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Do You Say 'No' More Than You Say 'Yes'?

Must-Have Parent

This is the year that I stop finding excuses.

I know, I know, it's the middle of January already. People who pledged to lose weight have already dropped out of Zumba. Wannabe ex-smokers are already several packs into a new carton.

I'm late with my resolutions. What can I say? Life has been crazy busy these past few weeks like it is for every Must-Have Parent.

Wait, that sounds like an excuse. Ugh. I couldn't even last six sentences. But still. This year. No excuses.

Notice I said "finding excuses" instead of  "making excuses"? As a Must-Have Parent, I don't have to create excuses; they're always there if I want use them.

  1. Childcare
  2. Time
  3. Money

In that order.

There's not a lot I can do about time and money. If I don't have time or can't afford to do something, those are perfectly legitimate reasons to say no. In those cases, it's even responsible to say no.

But childcare, and not time or money, is far and away the top reason I decline invitations. As the Must-Have Parent in my relationship, not having a partner who is available to pinch-hit is my No. 1 reason for not fully participating in life.

And that's what I'm talking about here, by the way, fully participating in life.

Midlife crises seem to be en vogue in my circles lately, and I suppose I'm due for one too.

Nearly everything in life becomes more difficult when I try to do it with three kids, especially three kids who have never understood nor accepted the phrase "just sit still and color."

For the past decade, I've avoided meeting up with friends, even at child-friendly events, because I didn't want to wrangle kids. I'm not a kid person by nature and, while I love my kids and generally enjoy their company, when they're with me I don't get to enjoy the company of others. It's easier and more enticing to just say no to invitations than it is to spend most of my time chasing and scolding my children.

Also, while I enjoy my own children, I don't much enjoy other people's children. My nightmare -- no kidding, actual nightmare -- is that I'll get asked to keep the nursery. I actually stopped going to church for this very reason.

So when I get invited to do something, I do a little calculation in my head. (Bear with me, folks, I'm not a math person by nature, either.) It goes something like this:

(Potential Fun) - (Cost of Attending) - (Stress of Finding Childcare) - (Cost of Childcare) - (Stress of Putting Life Back Together After a Sitter) = (Likelihood of Attending)

Before I had kids, I said yes to nearly every invitation. My calculation back then looked something like this:

(Potential Fun) - (Cost of Attending) x (Potential for Making Good Connections) - (Time Needed to Recover Afterward/Hangover Time) = (Likelihood of Attending)

Already this year, I've been invited to be a bridesmaid in an out-of-town wedding; to attend an out-of-town bachelorette party; to join a group of high school girlfriends for a few days at Bonnaroo (something I've wanted to do for years); and to travel to two different 40th birthday parties for friends I adore.

All are expensive, time-consuming events that will require not just a babysitter, but someone who will keep my kids for days. All will require weeks of planning and preparation. All are likely to make me a little resentful that I can't just kiss my husband at the door and dart off to the airport.

I want to do all of these things, but trying to arrange childcare logistics to attend even one is so stressful that I'm tempted to just say no. Last year, I would have declined most, if not all, of them. But declining is so 2014.

2015 is my year for accepting. I'm sure I won't be able to accept every event, but I can make it to at least a few more.

This year, I'll be fully participating in life. No Zumba required.

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Rebekah Sanderlin

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Contributor

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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