Sometimes self-care means saying no.
This is a revelation I had recently when I realized that saying no is just as essential as saying yes.
Saying “no” is actually my natural tendency. “No” is easier than “yes.”
“No” maintains what is familiar and easy; “yes” requires change.
I’ve worked really hard to say “yes” more, particularly when it comes to my kids or to receiving help or doing things that are out of my comfort zone.
Lately I’ve realized that I need to reclaim my “no,” because trying to say “yes” to everything is stressing me out. Right now, in the middle of my first big adventure solo-parenting my kids, I need less stress.
So I’ve been turning up the volume of my “no’s” and being more discerning about my “yeses”.
I’ve been saying no to the should’s and the shouldn’ts:
~You shouldn’t let your kid watch more than 30 minutes of a TV a day. You should minimize screen time. It makes kids dumb. TV is a treat.
NO. I work from home. I have things I need to get done. My 3 year old is terrible at occupying herself for more than 15 minutes at a time because she’s a totally normal 3 year old. TV helps a lot. We also still get outside every day for at least 2 hours, which is not enough, but it’s still good Vitamin D-soaking time. And have you met my 3 year old? Dumb is never a word I’d use to describe her.
Sometimes self-care is letting the 3 year old watch TV while I take a shower or while I do some yoga.
I’ve been saying no to the picture perfect pristine pinterest idea of living:
~Good lord, the house is a mess. There are piles of papers everywhere. There are hair-tumbleweeds floating around on the ground that Archer keeps magically finding and trying to ingest. The kitchen floor is a little sticky. Milly’s paints haven’t been cleaned up and they’re starting to dry out and the brushes are still stuck in the drying paint and it’s going to be hell when you finally do decide to clean it up. There is laundry that has been sitting for days waiting to be folded (and a new full basket of clothes that needs to be cleaned). Your walls are covered with hand prints and crayon scrawls. I can’t even begin to talk about the bathroom.
You need to stop writing this blog and start cleaning immediately.
NO. I need to write this blog. Writing is an emotional and intellectual outlet for me. So is my work.
The perfectly curated pinterest-worthy homes with their well-lit rooms that have toys artfully scattered on the floor are lovely. It would be great if I chose to dedicate more time to making my house look nice. My house is lived in. It’s messier than I would like but there is only one of me and two of them. I am outnumbered right now.
I do my best. I make sure the kitchen is clean before I go to bed because I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and also I want to keep the bugs away. I keep the bathroom mirror clean because I look into it every day. The rest of the house is vaguely organized chaos. I do my best. My goal is to have less stuff in the house so I have to clean less. This is one of the big reasons I am looking forward to moving. I’m going to have to get rid of lots of stuff. So excited.
Sometimes self-care is allowing the mess so I have time for other things that feed my soul.
I’ve said no to some of my previous routines and habits and principles that I once valued:
~Are you working now? It’s after 8pm! Remember, no screen time an hour before bed! You’re running the dishwasher again? You used to be so great about hand-washing everything. What a waste of water. You obviously don’t care much about the earth.
NO. First, I do care about the earth. A lot. Many people might think this is silly, but I used to rarely use the dishwasher other than as a very large dish drying rack. Now it saves me time. I do a lot of other stuff for mama earth that I am super proud of. Using the dishwasher 2 or 3 times a week is not the worst thing I could do, especially when it gives me more time outside with my kids or working on important mama programming.
As for working later or staying up later, it’s my preference to be off screens early. Since Archer was born, I’ve been on my iPhone more at night and in bed than I was before, usually when I’m nursing. Mama needs something to keep her awake so she doesn’t drop him off the bed by accident in her sleep. Once he stops nursing late at night, I’ll give up the phone. But working later – I need to make the best use of my time that I can right now. Even if that means working from 8-9pm if both kids are asleep. Like most habits, I know I can shift this one back when I need to.
Sometimes self-care is allowing habits to come and go when they serve you. Self-care is not one size fits all.
I say no to my kids, sometimes.
~You can’t say no to your kids! They lead the way, always. Let them explore and engage and do what they want. When you say no you are killing their little explorer spirits.
NO. Kids need boundaries as much as they need freedom. They need to learn that some behaviors aren’t ok. They need timeouts, sometimes. I’ve actually started doing time outs with Milly. I’ve only done it a few times, but we both sit quietly on the couch and breathe. It works sometimes.
Sometimes self-care is saying “no you can’t go outside right now and play because I can’t go outside with you and monitor you and you’re only 3 and don’t understand some of the basic rules of staying alive like not running into the street just because you want to.” Sometimes self-care is saying, “no I can’t hold you right now even though I want to.” Sometimes self-care means I am going to get my food ready first and then make yours so we can eat together.
I’ve said no to the obligations:
~You go to this parents meet up at school. Be social. You need to get out more. You need to keep teaching this yoga class even though the class isn’t as big as it used to be. Who cares if you can’t pay the babysitter. You need to keep teaching because a few people are showing up and those people matter!
NO. Some things are going to fall by the wayside. I might forget to sign up to bring flowers to Milly’s school or choose not to attend the coffee and donuts event for parents. I don’t drink coffee or eat donuts, but I also have such limited time solo in the morning that anything that encroaches on that time will just make me cranky and resentful.
Sometimes self-care is realizing when to let go of one thing to make space for something better or more beneficial.
Self-care is choosing HOW and WHAT you will fill your time with.
Here’s the thing about self-care. It’s not always restorative yoga and spa days. Sometimes self-care is making difficult choices that will serve you in the long run, but might create a little conflict in the immediate moment.
When I say no to one thing, I am ultimately saying yes to another.
Usually I’m saying yes to me.
When I am in a place where I am actually saying yes to me, it becomes clear that I know what I want and the best way to get it.
Self-care is knowing what you want, choosing it, and making time for yourself to do it. Even if it means saying no to something else. That “no” will open a lot of doors, even if it initially closes one or two in the process.
This is the kind of truth I want to impart to everyone about self-care. This is the kind of truth I want ALL MOMS TO KNOW about self-care.