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Navigating Your Nos: What Part of Motherhood Is Hard to Say No To?

November 13, 2023

Discover what part of motherhood is hard to say no to, as we chat about self-care and saying ‘yes’ to yourself.

Whether you’re a new mom or a seasoned one, it feels like the question “what part of motherhood is hard to say no to?” continues to come up again and again and again. 

I spent a long time feeling like nothing was negotiable if I wanted to be a good mom. Everything felt like a priority and figuring out what to say no to was just more work.

As a mom, it’s easy to feel like you’re on autopilot. Saying yes to snacks (so many snacks), playdates, visits with the in-laws, treats, playing on the floor, that toy in the store, and on and on the list goes on. 

But when’s the last time you checked in on yourself?

I was talking with a friend the other day about how so many of us as moms,  tend to push our needs down the to-do list, not because we enjoy it, but because it is so easy to forget that we’re even on that list. 

But how the heck are we supposed to keep all the plates in the air if we have too many plates and never say no? 

So when and where should we say no as a mom? It’s hard to say no, especially when everything feels important and when the people in our lives come to expect our yeses, if we want to feel better and have the time and energy to be present and whole, we have to say it. N-O.   

Grab your coziest blanket and let’s unpack this together.

The Struggle to say ‘no’ as a mom

If there’s one universal truth about motherhood, it might just be that saying ‘no’ often feels like climbing a mountain with no peak in sight. 

Why do we struggle with it? 

We’re managing a delicate balance, trying to keep everyone’s world spinning, often at the expense of our own.

Here’s the thing: our ‘yes’ can become automatic, a reflex, not because it’s what we want but because we’re so accustomed to putting our needs, our desires, and sometimes even our wellbeing as a mom on the backburner. We say ‘yes’ because we fear the alternative – the melt down, letting someone down, seeming selfish, or just the potential chaos of breaking routine.

Isn’t amazing how we find ourselves saying ‘yes’ when every fiber of our being is screaming for a ‘no’?

  • When your child begs for just one more story, and you’re flippin’ exhausted 
  • When your kid begs for a playdate  and you feel too guilty to say no 
  • Agreeing to volunteer for the school event because no one else stepped up.
  • Taking on extra projects at work to show you can juggle work and motherhood.
  • Hosting family gatherings, because it’s expected, even when it’s the last thing you need.
  • Helping out friends whenever they ask because that’s what good friends do, right?
  • Participating in every community event to show support, despite craving time at home.
  • Crafting perfect holidays and birthdays, chasing the ideal over your own peace.
  • Cooking the healthiest meals, engaging in the comparison game with other moms.
  • Committing to a fitness regime that doesn’t fit your current lifestyle, just to ‘fit in’.

The list goes on, an endless cycle of ‘yeses’ that can leave us feeling drained, undervalued, and at our breaking point with motherhood

Also read: Keeping Moms Oppressed and Depressed – A viral movement against the gaslighting of burnt out women

Libby Ward also known as Diary of an Honest Mom relecting on What Part of Motherhood Is Hard to Say No To

Finding the Honesty to Say 'No'

The antidote to this cycle? Radically assessing what is most important and being relentless about treating our priorities like priorities. And newsflash: you are a priority. It’s cutting through the noise of social expectations and the overwhelm that comes with them. 

It’s about getting honest with ourselves about what we can handle, what brings us joy, and where our boundaries lie. It’s realizing that our ‘no’ isn’t just a rejection, but a powerful affirmation of our own needs and values. It’s realizing how much it empowers us to say enthusiastic yeses.

So let’s start small, with one honest ‘no’ at a time. Let’s reclaim the space to breathe, to live, to be more than just ‘mom’ – but a person with dreams, limits, and the right to rest.

Before we can say no - we need to get honest with ourselves

What the heck does it mean to be honest? 

The basic definition of honesty is: to tell the truth. To state facts accurately, to the best of your knowledge and ability. 

❓ But what does it mean to be honest with ourselves? Simply observing and stating the facts of our lives just isn’t good enough. 

