Mums are busy, that’s just how it is, and how it will always be. There’s always something that needs to be done, whether that’s taking a child to an after school club, putting the washing on or sorting out the house insurance. Mums are great at multitasking, but there comes a point where there’s just too much to do. This is the point at which you need to start saying NO. It might be no to a playdate or extra hours at work or even to a night out.
However, it can be really hard to say no, especially when it’s to a loved one or a close friend. That’s when the mum guilt creeps in – ‘will they be cross with me for saying no?’ or ‘will my child think I don’t love them?’ Actually, it can be worse for you if you do say yes. Yet another activity or task to think about or plan for, taking time away from looking after yourself.
It can be hard to begin with, but you can work up to being capable of saying no, and once you start you won’t be able to stop! The first stage is to take some time to reflect on the following points:
• Accept that whilst you would like to be Super Mum, you cannot do everything and still have time for enough self-care
• Understand that you’re not being selfish. Reflect on how many things you say yes to on a daily basis, or do without even being asked. Mums are not selfish. Fact.
• If there are specific people you need to say no to, think about what would happen if you said no. Would it really be the end of the world if they stopped talking to you for a bit?
This reflection is key because even if you have started saying no, if you don’t have the right mindset then the mum guilt will still creep in afterward. It can also give your confidence a boost that you can draw upon when you next get asked.
One great strategy to draw upon is no, but…which is where you are saying no but offering a solution or alternative. For example, if you’re asked by a friend to go on a playdate and you really can’t face it, offer an alternative date in the future or the name of someone else who may be available. That way you are maintaining your relationship with your friend but you’ve said the all-important no.
As soon as you’ve started saying no to things, keep these in your mind as successes to draw upon when the next question comes up. It can help to write them down or store them on your phone as a reminder. Make sure you’re aware of the response of the person you’ve turned down, inevitably it’s not going to have gone as badly as you were imagining.
You’ll never be able to fully get rid of the mum guilt, it will be there until your children are grown up and parents themselves. However, there are some occasions where you can put yourself first without feeling guilty. It takes practice but you’ll feel so proud of yourself when you’ve said your first no!