Learning to say NO

Saying NO is not easy. Personally I gravitate towards YES. However NO is one of the words that I quickly learnt to use more often the moment our twins were born and all our three children were under three years.

When you are a sleep deprived working mom, weekends become the days to catch up on sleep and this means learning to say NO to requests and invitations without any FOMO.

I will be the first to admit that motherhood is demanding and takes a lot from you. I also know that sometimes we take on too much be it at work, with our families and even friends and we end up complaining about how we struggle to ‘balance’ it all. Part of self care and getting balance (which I prefer to call rhythm) is learning to say NO.

1. Saying NO to friends/ family

I have already said I gravitate towards YES or you could say I like pleasing others. My children’s arrival challenged this. How is it even possible to go out with three children under three to our usual girls coffee? The biggest challenge comes when our friends or family cannot take NO for an answer. For me the below have worked most of the time.

– Delay the response to give you more time but still get back with your NO.(๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜‰ Now my family know how I operate..)

– With family give reasons for the NO so that they do not make assumptions or take it personally.

– How you say NO is very important as your tone of voice also communicates more than the words you choose.

2. Saying NO to children

My children are persistent. They just do not take NO for an answer (like the widow in the Bible who wanted justice against her adversary). This is a very good quality and I like that they do not give up easily. I have therefore found ways of saying NO without actually using that word. The below is a typical conversation in our home many times a week.

Zaya: Mummy I want chocolate/ candy/ ice cream….( NB this is a few minutes or an hour before supper)

Answer 1: Delayed gratification which is also conditional.

If you eat supper first and then I will give you chocolate.

Answer 2: Offer a healthier alternative

What if I offer you X instead?

Answer 3: Distract with something else that the child likes. Most times they forget about the request or should I say sometimes.

Hey Zaya come see what I found.

Answer 4: Use an authority figure the child respects. In my case its the school teacher. It could even be their favourite cartoon character.

Do you think Miss Alice would want you to have candy before supper?

Of course there are also situation where an out right NO is needed so that the child clearly understands acceptable behaviour.

Unconsciously working moms say YES to ease the guilt of being away from the children. Please do not fall into this trap.

3. Saying NO at work

Sometimes you know you are truly not able to take on more but you find yourself agreeing to certain requests for reasons I will not detail here. In some work places this is further complicated by the words they put into the contract that says ‘…. and any other duties….’

Here are my views on when to say NO at work and how to say it.

When to say NO

– When what you are being asked to do goes against your values.

– When what you are being asked to do is clearly outside of your job description and can easily be done by someone else that you know has the time to do it at that particular time.

– When you already have more urgent priorities that are already agreed and cannot take on more work without compromising the quality of what you are already doing.

-When you have clearly weighed the risks of saying NO and can live with the consequences of that decision.

How to say NO

-Explain your situation without going into many details.

– If this particular task can only be done by you, then clearly present the most realistic timelines for completion given your current workload. By all means avoid taking on more when you cannot deliver it when it’s needed.

– If possible say NO in person. If this is not possible, a phone call is always better than an email.

– How you say no and your tone of voice matters.

Just to tie it all, do not just say NO for the sake of it. When a YES is appropriate, then by all means say YES but if you are a “people pleaser” like me then learn to say NO.

Share with me how you say no to children, family and at work.


Published by Mum in Stilettos

I started blogging when i became a mother. I was struggling to manage the demands of being a working mom and being present for my baby's key development milestones. Initially this was a rant about my experiences in the office and at home. Over the years it has evolved into an online support community for mothers who are growing their families as they grow their careers. I am a wife and mum to 3 amazing children. The girl who introduced me the "mother" title is 8 years ol and our twins are five years, 6 months. During the day I am have a job i love as marketer for a multinational FMCG company. When i get home, I have another equally rewarding job called being a mother. When everyone is tucked in bed, I find time to blog about my journey as a mum in stilettos and build this community for us working moms so we can thrive at home and at work.

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