reasons moms say 'no'...

i'm sitting here at the city park, watching my kiddos play on the playground {my two youngest in tutus, their outfits of choice today}.
a half hour ago, we were all at home, after spending two hours late this morning running around doing various errands.  i had just finished tidying up the kitchen, answered several emails, and was making mental plans of which books i was going to curl up with for my afternoon "alone time."
austyn, my oldest, came to me..."mom, i have a great idea!  once you're done with your computer work, how about you get your laptop and whatever books you want to read and since it's a gorgeous day we could go to the park and you could read and we could play on the playground!  do you think we can?" {yes, she talks in run-on sentences...don't all eleven-year-olds?}
my immediate reaction was a sigh...a bit of a droop of the shoulders...and a hesitant, "baby, i'm not sure.  we'll just have to see. " {which, in momspeak, is usually interpreted as "i don't want to come right out and say 'no,' so this is my way of softening the blow."}

and then, for some unknown reason, about ten minutes later, in a sudden strike of generosity, a sudden strike of uncharacteristically good-mood-ed-ness, i grabbed my laptop and my stack of books, calling out, "get your shoes on and let's go to the park!"
after a momentary pause {of shock and disbelief, i'm sure}, they all jumped to action and we were in the van and on our way and here at the park before i had time to reconsider or change my mind.

somewhere between me grabbing my mason jar of lemon water and locking the back door, the thought occurred to me, "why do i say 'no' so often?"
i mean, granted, i have a lot to do in my days.  the hours are packed with cooking and cleaning and laundry and general tidying up after six people and animal chores and yard chores and paying of bills and balancing of bank accounts and exercising and grocery shopping...and...and...and...the list could continue ad nauseam.
but why?  why do i say 'no' so often?
that one thought spurred an entire line of spurred multiple texts sent to multiple friends...
and in the end, it spurred this post.


i've got to admit, this is one of those posts that took an entirely different turn than i expected it to.
between the thoughts that had formed in my head before i had even opened the keyboard and the responses i was rather certain i'd receive from many friends i'd texted, i was mentally formulating a post detailing all the wrong and selfish reasons we say 'no' to our children.
i was convinced that my friends would confirm the fact that i discount my children's wishes as trite and trivial...that i choose my way just for the simple fact that i want my own way...
and that i am generally--though not purposely--self-serving.

what i didn't expect was the overwhelming number of responses i received laying out the good, justifiable, and even necessary reasons we tell our kids 'no.'
i began this post with a foregone conclusion in mind.
i figured it would be thought-provoking, leading the reader--in the end--to decide to say 'yes' more often.


here's my original message, sent out to several friends:
play along when you can.  your name will not be used.
your kids ask you to take them to the park/playground 4 miles away from your house.  
you had a busy morning, but lunch is finished and cleaned up and your afternoon is mostly open and free.
the kids have been well-behaved for the most part today.
you answer with a 'no.'
why? i want to know why you said 'no.'
give me one reason.  more if you want.  but i'm just asking for one.
this is for a blog post. your name will not be used.

and here are their responses {change in color denotes change in speaker}:
#1. i find i say 'no,' then realize i should have said 'yes,' and gone for 30-45 minutes.  it doesn't have to take the whole quiet afternoon away.
#2. i say 'no' because i don't want to [go to the park]. the end. my life is not about facilitating their every desire, therefore we can stay home because i want to.
#3. because our week is already loaded with kid-entertaining events and today is mine to be home. to enjoy the house we pay for.
#4. no. our yard is a park!!! we live in the country with grass, bikes, chickens, and endless delights! enjoy OUR park!
#5. no, we aren't going today, but i would be glad to take you on ________day. {and then i must follow through and keep my promise and actually do it.}
{and yes...all of that was from one friend☺}

i'd say 'no' because i am tired...because i finally got everything done and just want to relax...because i just don't feel like going to the park.

i'd say 'no' because of all the added work piling them in the car and driving there.  then they'll have to have baths that night because they're bound to get filthy and that's just more work at the end of the day when i want bedtimes to be done.

i'd say 'no' because after a busy morning, i want to relax at home in the air conditioning.  or i have work to do in the afternoon for my business.

1. i'd say 'no' because i may be at my personal limit, empty.  there are times when i need to set a personal boundary and meet my own needs before i can meet anyone else's.  this may mean putting on a show so i can shower or read my Bible for 20.  but regardless of what i do to fill up, a number of circumstances may result in this need--unusual stressors like having a fight with one's parents/in-laws/husband, hormonal issues, or just anything demanding of your emotions/focus beyond the norm.  
when my family is going through a hard/trying/busy season, i lower my expectations of myself as Supermom because so much energy goes into survival.
2. often the good is the biggest enemy of the best.  maybe it's the best for your kids to get playground time all the time.  but i, personally, like to mix it up.  i want to make sure we are reading classic books together.  i want to involve them in dinner prep so they learn.  i want to make sure they have regular times of writing to or talking to grandparents on the phone.  i'm regularly assessing which of these areas is lacking most.  the park may be a good thing, but it may not be the best for my kids on that day.

