Learning to say no is harder than it sounds

Marc Lalonde
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Effective time management becomes an issue for parents who are everywhere, all the time


Contrary to what those who have come across my gruff journalists' exterior may in fact believe – strongly, for that matter, in some corners of the West Island – that I am all business, all the time. It's a fair assumption. I like to ask questions, find out what's going on and am a genuninely curious person.

You would also likely be surprised to discover I have a hard time saying 'no' to people who need or require my help. All that had to happen was for someone to say 'Marc, we really need your help on this,' or offer me some role on a committee by promising minimal work and very small time investment. I'd jump at the chance.

It got to the point where most, if not all of my spare time was being devoted to some form of community volunteerism. I organized social events and barbecues at the community pool, I went out and organized Canada Day parade floats, coached soccer teams, sat in on executive committees, offered up what little expertise I could on certain matters and found myself in a quagmire of other peoples' priorities.

'We just need to do this, or do that,' they'd say. I'd turn around and tell my wife that I volunteered to do such-and-such a thing and she'd give me that look of hers that is a cross between pity and frustration.

'You know you'r e just going to wear yourself out, right?' she'd say to me. 'Can't somebody else do it?'

The answer, obviously, was no, of course not. Because why would someone ask me to do it if they didn't need just the touch Marc Lalonde brings to the job?

Because I was the first patsy they found, that's why.

And that is the lesson I have found myself having to learn with my children and my wife: It's OK to say no to things that will take up my spare time and turn me into a roiling ball of stress and frustration the rest of the time.

It's OK for me to say no to volunteer tasks that can go to someone else – and it's OK that other people will do them as well. For me, my acceptance of volunteer tasks, I suspect, has a lot to do with deep-seated insecurities about not being wanted. If somebody wants me, irrational Marc will argue in my subconscious, then I must be worth something!

Short of turning my parenting column into some sort of daily affirmation, doing things I don't enjoy and that take me away from my family and start cutting down on my relax time are going to be thing of the past for me. It's not going to be rude, or even negative – I just cannot hope to keep doing the amount of volunteering I have done in the past and give my family the attention, time and love they deserve. I also don't think I'm alone in that regard. I know from anecdotal evidence that 90 per cent of the community gigs that are pure labours of love are done by about 10 per cent of the involved parents.

Time management is fast becoming the most-valued skill in the parenting world these days – except there doesn't ever seem to be enough of it. So I'm dropping some things off my plate—and not a moment too soon, I might add.

Maybe other parents already know innately what it’s taken me some time to figure out: saying no sometimes – or simply not raising your hand – is a better bet when you have young children than when you don't.

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Recent comments

  • John Ranger
    April 12, 2013 - 17:13

    I would like to commend you here as your article (first) touches on a very important subject - HOW CHILDREN ARE AND ALWAYS SHOULD BE #1. Kids are an extension of ourselves, the parents who (for the most part anyway) love them indefinitely and always want what's best for them. Your intricate look into your own personal space has brought to your child(ren) an introspective ability on your part - that will benefit them for years to come. Secondly, you've written something here that - although maybe NOT pertinent to all parents, does touch those very great parents who are active and simply altruistic in nature....... Congratulations my man, and God only knows, this article MUST have surely saved your marriage if the wife was becoming a bit cross ...lol. ... nice to see there are fantastic parents still out there..... :-)