Happy Mother's Day (just say no) 1

Happy Mother’s Day (just say no)

Happy Mother's Day (just say no) 2Ahhh, Spring. We wait for it with longing, especially here in Michigan, where it comes quite late and often teases us for a while before committing.

And then, just as there’s a huge wind storm every Fall that strips off the last leaves (along with a lot of branches), every Spring there’s a day of downpours after which everything bursts into bloom (and the worms litter the pavement).

That’s not to say Spring’s arrived: we can still have killing frosts practically until June, but May somehow feels different.


Do you think Mother’s Day falls in May by mistake?

Oh no, it’s because anyone who mothers (and here I include all the mothers—female and male, biological, adoptive, foster, surrogate—teachers, coaches, and caregivers who steer us through life) wouldn’t make it through the merry month of May(hem) unless we honored them.

It seems as though we can’t cram enough into this month, no matter how old the children get: all those field trips that can’t happen in bad weather, proms, graduations, driver’s ed hours and tests, award ceremonies and other end-of-year activities that rely on an army of Momunteers….

And don’t forget to think about summer: camps must be booked and paid for, forms filled out (registration, health, legal—1 per child per week) and vacations must be planned. (For a humorous look at this schedule, check out The Holderness Family’s take on it.)

Happy Mother's Day (just say no) 3

At our house, May is usually one of the months that my husband goes on extended travel. When the kids were younger, it always reminded me of how grateful I was that this happened while the kids were in school—at least life was (more or less) predictable!

I suspect that mothers view May with an amount of dread equal to the amount of delight their kids feel about it. I know that as difficult as the school year schedule can feel, summer vacation looms large exactly because the schedule changes—or disappears entirely. And I suspect this doesn’t go away until the kids are out of college?

How do we get through this month with our sanity intact? Well, there might need to be wine involved, but maybe we can start by honoring ourselves a bit more and not waiting for others to recognize us.

There is nothing wrong with pampering ourselves or being pampered by others: does anyone say no to cards, gifts, flowers, a break from chores for a day? And pampering, like a manicure, can be so fleeting….

There are a lot we say yes to in our lives: granted some aren’t really a choice—we can’t decline. And there are a lot of times we say yes when it can be no.

One of my favorite exercises I from my Declutter Your Daytimer program is to track for one week  (honestly, even for a day could work) how many times you say yes then reflect on it:

  • How did you feel about what you agreed to?
  • How did you feel about how often you agreed to something?
  • What patterns emerge?
  • Who made the most requests?
  • How often were they urgent in the requestor’s mind?
  • How urgent did the request feel to you?
  • Why did you agree?
  • How did it feel to say yes? How did saying yes change your life?
  • How would it feel to say no? How would saying no have changed your life?

It seems like a fairly silly exercise, overthinking in the extreme, and yet it can be really revealing.

Very often it points out why some women are the first ones called when something needs doing—they are, as my kids say with an eyeroll, “the moms who live at school.”

Happy Mother's Day (just say no) 4Don’t get me wrong—I get that we all need to pitch in, and I appreciate when women (and men!) step up to help. And there’s something to be said for having boundaries, not just for our children but for ourselves: it invites others to step up.

Awareness of the habits that don’t serve us is usually the first step to interrupting them so that we can replace them with healthier practices.

Learning to say no (and doing it with grace) can make space in our lives for the things we really want to say yes to.

This year for Mother’s Day, give yourself the gift of saying no: if every cell in your body want to say yes, go for it, and if it’s not a (hell) yes, it can be a (hell) no.

(And if you’re looking for a way to help Mom with her self-care, check out the (Sorta) Secret Sisterhood—instead of flowers and a card, give her the community, information, and inspiration she really wants. If she registers before June 1, she’ll get a lifetime discount on a basic membership.)


  1. Ellen Cochrum

    I agree to what you say in your Mother’s Day blog.
    You speak for Mothers with young, teen-aged or middle-aged children.
    But when mothers turn 90, it’s more than easy to say NO!
    With love, Elena Ivanovna.

    1. Elizabeth Baker

      Elena Ivanovna—I’m so happy to hear there’s hope for us! (Now we just need to live ’til 90!)

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