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Monday, December 4, 2023

Why Saying ‘No’ Makes Me A Better Mom

I’m just not a “yes” mom.

My husband loves saying yes to the kids. He is really good at telling them, “That’s a great idea, what if we planned to do that?” And when my kids were young, I was determined to do the same. I wanted to be the fun mom I saw on Instagram who had the best birthday parties and the happiest kids.

Do you remember the slime craze? I sure do, because that was when I learned the importance of a solid “no” in my mom vocabulary. I wanted to tell my kids, “You want to make slime? No problem! Don’t worry about the mess! Be creative! Have fun!” while gathering the materials, which I would already have on hand.

We made slime once. It was a huge mess, it didn’t turn out right, and we used up a bunch of glue and glitter and so many bowls. Now, years later, when I even hear about someone making slime, I need to check out for a bit and watch a good Netflix show.

I wanted to provide opportunities for creativity and markers and playdough. I wanted to go to the park whenever and read one more book and not stress about the stuff left out on the counter. I wanted to sprinkle their world with an abundance of yes moments.

I really did try. But the years have given me a bit of perspective, and I’ve learned some things about yeses and expectations and myself.

I cannot do Elf on the Shelf.

I cannot do the Tooth Fairy.

I cannot volunteer all the time.

I cannot buy whatever at the store whenever.

I cannot just drop everything in the service of “fun.”

And I’m OK with that. In fact, I am a better mom when I give myself the grace to say “no.”

Saying “yes” often made me feel like I was failing. I couldn’t keep up with moving the Elf on the Shelf every night. I would forget the Tooth Fairy’s money. I couldn’t sign the kids up for every activity they wanted to try and then drop everything to drive them there. Sometimes, I just didn’t want my kitchen looking like a lab experiment.

And I like having limits.

“There are times when the social-media-driven world we live in makes us think that we have to do EVERYTHING we see everyone else do. You don’t have to do all those things.”

Years ago, a Netflix movie starring Jennifer Garner popularized the concept of a “Yes Day” for kids. The premise of the movie is that two parents spend a day saying “yes” to their children’s requests, which results in opening up a world of possibilities and freedom.

To me, the “yes day” is actually a beautiful example of limits. The movie’s message wasn’t “Make every day a ‘yes’ day.” It’s about cultivating space for the yes moments in our lives.

There are times when the social-media-driven world we live in makes us think that we have to do EVERYTHING we see everyone else do. You don’t have to do all those things. You get to decide what your boundaries are, and you don’t need to accept the pressure that society puts on us or the guilt we put on ourselves. There is power in both the yes and no.

I’ve learned that part of being a parent is that we all have different stories. I think parents who say yes to doing Elf on the Shelf are amazing. But we all get to pick what we incorporate or don’t incorporate into our families’ stories. We all get to choose our YES moments.

And they are amazing moments. Let’s give each other high-fives and be proud of the times when we made the slime or remembered the Tooth Fairy money. However, always saying “yes” is not a requirement for being a good mother. You are a good mom when you say, “No,” “Maybe” or “I’ll think about it.”

Sometimes we have to say no because of practical things. Sometimes we might want to say yes, but it’s not in our budget or our timeline, or it’s just not right for our family. It’s OK not to do everything. In fact, I can guarantee you right now that sometimes saying no will be the most wonderful gift you can give your kids. It establishes boundaries and it teaches them to weather an experience that is a part of life.

As your kids grow, there will be moments when you can say yes and moments when you have to say no. As long as you say yes to being you, loving your family and showing up the best you can, I promise the rest will fall into place.

Rachel Marie Martin is the founder of the social media community Finding Joy™ and author of “Mom Enough: Inspiring Letters for the Wonderfully Exhausting but Totally Normal Days of Motherhood.”

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