Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Power of No

I have always prided myself on being a parent who doesn’t give the kids everything they want.  I am proud to say that my kids have never whined or thrown a temper tantrum in the store when I told them we couldn’t buy the toy they just had to have.  I can remember a specific time when we went with a group of moms and kids to the circus.  Upon leaving, virtually every kid insisted on getting a souvenir.  The other moms succumbed.  But I proudly leaned over to our daughter and explained to her that our treat was coming to the circus and that the only thing we would take home was memories.  I patted myself on the back for that.

But I am not so proud of a habit I’ve seen in myself that has grown increasingly worse as our kids have gotten older.  Why is it that I have such a hard time saying no to the demands for my time – not from my immediate family, but from others?  Why is it I sign up to help even when I know I already have too much to do?  I think there’s some deep dark curse on all mothers that says that if we don’t say yes, something terrible will happen – our kids will miss out on something, not be accepted by others, or even worse, that as mothers, we might not be accepted.

When my dad died last year and I took on the added role of caring after my mom a bit more than usual, I made a pact that 2011 would be the year of “NO.”  I adhered to the adage that “life is short” and I should say yes only to the things that would really our impact our lives.  To be honest, I didn’t say “no” to everything, but I did so “no” to the things that I felt weren’t adding value in our lives.  Did we need goodie bags for the Halloween party at school?  Did we need to sign up for Cub Scouts on Fridays when we already had an activity three other days of the week and my kids were exhausted?  Did I need to be on the PTA board again?

The more I thought about the time these things were taking, the more I realized that my efforts to do “good” were actually taking time from what mattered most to me – my family.  I began to loathe the thoughts of running around like a chicken with my head cut off and then telling my son that I didn’t have time to stop and play a board game with him.

It’s been a slow transformation, but these days I find I can say yes to things that really matter to me like cooking a family meal and enjoying it together, reading a book in bed with my son at night, or volunteering as a family at the homeless shelter.  And one thing I know for sure - those memories are souvenirs you can’t buy anywhere!

What works for you to balance the demands on your time with quality family time?

Chris Bolding is married to Brent Bolding, CRM manager at Texas Health Resources, and a Mom of three.


  1. That was perfectly said - Glad Im not the only house that didnt have the "newest" "Hotttest" gadget for kids. Both of my kids are home from college this Xmas. They choose not to reunite with their friends- instead spend time with my very sick uncle and the rest of the family - during this very difficult time. My time and eating together in those formative years - taught them - what matters most .

  2. Good JOB~ Chris!! Enjoyed the BLOG so Much!! We can Learn Alot by NOT Being able to Say "NO"!! You and Brent are the BEST Parents~ I only had One Son, but I also remember how Exausting it is to "Burn the Candle at Both Ends" and Use Your self UP!! Trying to be a Better "Nana" than "MOM"~ We will See!! Miss You Guys :)

  3. Thanks for the wonderful reminder, Chris!
    Beautifully worded.