Monday, August 27, 2007

Woman to Woman

woman to woman

"Learning to say no"

A lot of women feel like they have to "do it all", regardless of what
may be realistic for them. Do you fall into this category?
Can you just not resist the urge to be involved in everything? Or
have you learned to say no? Have you taken a
step backward and seen positive results?
Share your frustrations or share your advice...
Tell us what you think about the current trend to be all things to all people.

I was so fortunate to be a stay-at-home Mom for a long time. I loved that job. I loved the perks. I worked hard at it and learned to shop very frugally, getting along without a car for some of that time. I sewed a lot, did a lot of needlework. I sewed for other people for a bit of money. The kids and I did a lot of walking with the stroller. We walked to town to pay bills, grab a treat at the donut shop, get a haircut, order something from Sears. It was fun.

For some reason, people think if you "don't work" you have time to do everything. I enjoyed working at church, but sometimes it got to be too much. At one time, I did the children's music on Sunday mornings, played the organ, sang in the choir, sang in duets, trios, quartets, was the missions president, taught an adult SS class with DC, and selected and directed the children's musicals. I was also on the district mission board.

The musicals were important to me, because my kids were young and, though we were a smaller church, I thought they needed that experience. In fact, a lot of what I did was because there was nobody else to do it. I did musicals for about 6-8 years. I can't really remember - it's all kind of a blur! One year we had a children's choir for the Christmas program instead of a musical, and I enlisted the help of several of the other young moms to make choir robes with little red bows for each of the kids. (Those robes have been used for years now as angel costumes - makes me feel kind of good to see all that hard work still being utilized).
It was a lot of work, but the end result was so rewarding that it was kind of like the pain of childbirth - you forget it and go ahead and have another child - or direct another musical!

Selecting the musical, ordering the music, holding try-outs, trying to keep any child's feelings from being hurt, having rehearsals, making the costumes, creating the props - wow, when I think about it now, I get simply exhausted.

There came a time when I can remember feeling like I was on a merry-go-round or a roller coaster - I couldn't figure out how to get off and I was dizzy. I definitely was afflicted with the "should, would, ought syndrome," which one of our special speakers talked about one year. I knew I had it, but didn't know how to get rid of it.

I would not have chosen the method that finally accomplished the "stepping backward" process. Both of my children began to have serious situations in their lives. I had just begun to work full time when these things hit us like a ton of bricks. I had eased back into the work world, working just a few hours a week in the school cafeteria for several years, then substituting in all of the support staff positions in the school district, then a full-time school district job which allowed me to be home when the kids were coming home from school and also have the same vacations. Finally I bit the bullet and went to work at a year-round job which would allow me to help with college expenses.

It was a high price I paid, however. Things fell apart at home. Interestingly, my job became my refuge from the trauma in my life. I had to concentrate on my work so much that I was able to compartmentalize for those 8+ hours, and on the commute. But I soon realized I only had enough energy to do my paid job and the most minimal housework I could get away with.

I could not possibly continue with all of those jobs at church. I had nothing left to give. I remember very specifically hearing from my Lord that it was okay - I could take a break. Others would step up and do the jobs. I discovered that I wasn't irreplaceable! I dropped everything except choir, which nurtured and fed my parched spirit. I also remained on the district board, because those meetings were quarterly and those people were a great support group.

The most amazing thing of all was when someone would ask me to take on another position, I was able to say "no." And I didn't feel guilty. God was letting me relax.

As the years have gone by, I have taken back the mission leadership position. I play the organ one Sunday a month, I sing in the choir and in a mixed quartet. I have learned my limitations. I don't have to do it all. It is great to see younger people step up and take the responsibilities.


MommyK said...

You're so right about people thinking SAHMs have plenty of time! I appreciated your perspective!

Anonymous said...

great post

Jen said...

I loved your post. I noticed the same thing when I went to work full time last year. It was a lot easier to say no to people.

Morning Glory said...

Finding the freedom to prioritize is such a gift. I'm glad these things were able to get sorted out in your life. It sort of adds a glow to the things you really have time to do.

Deb - Mom of 3 Girls said...

Wonderful post... I find that working full-time lets me say 'no' to everything, I only wish that I were able to still do some things that I'm asked to/want to do. I hate feeling like I always have to say no.

mumple said...

Thank you for your post! I can see parts of myself in it so clearly--a nice reminder.

Tigersue said...

Thank you for your post. I find I have much the same feelings as you, there is a time and place for everything, and not everything has to be done.

Maine Mom said...