and a text conversation between another friend and me:
her: do i have to say 'no'?
me: shut up. [yes, i talk to my friends like that.]  are you really THAT fun?!?!?! now i feel REALLY terrible.  you would almost automatically say 'yes'?
her: haha.  no.  not ALWAYS☺
me: but most times? wow.  that's amazing.
her: if i had to say 'no,' i'd tell them they can play outside.  probably because i need to work on dinner or have laundry to do or plant something in the garden.  my kids don't ask to go to the park often.  we have a little pool and trampoline in our backyard so we play a lot out there.  but sometimes we'll be out and about and i'll ask them if they want to stop at the park.  they're little and i'm a stay-at-home mom...what else are we going to do all day? :::wink:::  unless it's crazy hot.  then i say 'no, because it's too hot!'

interesting question...honestly, i'd probably say 'yes.'  but if i have to say 'no,' it'd because i'm tired, have chores to do, or we are doing something busy that night and need to rest because of the activity.

sometimes we just need to stay home and enjoy restfulness.  simplifying doesn't just have to do with also has to do with schedules.  i have no lack of things i *could* do...but i do lack time for just doing nothing or exploring the space that's right in front of me....
honestly, though?  i'd probably just go to the park.

if i say 'no,' it's usually because we just did something big the day before or are doing something big the next day.  i like to give low-key days before and after.

if i said 'no,' which i tried to never do when they were little {i LOVED going to parks and playgrounds}, then it probably would have been because i was "tired of running around and wanted to stay home and put our feet up for a while."

if i were to say 'no,' i would do so because i want my down time while my littles nap.  or i would say 'no' because i have things i want to clean up so i can relax later.
actually, i'd probably say 'yes.'

i guess it all depends on my mood at the time.  there are times that i've had a busy morning and now i want to relax and not have to pack up to go to the park.  the second reason might be that i'm being selfish.  i just want my own time.
yet, life goes by too fast.  take the park trip and relax there.  
i think either option [staying home or going to the park] is justifiable depending on where you are at.  if you are a mom that is constantly doing things for and with the kids and they have TONS of fun time and you're tired then "oh well."  
if your life is pretty boring and centered around the mother's wants and needs, well then, that needs to be evaluated and looked at deeper.
most of all, we have such a short time with these little ones--make the time count for the bettering of them overall.
maybe they need to learn that today is a work day and a relaxing afternoon at home--instead of going all the time.  that would be to their benefit.
but if you're a mother that never does anything with her kids and basically avoids all situations that have to deal with kids, that's a heart issue.
i'm being redundant and have been on BOTH ends of the spectrum myself.  i hope i answered the question!

i said 'no' because i have, i feel at the time, something more important i could do or i just don't want to go.
{not that you want an explanation, but....}
i have realized that i say 'no' way too often.  i say 'no' just because...and i don't even think about why i'm saying it.  i have been trying to reserve NO for when i really mean it.
life is too short to not want to be with or do something with my kids.  
the other day the kids were driving me crazy and then i stopped and realized that someday when they are in college or gone and married, i will wish they were around to make a mess or to take to the park.  there really is so little that is more important than spending time with your children!

if i said 'no' to something like this, most likely the reason would normally be that i just like to stay home.  i don't like to be too busy going and doing stuff and running around.

by the time i'd finished gathering responses, the direction of this post had completely shifted.
where i anticipated dogmatic, fist-pounding emphasis on all the reasons we should say 'yes' every time it's humanly possible, i instead found mercy and grace for those days that being a mom and wife is challenging enough all on its own, even without any elective activities added. 
on the flip side, i received a friendly "kick in the seat of the pants" for those days that i really do need to spend a bit more time and energy working on my relationships over my responsibilities.

it ended up being a lot less about passing harsh judgment on myself for every time i deny my children a request, and a lot more about looking at the circumstances--the surrounding days and hours and activities--as a whole and choosing what is best for that particular time.

as mothers...we are inundated with so much admonition...
reproofs that often contradict each other...
"spend as much time as possible with your children."
"be sure to take time for yourself."
"the days are long, but the years are short."
"you can't give what you don't have."
"live in the moment."
"think of the day, you'll wish they were little again."
and on...and on...
depending on your personality, you may find it easier to justify your daily bits of quiet "alone time"...
or you may condemn yourself often for those moments of perceived selfishness.
i think it helps to know how many others are out there, going through the same exact daily struggles we're going through...
and not everyone says 'yes'...
and not everyone says 'no'...
there is no perfect formula for how often to say either one.

in the end, i'm here to say, tomorrow, if your kiddos want you to take them to the park...or the pool...or the playground, take a second or two to think before you just blurt out a pat-answer 'no.' 
and if that second's thought helps you to change your answer to the affirmative, great!
but if you find yourself dozing off while you're re-thinking your answer, maybe you just need a good.long.nap.
and that's fine, too!

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