💡 We deserve to redefine what it means to be honest with ourselves to encompass not only how busy we are – but how well we’re coping with all the things we pile on to our daily to-do lists in the name of love and motherhood. 

Practising real honesty in our lives involves radical and compassionate acknowledgment of the realities of the many facets of our lives. Doing this work leads to greater self-awareness, allowing us make choices that align with what’s best for us. Practising honesty in this way helps us to live more authentic and whole lives. 

It’s what helps us to be whole while raising whole humans well.

Redefining being honest with ourselves

So what does it mean to redefine being honest with ourselves? 🤔

Well, the short answer is that I want us all to start actively acknowledging and assessing the realities of our lives – with the intention of actually making internal or external changes that have a positive impact on us.

I want you to think about it. Really think about it. Being honest with yourself means taking the time to consciously think about and assess your life in a way that helps you see your worth and treat yourself as such. What responsibilities do you have and what is your capacity to actually carry them out?

  • How many meals do you cook in a day? In a week?
  • How often are you having to be the household admin?!
  • How many car rides have you taken to get them where they need to go?
  • How many lists have you made?!
  • How many times have you changed a diaper, wiped a butt, blew a nose, rubbed a back during a tummy bug?
  • How many nights have you been awake caring for others? 
  • How many hours have you listened to crying while you provided comfort through your own exhaustion?

Just… LOOK. Look at what you do for everyone, every day, every hour. 💝

Sitting down with yourself and taking a thorough look at your life helps you to realize what’s most important – and even what’s not important at all. 

Take a look at everything that’s currently on your plate, look at everything you have to give – and what you can realistically expect of yourself. 

Think about your health and overall wellbeing. Are you able to relax? Are you able to simply exist, to look at your daily world and simply enjoy your current state of being?

Or, do you think you need to come up with realistic changes to your current daily life that will increase your wellbeing and your ability to be the person (and mom) you want to be?

Also read: How to set boundaries with family and children.

👉 Honesty is an intentionally and consciously assessing our lives and then making choices that give us time and energy back- and it’s grounded in reality. It’s a practice. A way of living. 

Being honest with yourself is not meant to be mean-spirited, or brutal, or hopeless. It’s not about beating ourselves up or dwelling on our mistakes, or pointing fingers at ourselves for our faults. 

We all have (or want) that one friend who listens to our struggles non-judgmentally – who’s there to hear us cry or laugh or rage or scream. 

And being honest with ourselves means giving ourselves permission to be that way for ourselves. We are telling ourselves the TRUTH, about how much we matter, about what is most important to us, about how much we are carrying, about how much we have to give and about what needs to change so that we can treat our priorities…like priorities. 

Taking the time to sit down and be honest with yourself about how well you’re coping is a realistic, factual, and empathetic way of checking-in with yourself and making changes for yourself. It helps you to say no, and do it with confidence. It helps to fight the guilt of letting others down. 

Taking time to practice honesty with ourselves is a way to acknowledge the things that are hard about the daily grind of motherhood. It helps us acknowledge these hard things with intention, in order to figure out how to make it less hard.

It’s a way of giving ourselves the same support we’d give someone we love. It’s a way of tuning in to our deepest struggles and our deepest needs – and giving ourselves permission to make changes that will help us feel better so that we can do better, too.

How to practice honesty: the 5 Cs

So… how does one practice honesty with themselves? I came up with a little reminder that I use myself that I call “the 5 Cs.”

1. Compassion

What is it?

Self-compassion means being gentle with ourselves, permitting ourselves to have faults, and loving ourselves anyway. Being honest with ourselves about our worth and our value is a part of self-compassion. 

Compassionate self-honesty means admitting our inherent worth and right to wholeness, and acknowledging how our struggles impact us in a way that motivates us to make things better for ourselves. 💗

Why is it important?

Being honest about our worth, and extending compassion to ourselves is the first step to being honest because it creates a safer atmosphere to be vulnerable in. It allows us to open up for help, to ease some of the pain that may come with truly looking at what’s getting in the way of our wholeness. 

Knowing deep within that we are not perfect, that we have limitations and that we deserve wholeness regardless of everything else, is the necessary first step to confronting hard things. Confronting the hard things is necessary to change them.

