What Happy Women Don’t Do

Two women are comparing their extremely busy lives

Step 5 to an ignited life:  Just say no

The volunteer coordinator sent me an e-mail asking if I could come over around 10:00am the next day to work on the project that I had been asking to schedule for weeks.  Less than 24 hours notice?  You want me to be there mid-morning on a work day?  Was this lady high?!  I left an upset voice message telling her I’d been asking for weeks for a planned workday so that I could get other volunteers to help.  I went on to list all the other obligations I have – family, kids’ school, other volunteer activities, my job – and that there was no way I could get this done with such short notice.  Didn’t this person understand how important my time is?  How ridiculously busy I am?

Being the personal development nerd that I am, I was a bit troubled that I had such a strong reaction.  Ultimately, we picked another day, it wasn’t so much work that I couldn’t get it done on a Saturday morning with the help of my sweet husband.  It was truly no big deal.  And it didn’t take me long to figure out that what I was really upset about was not that the volunteer coordinator didn’t understand my life, but that I take on too much.  Then I get pissed at other people when one of the things I’ve committed to do interferes with me doing a good job on all the other things I’ve committed to do.  As usual, my upset feelings have nothing to do with anyone but myself.

I don’t like being upset.  I like to be calm, even happy.  So I research what happy women do.  I’ve learned that happy women say “no”.  A lot.  Researchers find that most women say yes, even when they want to say no, because they want to make other people happy, to build connection and to meet cultural expectations.  But women that report actually feeling happy, take care of themselves and say no to things that make them feel bad.

So let’s just pretend that we want our kids to use their own parents as a role model for how to be happy, healthy adults (in truth, I want mine to model themselves on Cliff and Clair Huxtable from The Cosby Show but I can’t get them to watch it, they can’t get past the big hair and ugly sweaters).  Do you want your daughters to be overtired, over-committed, and pissed off about it for a good 20-30 years of their lives?  Do you want your sons to live with someone like that?

It is perfectly acceptable, even encouraged, in our culture to whine and complain about how tired we are, how busy we are and how hard we work.  I am just as guilty of this as the next person.  I’d like to challenge you to brag and crow this week, not about all the tasks on your plate, but instead about taking a nap, turning down a volunteer opportunity or relaxing on the couch with a good book.  Let’s try and show the kids that saying no makes for a well-rested, well-fed and downright delightful mama.  And the only way to teach this is to live it.  We might have to leave dishes in the sink a tad longer than usual (soak ’em, people!), we might need to explore some crock-pot recipes and when we get that next request for a volunteer, we will ignore it while chanting silently in our heads “I will nap.  I will nap.  I will nap.”

I would love for you to share in the comments below your best strategies for saying no without feeling like the worst person that ever lived.  If you don’t have any ideas, ask a dude, they are awesome at no (to be clear, not all men are dudes, but you can always find one –  because the dude abides).


  1. Esther Durán Lumm says:

    Love it! In my now retirement years, I have finally learned to say no to things that make me drive too far and/or tire me out. Great advice, Keri! You rock!

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