Sage advice on saying no… from a seven-year-old

How many times has someone asked you to add yet another event to your calendar and your response goes something like this:

Your mind says: Hell no. I have no interest in attending that ridiculous event.
Your mouth says: That sounds fantastic! Can I bring a cheese tray?

Kinda gross, right?

It’s what I call living a double life as a result of having no boundaries. Your mind knows the last thing you need is to add another fundraiser, birthday party or community gathering to your docket, but your mouth bypasses these internal warning signs and goes hog wild — not only signing you up to attend, but to bring a platter of donuts and stack up all the chairs after everyone leaves.

The mouths of mothers can be such jerks sometimes.

I mean, show some respect. Thankfully, over the years I’ve read dozens of self-help books that help me say no/nope/forget it more frequently than ever before.

The result? More free time, less exhaustion. More happiness, less anxiety.

But I’m certainly not perfect and I always appreciate one of those smack-you-in-the-face reminders of the choice (yes, it is a choice) we make as mothers to take on more tasks, pressure and stress than any single human should.

As with any decision in life, you always have a choice — whether you believe that or not. Case in point? Even if you’re held at gunpoint in the alley behind your favorite thrift store, you still get to decide whether to hand over your wallet or take the bullet.

Sad, but true.

While I love learning how to make more conscious choices from spiritual gurus like Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra and Gabrielle Bernstein, this past week I soaked up some sacred knowledge from the seven-year-old little girl next door, Bernadette.

Let me take you back to the scene of the enlightenment.

My husband and I were in the trenches, preparing to host a neighborhood party — frantically running around picking up dog toys, hiding LEGOs and stuffing soccer balls in the hall closet. Meanwhile my daughter was playing with Bernadette in the backyard, waiting for the guests to arrive.

Just before the party started, another mother from the neighborhood stopped by to make a small request of my daughter and her friend. “Girls,” she said. “We have some friends visiting from Sweden this weekend and they’ll be attending the party. Would you mind welcoming their youngest daughter and looking out for her while she’s here?”

It seemed like a simple request.

However, before my ten-year-old daughter could even process the question, the mini-me next to her had a truth bomb to drop. Leaping to her tiptoes, Bernadette tapped Layla on the shoulder and quietly whispered into her ear, “You know you can say no, right? She said would you mind?”

I nearly fell into the pool.

Now, before you go and get all nervous, of course my daughter said yes to extending a little love and kindness to someone visiting our country, but that’s not the point. The point is:

Every woman needs the wisdom of Bernadette in her ear.

She’s clearly clued in, wise beyond her years and not afraid to look at a request for exactly what it is — a choice to consciously say yes or no.

As mothers, we don’t think about requests this way. We completely ignore that when we’re asked to do something that we’re technically being asked if we’re able/willing/available/interested in doing so.

It’s a yes or no question — but you have to give yourself the chance to think before you speak.

My advice is to try Bernadette’s wisdom on for size. The next time your child, neighbor or long-lost friend asks you to do something you don’t have time (or let’s be honest — don’t want) to do, picture this: your seven-year-old self tapping your forty-year-old self on the shoulder and reminding you that the question in front of you is a choice, not an order.

This momentary pause will give you exactly what you need in the heat of a decisive moment — an opportunity for your mouth to shut up so your intuition has a chance to speak.

And if any part of you (heart/soul/intuition/gut) says you should keep that time for yourself rather than give it away, then your answer shouldn’t be just no — it should be hell no.

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