2. Clarity

What is it?

Clarity is defined as transparency or purity. Our ability to see clearly our needs and our priorities. 

Radically assessing and re-ordering what truly matters to you right now based on your family, your own personal needs, your values, your responsibilities, your priorities.

Why is it important?

Being honest and getting clarity on what is most important to us helps us to refocus where we could or should be spending our limited time and energy. With intentionality, it means stepping back to ask ourselves what matters and in what order. It helps us to muffle the noise that comes from the outside world on all the things we “should be” focusing on, or how much of our capacity we give to those things. 

Clarity about our priorities helps us to focus, to reset the proverbial table and to feel more confident in our choices. 

3. Circumstances

What is it?

To evaluate your circumstances is to thoroughly and truthfully take an in-depth inventory of what our lives really look like from the outside. 

Why is it important?

Assessing our circumstances means taking a granular look at our daily lives. We need to look at the internal things that impact us (like our mental health, mindsets, and past trauma) to the outside things (like where we live, play, and work).

It means looking at the quantity and quality of our relationships, the level of resources and support we have, and getting a much more realistic picture of what drains us or fills us up. 

Every person (mother) is living (and mothering) in an entirely different set of circumstances – even if they look the same on the outside. And these things inevitably will affect how we perceive and experience life (and motherhood). We need to have a full picture of our own lives before we can determine how much we actually have to give to others. 

Also read: 10 self-care tips for moms with little to no support system

4. Capacity

What is it?

An evaluation of our capacity will look at how much time, energy, and mental bandwidth we actually have to give to the many things (and people) that require or ask for our help.

Why is it important?

It is necessary to understand our capacity in a way that is truly representative of what we have to give in order to make any changes at all. So often we look at how much we wish we had or what we expected we would have or what others have, and we end up basing our expectations and choices off of those things. 

When we are honest about our actual capacity and radically accept it as truth, it helps us to divide our time, energy and capacity much more accurately, leading us to struggle less and to be more assured with the choices and changes we make.

5. Change

What is it?

Change means actively and consciously altering our mindset, expectations, or behaviour – with compassion, with clarity, and with awareness of our circumstances and our capacity in mind. 

Why is it important?

Actually changing our mindset, expectations and/or behaviour is what changes how we perceive and experience life. It is how we build self-awareness, empathy or others, time and space to do the things that make us us and contribute to our well being. Using this framework for change increases our confidence in our decisions. 

Only with radical honesty about all the things, can we accurately synthesize all the important information related to our lives, families and well-being. Change is important – and the last step to actually making things better for ourselves. 

Also read: Healing from generational trauma: boundaries and empathy co-exist


Embracing the Challenge: What Parts of Motherhood Are Hard to Say No To?

From morning to night, it’s clear that there are parts of motherhood that are incredibly hard to say no to- some we literally cannot say no to From the spontaneous requests for attention to the planned commitments that fill our calendars, it can often seem like motherhood is a never ending reel of yes, yes, yes. But if you really pay attention, there are opportunities to say no.

If you are honest, there are things that could go on the chopping block that you’ve never considered putting there. Doing it, saying NO, gives us more time and energy for the things we want to say yes to. Saying yes to ourselves, is essential, even if it goes against the grain or everything you have been taught about what it means to be a good mom.  

The people we cherish also deserve the most whole version of us — one that isn’t frayed at the edges from too many commitments or lost in the myriad tasks that motherhood entails. They deserve the version of you that’s replenished and vibrant, capable of giving the best because you’ve honored your needs first.

If you need a little help with practicing honesty, you can get prompts that will help you and help you start to realize you are a good mom in my Honest Mom Journal

You’ve got this – and you’re not alone. 

If you found these tips helpful, sign up for The Honest Mom’s Insider Circle. You will be notified when new blogs are posted, and hear about all of the new and exciting things that are going on in my corner plus much, much more.

I’m on TikTok and Instagram @diaryofanhonestmom – connect with me here for daily content and updates!

Remember you deserve the same level of care from yourself that you give to others. 

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