drink my coffee out here in the morning!” or “we can relax together out here after work.” I roll my eyes and think to myself “yeah right. Who actually gets to do things like that?” But, could you?

When you say “no” to one activity, that doesn’t mean that you have to automatically “fill it in” and do something else instead. Resting is important. Having downtime is beneficial and gives you a chance to feel renewed.

What if you limited your kids to one (or two) extracurriculars? Maybe then you would have the extra time to relax in the backyard.

One thing this whole pandemic thing has taught me is how to be still. I am used to (and love) being on the go and it took some (forced) practice to learn to be still. Now that things are returning to a new sense of normalcy, I want to try and maintain a “stillness” in our home. I even bought a cute little sign like this for the living room to help me remember.

As moms, sometimes we need to say no so we can feel good about having quiet, restful moments with our families.

Be proud of what you’ve said “yes” to.

Busy mama, some days, you just need to be proud that you have some sort of food on the table for dinner. No lie, a few days ago, we all had food from a can…like a family of cats πŸ˜‚ (Frito chili pie for us and spaghettio’s for the girls). But for real, take a long look around and see all of the things you’ve accomplished.

All families do things a little differently, but I bet you care for your kids and love them deeply (which takes a lot of energy and effort!). I bet that you do a lot of work each day (both in and out of your home). I can imagine you have friends that you try your best to keep up with and check on. And goodness, if you’re anything like me, I’m sure some days you long for bedtime when the day is at a peaceful end.

Moms, say “no” and feel good about it! You’ve earned it.

After learning to say “no” without guilt, you may also enjoy these topics:

3 Simple Phrases That Help Me Be A Better Mom
How I Broke My Social Media Addiction With One Simple Trick
Is Time On My Side? Learning to make the most of time with small children.

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