I remember like it was yesterday. Sitting in his office in the music building. Surrounded by a mess of sheet music, instruments that needed repaired, playbills, pencils, and metronomes. We were discussing my role in the school play. It was my senior year of high school, and as such I was hoping to make it a banner year. But I also had a great deal of other responsibilities. I was launching out while making my last stand as a high school student.
It was a busy year.
He told me when practices would be. They conflicted with other things, naturally, but if I left early or worked late or came in during study hall I could make it work. He showed me what my responsibilities would be. I wasn’t certain when I would have time to learn the lines or practice the songs or put in the long hours… but I was trying to make it work!
And then he looked me in the eyes and paused a dramatic moment before speaking truth into my deepest struggle ever:
“Jenny. You really need to learn to say ‘no’.”
I promptly ignored him.
But… I remember that moment as clearly as if I were in his office today.
Because I relive that scenario. That situation. That conversation.
This past week was no exception.
I wish I could share all the details with you. It’s not riveting or life-changing or entertaining. It’s just a week in the life of a mom who happens to have a blog platform to share such mundane things. But here I am, a blink later, asking myself over and over again when I am ever going to learn that high school lesson.
Because so far it hasn’t kicked in.
From Monday through Saturday I was presented with multiple invitations. Every day there was something. A different group, activity, obligation, opportunity. Chances to play. To celebrate. To catch up. To see people I hadn’t seen in a while. To show my commitment. My friendship. That I’m still alive. Chances to say yes.
And so I did.
I said yes. And with very little sleep and zero consistency we went and we went and we went until Saturday afternoon when we finally came home.
And guess what?
Now BOTH my kids are sick and I have a cold. Hmm…
I knew better. I knew better than to run myself and my kids into the ground like that. To keep saying yes to every activity that came up (or that I had forgotten about). But do you know what happened? I felt obligated.
Obligated to my blogging group. Obligated to playgroup. Obligated to friends. Obligated to family. Obligated to my work. Obligated to let my kids have fun. Obligated to VBS. Obligated to attending every event presented.
I felt guilty saying no… again. Hurting someone’s feelings. Being left out. Missing out. Not being supportive. Not ‘valuing’ friendships. Not saying ‘yes’.
But by saying ‘yes’ to nine activities in one week meant I said ‘no’ to a lot of other (arguably) more important things. Things like sleep. And schedules. And stillness. And my home. And my husband.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love being part of my blog team. I love and value my playgroup friends. I cherish time with family. I enjoy seeing my kids having fun and being active. I long for my daughter to know God better and delight in His Word. I want to share in others’ celebrations. And my work is my lifeline and my calling where I can create and give back. But after this week I really need to stop everything and do an honest evaluation.
When is enough enough? When do I need to listen to my gut and say ‘no’? When do I need to put my children’s needs above their wants or above our plans or, God forbid, above my obligations? Why do I wait until we are all sick and rundown to realize that I’ve committed to too much? When am I going to stop caring if I hurt feelings or let someone down or disappoint for the sake of my family?
When is enough enough?
It’s stupid, really. And I always feel like I need to justify myself. When in reality, if I said what was really going on, “My kids are beat… we just need a day at home” everyone would probably understand. So why don’t I understand?
When will I learn that it’s ok to say, “no.”
The world will not end.
My most important friendships will not disappear.
My children will not grow up without any fun, educational, or social experiences.
I will not “miss out” on life.
On the contrary, I imagine if I could learn to set limits and say “no” and live my priorities, my life would actually be richer. My friendships deeper. My children’s experiences more influential. And the time and emotional energy gained could be used for far more important things- like rest and growth and relationships with the most important people in my life.
If I could only learn to say ‘no’.