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You Need to Learn to Say 'No.' Here's How

Photograph by Twenty20

Over the years I have served on the boards of a number of non-profit organizations and churches. These experiences cemented for me that I never want to serve on another board of any kind at any time. Ever.

So when I was asked to consider becoming an officer of my daughter's school PTA board I posted a status to Facebook and inquired, only half joking, “How does one say, 'Hell to the NO' nicely?”

The responses came flooding in, even in GIFs:

“Just like that.”

“Heck to the no?”

“Quickly and firmly.”

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“No. Not 'No Thank You.' Not 'Not right now.' Just 'No.'”

“Nah to the ah to the no, no, no.”

“'No' is a complete sentence.”

“I'm sorry, but I just can't help you.”

“Ask if it will be paid monthly or weekly. LOL”

“Laugh maniacally. Run away. Lather, rinse, repeat.”

"I'm sorry, I don't speak English."

“Excuse me ... I have a root canal that I'm looking forward to.”

“Tell them you have chronic diarrhea and it is contagious.”

"I'm planning on taking my drinking to a whole new level next year, but if you're OK with that ..."

“I'm sorry, but other commitments make it so I can't devote the attention and care that would be needed. I'm sure (insert name of someone who has it coming) would be thrilled to join you!”

All joking aside, I mean no disrespect to the awesome parents who do volunteer to serve on the the board of the PTA. I know them. I love them. I appreciate them. It’s just not something I personally want to do. I think the best response I received on Facebook was this:

“Just remember, your time is like money. Would you hand over a blank check? Not meaning to sound flippant, but the only one who is going to protect you is you.”

That can be a hard one for us moms. We tend to give until we have nothing left. We feel obligated to, if not actually, do it all. At least we try to. And we run ourselves ragged. We have to learn to set limits. It’s OK to say, “No.” It doesn’t make you a bad mom. Or person. Doing so is actually essential to your sanity and well-being. An important life skill. Start early and practice often.

There are gracious ways to say, “No.” And you don’t have to apologize for it or even explain yourself. You have the right to say no to people visiting you after your baby is born. Also, to ignore unsolicited parenting advice and to turn down the invite to a mom-and-baby yoga class. You have the right to not participate in the preschool fundraising bake sale. To pass on the neighborhood book club. Or host a playdate at your home.

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If you want to do those things and have time for them, by all means say, "Yes!" But never do it out of a sense of obligation. Do it because it is what you want to do.

I currently say yes to being my child’s room parent. I chaperone field trips. I volunteer at her school’s book fair. I advocate for education change. I enjoy those experiences. And with the flexibility of working from home, I have time for them.

But I learned long ago how to say "No." And it has made all the difference.

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