I know I’m not alone when I say, “Hello, my name is Kristin Edstrom and I struggle to say, “no”.” It’s taken me awhile to get to this point in my life – and still each day is a battle to stop my habit of saying, “yes” too quickly. The following is a letter to myself, incase I ever forget about the importance of saying “no”.
You have had a long track record of being a people-pleasing, overachieving, perfectionist who definitely has a fear of missing out, #fomo. Yet, you feel that you have come to a point in your life where you are looking at the trajectory of your life and wondering, “If I don’t start saying “no” what is going to give?”
You have recognized that most important principle of learning to say no is this: when you say “yes” to one thing, you are always subsequently saying “no” to another. This is called “opportunity costs”, and, as you’ll recall, it’s the only aspect of your first year economics course that stuck with you.
Remember that day when you came to the realization that choosing to see another client in the evening because their schedule didn’t line up with yours meant that you were basically telling your girls “no” (not explicitly but subliminally)? When you said yes to a bend in your schedule, you told your girls: “I’m not going to spend time with you right now giving you a bath, reading you stories and tucking you into bed tonight because fitting one more client in is more important than spending time with you.”
So, when you choose to look at your phone or take a call when your kids are around and wanting your attention, you are choosing to say “yes” to looking and perhaps responding to that text message. By saying “yes” to the phone check, you said “no” to paying attention to your kids. In not so many words, perhaps no words at all, you tell your girls that your phone and whoever is on the other end of it is more important than them. You are teaching them, through modeled behavior, that it is ok to do that to you and other people in their lives.
Remember Kristin, Lily and Stella won’t outright tell this to you, but rest assured that a “yes” to something society is pulling you towards is almost always a “no” to them.
Kristin, there will come a time when you want your girls to ask you to drop them off inside at their classroom, that you will want them to ask you to go to Boston Pizza on a Thursday after school – just the two of you, that you will miss those times that they take you by the hand and show you the drawing of you that they have been working on – there will be times when you are wanting to blurt out “YES!” to them and the only thing you will receive in return will be a car door in your face before you can even get out the words, “I love you!” at school drop off, you will be wanting that invite to a private date at Boston Pizza after school, but instead receive a text asking if they can go over to a friend’s house to have pizza, you will be waiting for them with pencil crayons sharpened and ready to draw with them, only to find out they’re staying out late.
Your kids in absolutely every way right now are asking you to be the stars in their life. They are asking you in tangible and intangible ways, directly and indirectly to be their centers – to come alongside of them and give them security, admiration, encouragement, a place they can be safe and secure…..they want more than anything right now for you to be their biggest allies, best friends and constants.
These moments and years are fleeting, you are told that and feel that fleetingness on the daily. You know that in time, you won’t be invited to snuggle until they fall asleep (“with both legs in the bed mommy” – you have really got to get Stella a bigger bed!), you won’t be asked to follow them up and down and all around the playground, you won’t be the one they want to always sit next to at the dinner table. So, right now, never leave them guessing what you’ll say when they put the invite out – never leave them thinking “she might say no.”
So Kristin…if at all possible, go to the park, take your bikes out for a ride together, go to the ice cream store, stop and feed the ducklings, play on the playground, give under ducks, read the books, look at the artwork created just for you, whatever the request….DO IT ALL, because there will come a day when that little hand is reaching for another’s and you will so badly crave the feeling of it reaching for yours. Life is not too busy to literally stop and smell the roses – it’s going by so quickly that you can’t afford not to.
Right now say “no” mindfully as MUCH as you can to things that aren’t truly imminent and pressing in return for spending quality time on your children and on your own well being. This might be saying “no” to returning phone calls, answering texts, committing to anything outside of your family, putting courses or school work that will stress you out and limit your time with your kids on hold – there will be PLENTY of time for that afterwards – trust me – and even if there is not – you’ll be glad you placed first things first. Your kids want and deserve YOU – raw, real and beautiful YOU – not you on your cell phone, not you trying to balance everything, not you with a perfectly clean house, just YOU – the one who brought them into this world, you, the one who saw them through all their firsts in life, YOU, the only one that can be their universe right now. YOU are the only one that can do that exact job. Anyone else can do the jobs you are saying “yes” to right now, ANYONE (I know it may not feel that way, but trust me, there are lots of people that can fill in for you in life right now)– but if you say, “no” to the job of being a parent, no one, absolutely no one, can fill in that job for you. It will be the best investment of time, energy and love you have ever given.
Oh, and Kristin, you’re a great mom and you are doing a great job at raising your girls, you may not feel that way everyday, but you really are.
Your 36 year old self.