I was raised to be nice. “Being nice”, per my upbringing, meant that you did everything anyone asked of you. You didn’t say “no”, and you didn’t complain. Well…you didn’t say “no” and you didn’t complain to them.
Behind closed doors, to your family, you complained. And behind closed doors, you denied your family your time, your attention, and your peace, because you were doing all kinds of things for other people. While this is no way for anyone to live, it is especially taxing for us single moms. I’m a huge believer in volunteering and giving back so that’s not an issue. Problem was, it was becoming nearly impossible to meet the single mom demands of running my family alone, AND keep up with the current demands on my time.
Watch out for Friends
I remember my clear turning point like it was yesterday. I was working over 40 hours in a management position, my kids were small, I was a Girl Scout Leader, I was a Sunday School teacher, I was in church choir, a room parent at the kids’ school, and I was in grad school. As you can imagine, I was having a hard time keeping up with my single mom life. Consequently, I didn’t have as much down time with my kids as I wanted to, or felt was necessary.
I wasn’t living my priorities and I was feeling a great deal of stress and anxiety because of it. About the same time, I came across one of the most incredibly influential books of my life. The Book of No, 250 Ways to Say It and Mean It and Stop People Pleasing Forever, by Dr. Susan Newman. (I’m sure finding this book was no coincidence.)
Buying the book was a no-brainer. I nearly downed those 197 pages in one sitting. When I finished, I felt amazing! Invigorated! Empowered! I. Sara Sherman. Had official permission to say “NO”, and I was ready to go.
If there ever was a situation to implement my new found “just say no skills”, this was it, right? I mean, these good church folk would surely understand my dilemma. Raising your children is the most important thing, right?
Yeah…turns out, not so much. My fellow God-fearers patiently let me finish my explanation of why I did not have time to fulfill all their requests, and how I believed my first priority was to my children. Then they hit me with a few explanations of their own. I heard why I was completely necessary to their process, why it had to me, how their projects would completely fall apart without me, how I would never that want that guilt on my head, and how if I thought about it…I would certainly come to the proper conclusion. Theirs.
I was stunned. These people were my friends. They saw me schlepp into church nearly each day completely exhausted. Yet, my friends had absolutely no interest in my needs and were solely focused on their own. If these people were acting like this, clearly I didn’t have a chance to get through to others. In that hot minute I realized that “No” was going to be my new best friend, but it was also clear that I had done something wrong in my execution. Back to the book I went.
Say No Correctly
Ahhh…right there it was.
#1 – Offer no explanation. Say no and be done. Loved it!
#2 – Get ready for the backlash.
Turns out, my church pals were having a normal reaction to the fact that I HAD CHANGED. I was no longer meeting a need they had, and they weren’t taking it lying down. My second lesson was to make peace with the fact that NO ONE was going to accept my no’s without a fight…or at least a heartfelt protest accompanied by a judgy look of scorn.
Didn’t matter. I had a bigger YES inside me for something else. They could judge, scorn, plead, and argue until they were blue. I wasn’t budging. (Unless it was to simply walk away. And I was shocked at both the number of times I needed to do that, and how truly easy it was.)
Over ten years later the Book of No still sits on my coffee table to remind me to distribute yeses sparingly, and how to get back on track when I have accidently over-yessed.
Without explanation, concern, regret, or guilt, I say “No” clearly, and often. “No” has transformed my single mom life. I am so much happier. I live MY Single Mom Priorities. And because I have removed the conflict between living my priorities, and living other people’s priorities, I have greater inner peace, and space in my life for my dreams, my interests, and most importantly, time for my children. As a single mom, your time is precious. Say “No”, loudly, clearly, unabashedly, and often.
For information on my Single Mom Master Plan Formula or Single Mom Priority Planning Blueprint, contact me at Sara@singlemomsasksara.com.