Saying No


Saying ‘no’ can feel hard—especially to people we love. But if you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, you might benefit from saying no more often. We have to take ownership over how we spend our time, money, and energy.

If we don’t, we will end up burned out, exhausted, and broke.

It can be hard to say no, whether it's saying no to our kids, to obligations, to other adults, it's challenging because saying no often means setting a boundary. And when we set boundaries, sometimes other people get upset. If you're relatively new to saying no and setting boundaries, it can feel scary because you can worry about other people getting angry. But I will warn you if you don't say no and you don't set boundaries, you are going to end up angry and upset. We have to take ownership over how we spend our time, our money and our energy. And if we don't, we're likely to end up burnout exhausted and broke financially. If you're feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, you might benefit from it. Practicing saying no more often, even to the people that you love. That's what we're talking more about today.

All right, back to today's episode 'saying no,' I think we can all get better at saying no and saying no with tact and with grace it's possible before kids, when life felt simpler. I didn't feel like I needed to say no quite much, because I had more room, more room in my life to make space for things that maybe weren't filling up my cup. Maybe weren't lighting me up. But now that I have kids, life feels more full on many levels. And the result is that I do need to practice saying no more often because my time and my money and my energy are more limited. So as your family grows, and as you grow as a human and as life starts to feel filled to the brim, we're going to have to practice saying no. And naturally we're going to have to be more discerning about our yeses.

There are three main areas of saying no, that I'm going to talk about with you today saying no to our kids saying no to obligations and saying no to other adults. All right, let's start by talking about our kids. It's hard to say no to our kids because we want our kids to be happy. I think that is the natural tendency of every parent. Seeing your kids light up with joy, seeing them laugh, all those things, seeing our kids feel good, makes us feel good too. However, sometimes that desire to see our kids happy can lead us to take on the responsibility for their happiness. It can leave us feeling like we are in charge of making them happy all the time. But the truth is they are in charge of their own happiness. It is not our job to make sure that they're smiling all day.

It is not our job to make sure that they never cry or that they never feel pain. Our kids need to experience a whole range of emotions, just like us. They need to know that it's okay to feel happy and to feel sad and to feel angry. They need to learn that these are normal human emotions that we don't need to fear, but we do need to practice coping with. And when we make it our job to keep our kids happy all the time, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. So when it comes to saying no to our kids and setting boundaries with them, we have to remember that we're also teaching them. Let's start by talking about the boundary over your physical space. Maybe your kids love to cuddle and crawl on you. And sometimes you just aren't feeling it. Sometimes you just need a little room, if that sounds like you that's okay.

It's quite all right to tell your kids that you don't want to be touched or that you need a break that you need some physical distance. It's okay to set boundaries and say no about your body. My daughter is the kind of kid who is just always wiggling and always in her early years was crawling all over me. And I got to the point where I just stopped noticing it. She could be like crawling on my shoulders, sitting on my head. And I would just continue going around about what I was doing because I got used to it that it didn't feel disruptive to me. Most of the time, most of the time, it didn't bother me, but there were days where I just did not want her crawling on me sitting on my head days where I just needed more space. And in those moments, it's okay to ask for space.

But here's what happens when we don't set a boundary, you know, days where she was crawling all over me and I wasn't feeling it, but I let it happen anyways. And it happened more and it happened more until finally I was over it. And I was angry when I was pushed to the edge of my boundary and I didn't vocalize my boundary. And then I got upset about it. So for instances like this, I found that I had to be more in tuned with what I needed. And if I didn't want her crawling on me, I needed to tell her straight up. I need some space right now and not feel bad about it, even if it's not what she wanted to hear, because in doing that, it prevents me from getting angry, but it also teaches her to set boundaries over her own physical space, which is a life lesson. That's going to be important for her as she grows in general.

I think that we have to be really careful about setting boundaries around our bandwidth. When it comes to our kids, what are we actually able to do? There'll be days where my kids come home from school and they want to paint and do clay, watch TV play out in the snow, like a dozen things that they want to do, and I need to cook dinner.

So the things that they want to do require me in some way shape. Well, I would love to indulge them in all the things that they want to do. It comes at a cost. If I over promise and under deliver, we all end up upset. So on an evening like this, where I'm being inundated with the million things that they want to do, I'm honest. And I say, I have to make dinner after we finished dinner.

