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LIFE AS I KNOW IT: Nothing wrong with saying ‘no’

Saying ‘no’ shouldn’t be hard to do but women generally struggle with it, especially when it means putting themselves first.
Saying ‘no’ shouldn’t be hard to do but women generally struggle with it, especially when it means putting themselves first. Dynamic Graphics

NO! No. No, sorry I can't. No thank you. No it doesn't fit in with my plans. No I don't feel like it. No thanks, maybe next time. No I don't want to. No. No. No.

And begin again...

Saying 'no' seems to be one of the hardest things to do, particularly for women, while apologising (even when there's nothing to apologise for) is one of the easiest.

They are the common defaults females particularly resort to without thought. They are more likely to say 'yes', or the softer quasi-yes, 'okay', instead of a plain 'no'. And if they do say 'no' they feel like they have to apologise for it.

My bugbear habit is responding to requests and situations with 'no worries', even when it is one. I'm getting better at using it more sparingly, ie. when it actually isn't a worry. Otherwise I drop the 'worries' bit and just say 'no' as politely as the situation calls for.

It takes a bit of practice but once you remember you are a free-thinking individual you are actually entitled to say 'no', you don't turn back.

This includes to your own family, something a lot of women would never dream of doing thanks to entrenched patriarchal system in which we live (I know, ho hum, but I had to sneak it in somewhere). But saying 'no' can be the best thing you do for your clan. Go on try it. Once they are over the shock of hearing the 'n' word for the first time, it gets much easier.

And I don't mean, 'no, you can't have any ice-cream', because that's just parenting and anyone can do that. I mean saying 'no' to the family in order to benefit yourself.

This can include 'No, I can't drive you three blocks to Zac's place because I'm going to be busy having a relaxing salt bath and reading the latest issue of Who magazine.' or 'No, I've had a hard day at work today and I don't feel like cooking dinner tonight' or this zinger 'No, I won't be able to take you to sport this weekend because I'm going to be out of town unwinding with (a) my girlfriends or (b) myself.' Then let the rest of the family work out how they are going to get to Zac's, eat dinner that evening and play sport on the weekend.

While this may sound like fantasy to many mothers, particularly those with smaller children, it shouldn't be. It's not like this scenario has to be weekly, or even monthly; bi-annually would be good, but in some households it never happens. Doing these sorts of things can make you feel a little empowered, which can upset the apple cart if you know what I mean.

Of course there will be women who believe they don't need any time to themselves because they love their families so much, which is great but, and I can only speak from my own experience, kids grow up and leave home one day and weaning works both ways.

What you don't want to happen to your own good self is to devote all of your life (because it is your life) to other lives whose goal is to get their own someday. Same with partners. Having independent breaks from one another can be refreshing, and in some cases confronting if you aren't used to it, but it's worth a shot now and again to see what happens. Even if you don't have a partner, have a break from the kids. It's toe in the water stuff, and doesn't have to be a major part of your existence, but something you shouldn't want to relinquish completely.

Being able to remember who you are as you get older may sound strange but it's something to ponder now and again. It is possible to be a mother, partner and woman all at once, but the latter is usually the first to be sacrificed within the family structure in order for the other members of that unit to thrive.

I was reminded of this at an International Women's Day event last week when there was a fairly innocent encounter that demonstrated just how hard it is for some mums to grab some 'me' time as it's sadly referred to due to its rarity.

In the middle of this 90-minute event, a woman's teenage son came in, whispered in her ear, and she had to leave for about 20 minutes, missing a good chunk of the inspiring guest speaker. There was no disappointed look on her face, she just got up and left and then came back. I wanted to tell that kid to buzz off and leave his mother be for her short window of 'me' time, but I probably would have got an earful from her which would illustrate just how entrenched family structures are and how emotionally and physically dependant they are on the woman being at its core.

This is in no way meant to be a straight judgement on how women presently function within the family unit or in society in general. It's just to illustrate a proposal to consider next time you are feeling exhausted and burnt out, unloved, taken for granted, angry, unhealthy or the multitude of other feelings that seem to commonly creep up on women.

Of course if you think I'm full of crap and these suggestions are too, you can always just say 'no'. You are certainly entitled to do that.

Topics:  life as i know it mothers women



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