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The Art of Saying “No” as a Form of Self-Care

The Art of Saying “No” as a Form of Self-Care

Just say “no.” Easier said than done, especially when everyone seems to need you right now. But boundaries and self-love have never been more important than they are during the postpartum chapter. Thank you, Kate McReynolds, our Mommy’s Biss 360 expert, Licensed Mental Health Counselor & Certified Perinatal Mental Health Pro for reminding us how important we are.   Read on and let us say “yes” to Kate’s wise and loving advice 

If you have ever wondered how good it would feel to just throw your hands up in the air, forget about everyone else for a second, and put your desires at the top of your list…I would encourage you to lean into the art of saying “no.”

Many new parents think they have to put their needs at the bottom of the list and say “yes” to everyone except themselves, but setting boundaries to support your wellness should definitely be a welcomed habit.

For the next few minutes, make yourself a priority and read on to learn about the art of saying “no” as the ultimate form of self-care.

Why is Saying “No” Hard?

Maybe saying “no” feels unsafe because of earlier experiences where it led to conflict. Maybe you associate it with undesirable traits like being uncooperative, selfish, rude, or unkind. Maybe you believe your needs do not matter as much as others’ and think saying “no” is something you are not supposed to do.

Maybe – like many other parents – you are battling societal expectations, fear of judgment, and guilt. The pressure to do it all (and the praise from others for attempting to do it all) often leads new parents to believe that the more they sacrifice or ignore their own needs, the more worthy they are as a parent.

It makes sense that you would be reluctant to say “no” as a form of self-care if you have been led to believe that it is unsafe, bad, wrong, or somehow indicates that prioritizing yourself means you are no longer prioritizing your baby.

The truth is: Saying “no” is a necessary behavior, it can reflect positive qualities you’d probably hope to see in yourself as a parent (like emotional intelligence, self-awareness, assertiveness, honesty, respect, etc.), and investing in your self-care is just as much an act of love for your baby as it is for you.

Things to Say “No” to in New Parenthood

Sometimes the art of saying “no” is an outward practice where you set limits with others as a way of protecting your ability to meet your own needs. This might look like saying “no” to:

  • Requests that fill your plate more than you would like
  • Tasks that are not essential/time-sensitive
  • Unsolicited parenting advice
  • Social plans that interfere with your schedules/routines
  • Social plans that do not interest you

Other times, it is an inward practice where you set limits with yourself as a way of staying attuned to your own needs. This might look like saying “no” to:

  • Parenting approaches that conflict with your beliefs/values
  • Things that negatively impact your mental/physical well-being
  • Societal pressure to minimize unpleasant emotions/enjoy every moment
  • Negatively comparing yourself to other new parents
  • Enduring overstimulation, stress, anxiety, etc. when you need to pause and regulate (yes, this means setting your crying baby down for a minute or stepping away from a heated argument with your partner to go take some grounding breaths)

Saying “No” Could Sound Like:

  • “I appreciate your suggestion, but I’m not looking for advice.”
  • “This doesn’t work for me, and I need to explore other options.”
  • “Thanks for including me. I am going to stay home and rest.”
  • “My plate is as full as I’d like right now.”
  • “I need to pause and come back to this.”
  • “This isn’t something I can prioritize right now.”

Finding Incentive

Part of getting comfortable with saying “no” is viewing it as a necessary tool for maintaining your wellness and identifying how it benefits you. The more incentive you uncover, the more likely you will be to commit.

Saying “no” as a form of self-care can help you:

  • Alleviate stress and prevent burnout
  • Feel less distracted and more present in the moment
  • Balance the mental load with your partner/support system
  • Set healthy boundaries (and model this for your children)
  • Communicate your expectations of others
  • Give others realistic expectations of you
  • Increase confidence and self-advocacy
  • Find more time, space, and energy to do things that fill your cup

Dropping the Guilt and the Pressure to Apologize

Imagine you have started counseling as a self-care tool and hire a babysitter for your first appointment. If you value people’s time and need the babysitter to stay longer because your session ran over, you will probably feel bad.

This is guilt, a frequent flyer in the world of parenting emotions.

You will tend to feel guilty after you do something you view as bad, wrong, harmful, or unaligned with your principles. You might try to combat your guilt by apologizing, but the more you apologize for your self-care, the more likely you will be to view it as something you should not be doing in the first place. What if you could stop the guilt before it even starts?

While there may be times where your self-care seemingly “inconveniences” others, the impact is likely unintentional and probably not as disruptive as you think it is. You are not doing anything bad or wrong by taking care of you, so there is no reason to guilt-trip yourself.

If you want to acknowledge the impact your “no” had on someone without apologizing for doing something good for yourself, replacing “I’m sorry” with “Thank you for ___” can help. For example:

“Thank you for waiting on me” vs. “I’m sorry for wasting your time”
“Thank you for being flexible with me” vs. “I’m sorry for complicating things”
“Thank you for understanding” vs. “I’m sorry for doing this to you”
“Thank you for holding space for me” vs. “I’m sorry I’m such a mess”

The “Yes” Behind Your “No”

Sure, “no” is technically a negative term meant to express some type of refusal, denial, or dissatisfaction – basically, it means you don’t want, need, accept, or like something – but consider the flip side of this: Saying “no” to something that doesn’t serve you means you’re saying “yes” to something that does.

Saying “no” to immediate postpartum visitors? That is saying “yes” to quiet recovery and bonding time with your baby. Saying “no” to the mountain of laundry? That is saying “yes” to an extra hour of much-needed sleep. Identifying the “yes” behind your “no” is a great way to reframe it from a selfish act into a self-nurturing one.

As you start experimenting with the art of saying “no,” hold on to this: You are important and worth pouring into; you are allowed and encouraged to put yourself first from time to time.

This site is intended for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Please consult your physician or other health-care professional.

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