There'll be time for one thing. So pick one thing that you want my help with. And some days there might not be time for anything things, and they have to go play and find their own way. And that's okay too. There are also things that our kids want that we just don't feel good about. Maybe it's a new video game system. Maybe it's LOL dolls. If your kids want something in their life that you don't feel quite all right with that you have reservations over. It's okay to say no. My son has been asking me to download the Sonic app. It's a Sonic game. I don't even know what it is honestly.

And in the past I've seen that when I do get an app like this for him, that he has asks for it constantly and wants to play it all the time. And it becomes kind of a thing, a difficult thing for me to manage. And frankly, the addition of something like this just feels complicated for me. It takes away more than it adds into our life. I know he really wants the Sonic game. And if I do download the game, me having to say no and set limits on it is going to end up upsetting him much more than the game ever brought him pleasure.

So I'm saying no to the game, even though it's probably free, it's still cost my time and my energy and my bandwidth to manage it. And I don't think it particularly enriches his life either saying no to things like this, especially free things can be particularly challenging because it can seem to our kids as if we have no good reason to say no, but I always encourage you to follow your gut.

If your gut is telling you, it's not the right idea, it's not the right time. Then follow your gut. It's hard to say no to stuff, but it's also hard to say no to things that cost money. We want to give our kids the world, but often giving our kids, the world comes at a price. We have to be realistic about what we can afford to give our kids. This boundary is critical for us and for them because every bank account, every credit card has limits. That becomes part of an important seed that is planted. That will be beneficial to them for years to come. That money is limited. Life is expensive. And even though there are lots of things we would love to do, there are lots of things we have to say no to. We haven't done a lot of activities with our kids, but right now we're doing even less.

And I will say that it feels very freeing. We have no afterschool obligations. So we just come home and have a pretty set routine every night after school. And I know it won't always be that way as they grow, but having that consistency and having that peace in the evening has been a really nice experience. I know what it feels like. And I think that if we do get into the point where we take on more than we can handle, I'll be able to recognize that better as a result. And we all get to the point where we take on more than we can handle. If you have your kids signed up for too many activities and you're feeling maxed out, you don't have the bandwidth to run them around and execute all the things you need to do. It's okay to say no.

It's okay to scale back that initial change. If you are scaling back on the amount of activities and obligations might be hard for your kids to understand, but more than likely it's going to have a net positive impact on the wellbeing of your family. If you're starting to slow down and do less, saying no to obligations is something that has felt easier during the pandemic, because most of us have had fewer out of the home obligations. But if I reflect back to the obligations that I said yes to pre-kids and the obligations that I see, I guess, to post kids, it looks very different before kids. I said yes, to pretty much anything I was invited to. And I tried to keep that up after kids as well. But I quickly found out that I needed to be more selective because again, my and my money and my bandwidth became much more limited.

I distinctly remember one weekend early in Parenthood where we were invited to a barbecue. And I said, yes, because, you know, we just always said yes, and the day came around and I realized that I needed to cook something for the barbecue. It was a potluck. So not only was I committing the time to actually attend the barbecue, but I also had to commit the time to prep something in advance of the barbecue. So all in it took most of the day to attend to this commitment. And it wasn't even something I was really excited about. It was something I said yes to just because I felt like that's what I was supposed to do. If you don't say yes to the barbecue, you don't have to make the potato salad. So thinking about obligations as we grow, as our kids grow, how do we become more selective with what we're going to say yes to and what we're going to attend to and how do we feel confident when we say no, because saying no can feel uncomfortable.

Most of us don't like upsetting and making other people angry. But when we don't say no and set that boundary, we often end up upset and angry and overwhelmed and burnout. Let's talk about saying no to other adults. This has been an area that I feel like I've grown a lot since I've became a mother and an area that I've always really struggled with. And I still struggle with, especially when I'm dealing with other professionals, I'll give you a couple of examples. So we sold our house recently and part of the process was our real estate agent had a photographer come and take pictures of our house. So the day that the listing went up, she sent us the listing and we looked at the pictures and I really didn't like the pictures. They were just not good for lack of better words. And I'm not that picky, but the pictures were just not very good.