Sometimes I commit to things and then find I have to back out because it's just too much. I just recently told a friend that I would love to run a marathon with her-which is true, but I have realized since telling her I would commit to running that this is not the season in my life to do this. I was stressing about working my running into my already busy schedule and also around Kate and when I told myself it wasn't going to work and I would tell my friend that I couldn't commit right now, I felt so much better! I need to learn to say no more in the future, I tend to commit and then regret it.

Great post!

Lei said...

And it is great of you to let the younger people have the opportunities you once did!

Fabulous post!

Dee Light said...

I think the key is listening to what our Lord has for us. Sometimes I get so busy that I don't take the time to listen!!!

PEA said...

It's so very easy to get in a rut and take on way too many things! When I did volunteer work at the bowling alley where my boys bowled, I suddenly found myself in complete charge of the whole Youth Bowling Council, secretary and treasurer, taking care of the lottery tickets, in charge of the banquets, etc. It wasn't until I got sick with my nerves that I could finally learn to say NO!!! xox

Looney Mom said...

Wow. I should have written on this today because I SO feel like that these days. It's really hard work being a SAHM. Why do pepole get the impression that we sit around eating bon-bons and watching soaps all day?

I feel soo overwhelmed these days. I haven't started homeschooling yet; waiting until after labor day. But just trying to get READY is really exhausting!!

Nikkie said...

Great post. Its so true, SAHM's are really busy, people need to realize that.

Linda said...

Well done Dawn. I think many of us have been caught in that same trap. Part of my problem was feeling like every time someone asked me to do something it was the Lord speaking. I have learned that the Lord isn't the one asking me to do those things at all. He has lots of other people He would like to use to fill those jobs.
Now that we are in a mega-church it is so much easier. First of all, they only want you to commit to one year when you take on a job. That is so "freeing". You don't feel like once you volunteer it's yours for life!! And you can also feel free to say no to those things you know very well are not for you to do because there are plenty of other people who are called to do it.
I know for me - a huge part of it was getting all that need for approval stuff mixed in with what I thought the Lord really wanted me to do. It's a hard lesson this learning to say no - but one we really all need to learn.
I loved your post. You did more than I could ever have dreamed of doing!!!

Midlife Mom said...

Oh, how I can relate to this post!!! I have been there and know the feeling of being so overwhelmed because of too many commitments. I still am working on it and have said no to several oportunities to serve at my church recently but it had to be done and the sky didn't fall because I said no. The ministries that I am involved in right now are all I can do at this point and I know that even though I would like to do everything they ask me to do. I just can't do it any more, with elderly parents living with me and other family obligations my dance card is full. Thank you Dawn so much for writing this post, it has helped me more then you know!!!

Still praying for Kristen!! xoxo

nancygrayce said...

My older brother once said to me....."You stay home all day you should be glad to take care of (fill in the blank with whatever anyone needs you to do)" He has never said that again. I think I blasted off like a rocket ship! :)

Barb @ A Chelsea Morning said...

It's so easy to fall into that trap, Dawn, but when it starts affecting how things are at home, you're right, it's time to quit.

I was always so exhausted from working full time and raising my children, I never had a problem saying no. Thank goodness. There's no way I could have kept up with all the things you were doing.

I totally agree with you that it's nice to let the next generation step up and carry that load.

Neva said...

What a great post--it isn't only SAHMs who get into this habit. I am a minister's wife and sometimes I feel like I "owe" it to the church to be a part of everything. It takes a lot of healthy self-talk and sometimes biting my tongue to say "no" and not feel guilty and not let myself be talked into overcommitting.
"Be still and know that I am God" is impossible when we are the chairperson of every activity.


Sharon Lynne said...

You have quite a set of talents!

I read an article once, that brought up the point that although God has given each person many gifts, he doesn't necessarily want us to use them all at the same time.

There are times and seasons for our gifts.

Linds said...

I don't know if it is our age or our upbringing, but I think so many of us can echo what you say, Dawn. Been there, done that, learnt the hard way too that we are replaceable, and that God never intended us to do it all. I still battle with saying no. I probably always will!

Michelle-ozark crafter said...

Great post! Sometimes we get so caught up in things and do way to much! I really don't think God ever meant for us to live that way!

Jada's Gigi said...

I think my child rearing years were about like yours...and then I went back to work and things changed..and now with kids grown they are changing again...the Lord is letting me do new things..and who doens't need new things in their life? New is scary..but can be fun..and you never know where you'll end up either.

Nancy said...

Learning to say "no" is a hard lesson to learn but thankfully you did and you are a better person because of it. You are one talented lady and what a blessing to share your God given talents wiht others... even when it is teaching us to say "no".

Angela said...

A great post, Dawn. As I read your post I began to see a part of my life and having a hard time saying no.
Thanks for sharing with us today. I always look forward to my visits here.