I am sure we have all been there – stuck with a commitment that we no longer want to keep, faced with a request for help from a friend, feeling caught up in the “shoulds” of parenting that extend to school and sports volunteering. With only so many hours in a day (and we all get the same amount) it often feels we are doing so much for others that we have little time left for ourselves.
We all have different interests, time available and personalities that influence what roles we take on. I know some people are very content with giving all the time – they like to be needed or to be of service to others (not the same thing) so a lot of their time is spent supporting others. Many parents feel the extra commitments are part of the job so do “their part” no matter what else is going on. Many people take on more at work hoping for the future pay off.
There is nothing wrong with any of that, just as there is nothing wrong with choosing a different path.
If you would rather cut back on obligations to have time for your own passions (or simply to have some buffer time to do nothing in a life that is already full), but feel stuck, this post is for you.
Knowing that we cannot do it all and be it all sometimes something has to give. We can ask for help or we can let things go. When you say “no” to things that are not important to you or do not serve your values and goals, you are saying “yes” to other things:
- what is really important to you
- opportunities that may come up later
- breathing room to enjoy life
- honouring yourself and your needs
- self care
It is not being selfish to take your own needs into account. We are not talking about never helping another person or opening yourself up to commitments. We are talking about making choices and feeling you have the right to say no to others in order to say yes to yourself or your family or your goals. Give yourself permission to let it go guilt-free.
For those who struggle with saying no (but want to) you can take a gentle approach to ease yourself out of the unwanted tasks and activities. As you say no over time you will find your voice and feel more comfortable – or maybe you will simply fall in love with the breathing room you create!
Have you been on the school planning committees and boards for years, but now you have an idea for a business you want to pursue and know you won’t have the time for it? Your thoughts might follow along the lines of – I would be letting them down, no one will fill in the gap, I made a commitment to my children’s school.
Think about easing yourself out of the major commitment and taking a more flexible secondary role. “I cannot be on the PTA next year, but am happy to join the subcommittee on library fundraising”. You are still committed to the school but have swapped 15 hours a week for 3.
Have you been a class parent two years running and now people look to you to take on that role even though you now have three kids at school? “I won’t be able to be a class parent this year, but please put my name down to help on 1 or 2 class trips or help with reading groups each Tuesday morning.”
Maybe you have taken on a special role in your church and have gone from feeling uplifted and connected to feeling stressed out and overcommitted. Can you approach someone and explain that you can no longer lead the group, but are happy to provide refreshments or support the person who takes over? You can help out while they replace you and transition out of your role without leaving anyone in the lurch.
The aim is to make sure you are carrying on with involvements that you want to rather than those that remain simply because you have yet to figure out a way out. If you love coaching the soccer team or leading guides 1-2 days a week that is the priority. If you want to be hands on in your child’s classroom then volunteer in class without taking on a planning role as well.
What can you / do you need / do you want to let go of? What have you wanted to make room for in your life?
Do you struggle with saying no?
Find your simple,
Image credit: Just say no by flickr user marc falardeau