No. It is such a small word, yet at times, something many of us find difficult to utter. The inability to say no to work, friends or family can cause so much stress in our lived lives.
Much of the therapeutic work I do is helping parents to build boundaries in the family dynamic so they can confidently tell their children ‘no’ when they are confronted by unreasonable demands.
It is important that children hear ‘no’ because it prevents them from developing unrealistic expectations about the world.
And yet we can as parents be quite slow to say that magic word, even when we know we should. In my experience I have yet to meet an adult that said ‘I must really thank my parents for giving into my every whim’.
I have certainly met clients that said, ‘my parents always gave into my demands. I never had to face consequences, maybe that’s why I struggle to compromise’.
This type of mentality is destructive for a young developing mind. We all need to hear a firm ‘no’ at times. So, saying ‘no’ is an important part of parenting, but another facet of life where we need to become more comfortable with saying ‘no’ is in our own personal life.
Many of the clients I work with have sought out therapy because the balance in their life is off. They know the reason for this imbalance but feel at a loss as to what to do. They have become overwhelmed with the amount of work or responsibilities they have taken on and do not know how to pull back to protect their mental health from collapsing.
Why is it we take on too much? And what can we do to prevent burnout or becoming overwhelmed with our daily lives? This is something most of us have to work on, because becoming overwhelmed can so easily creep up on us if we are not vigilant about the workload we allow to be placed on us. Being effective in work is not about the amount of work you do but how you manage your time while you are in work and how you manage the time you are away from work.
If you allow all of your time to be consumed with work you will quickly burn out. You improve your efficiency when you are fresh and excited for work. Bill Gates recently said it wasn’t until he saw Warren Buffett’s empty weekly schedule that he realised he was not utilising his time correctly. Gates said that being busy is not ‘a proxy of your seriousness’ and that time management is an integral component of being successful.
Time is the one thing we cannot buy. If you pack your time with an unrealistic workload or responsibilities you will collapse. I see this with many of the women who come into my clinic.
The pressure they have placed on themselves because they find it so hard to say ‘no’ to whatever has been asked of them. I often feel the pressure in the room as they delineate their daily routine; drop the kids to school, go to work, collect the kids, drop them at various activities, make the dinner, visit their parents, collect the kids, wash the uniforms and prepare for the next day.
It is generally an exhaustive litany of banal routine that would cause the burnout of the most stoic and resilient among us. When I ask the simple question, ‘where are you in all of this?’ they immediately understand what I am saying and acknowledge they have to change something because they are becoming lost in routine.
As parents we are busy. There is no getting away from that. Dropping and collecting kids and making dinners and all the rest of what goes with being a parent can consume our daily lives. We must work to find balance or things will fall apart.
The centre will not hold if you are constantly in a state of frenzied movement. So, what can that mother do to better manage the responsibilities she has? This is such an important question. Firstly, it should not all land on her lap. As parents you must sit down and make a sensible plan of who is going to do what during the week. Dividing up responsibilities ensures the workload is not landing on the one lap.
Also, our children cannot do every activity or go on every play date. So, do not feel guilty for saying ‘no’ to something that places incredible strain on your day. We can often get caught running around from play date to play date like headless chickens. Your child does not need to go on so many play dates. By pulling back a little and dividing up the chores during the week, that little space you find could make all the difference.
It is so important that you find time to check in with yourself. Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you lose yourself in the process. Often we have to work at staying connected to ourselves, that is not a selfish act but rather a vital one if we are to remain happy and healthy in our role as parent.