And so I talked to my husband and I'm like, what are we going to do? Are we just going to leave them? Are we so afraid to speak up and say, no, these are not adequate that we're going to just let them be right. Running that risk of upsetting our real estate agent by saying something or being upset ourselves and not saying anything. So we said something and it was very much outside of my comfort zone to speak up about this. And I'm so glad that we did say something because actually our real estate agent agreed with us.

She also thought that the pictures were not that good, but she felt bad saying something to the photographer, her inability to say no to the photographer spilled over onto us. And we had to make that hard decision to say no to her. And I think it was a really great exercise for both of us in recognizing when it's important to stand up for what you need and speak up and have your voice heard. Even if it's a little bit uncomfortable as a woman, I find that I'm often worried about appearing to be high maintenance. And I felt like saying something about these pictures would make our real estate agent think that I'm high maintenance and not want to work with me.

And there's a lot of that stuff coming up for me. So it did feel like I was going outside of my comfort zone by saying something, but we went on to have an incredible relationship and it didn't impact our ability to work together at all. If I hadn't spoken up about the pictures, I think I probably would've felt resentful throughout the rest of the process feeling like she didn't do a good job of representing our house. I have

A lot of these examples because it's something that I find difficult, but I do frequently, even though it is hard for me, another example was I had a speech therapy evaluation set up for my kid. And there was a one speech therapist that I really wanted to work with that came highly recommended.

She had decades of experience and was well-regarded and I called to set up, have an appointment and I couldn't get in with her for six months. So I said, okay, fine. Just give me whoever else you have available that's available soon. So they sent me up with another practitioner that was available. I think it was in like two weeks. So I went onto their website to read a little bit about the person who they set me up with to do the assessment. This assessment was pretty lengthy and expensive, and it was important to me that this person was really able to get it right. So when he looked at the website and read her bio, she had only been out of school for about a year. That year had been the pandemic.

So I knew that the number of face-to-face clients that she had seen was probably very low. And again, I was really looking for someone that was more seasoned that had more experience because I was paying a lot of money for this and it was important to me and I wanted to get it right. So I called back and I said, you know, I looked on your website and I see that this practitioner that you set me up with is very new. And I really am looking for someone more seasoned. So I'm going to have to cancel my appointment.

And I will tell you that was so uncomfortable to me. I don't know. Maybe other people have an easier time of doing that, but that was really hard for me. I felt really bad rejecting this person and I didn't even know, and I really didn't even know anything about her other than what I read on the website, but the alternative would have been,

And to follow through with it, pay all this money for this person who I'm not sure is experienced enough. And I may question the results. So I said, no, even though I feel like I didn't even really give her a fair chance. I did what I had to do in the best interest of my family. I know I've heard from many of you that this also comes up a lot with extended family members, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, other people who come in their own opinions that might differ from you, especially when it comes to child rearing and how it's difficult to say no. And to assert our own opinions.

I know before I had kids, I was much more likely to just kind of nod and smile and go with the flow. But now I often feel like I want to advocate for what's best for my kids and my family. It's not as easy just to nod and smile and go with it. And sometimes that means saying no and setting boundaries with other family members.

I remember when I was a new mom and I was feeding my son and we were using baby led weaning, which is a way for a kid to feed themselves. And it teaches them lots and lots of skills exposes them to lots of new foods. It's a great way to feed babies. I highly recommend it, but to people who don't know about it, it can look kind of strange and unusual and Is gathering with a group of extended family members. And one of the family members said, why are you so lazy that you just can't feed your kid with a spoon?

And there are lots of ways that I could have taken that statement. I could have gotten really angry. I could've picked up a spoon and just said, okay, I will. But I took a deep breath and started to just very simply explain why we made the choice that we did because I realized that sometimes doing stuff in the best interest of our kids and our families means not nodding and smiling and going with the flow. Even if others are criticizing us for the choices that we're making so saying, no, it doesn't always feel easy, but often it's necessary. And often our lives can be so much better when we do.

We can have more time, more energy, more bandwidth, more money. So I encourage you practice saying, no, it can be hard, but often after you do it, you'll feel so much better. I hope this episode today, if you have take a screenshot of yourself, listening to it and post it to your Instagram stories, make sure that you tag me so I can reshare it. Thanks for tuning in. And I hope you have a good one.

Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.