April McGowan

Just Say No

From the title, you might expect this to be about drugs.  Not exactly.  Although, it could be argued it is about a kind of addiction that American women, moms in particular, are falling into:  busyness.

Nearly every mom I know is suffering form the three O’s:  over-scheduled, overtired and overwrought.  We are stay-at-home moms, homeschooling moms, some work outside the home (as well as in), some have moved on to the title of grandma—but we all have one thing in common—we are overdone.

What are we all doing?  We’re simply taking advantage of opportunities.  Our country is a ‘land of opportunity’.  We have options open to us that no other country has—more than we know what to do with—and therein lies the challenge.

For generations our ancestors worked hard, night and day, to earn us the freedoms we enjoy.  Our parents didn’t have all these choices, and maybe we didn’t even have all these choices, but our kids have every avenue of learning and entrainment open to them.  There are camps for all ages—all year long; musical instruction; art lessons; sports for every season; reading programs; after school programs; church programs and the list never ends.  However, with great blessing comes even greater responsibility.

Now, I’m certainly not advising saying “no” to everything and live in seclusion (although right now seclusion may sound mighty tempting).  We are to be out in the world, being witnesses for the Lord.  But follow me, if you will.  When we don’t say no enough, we fall into a trap of our own devising.  This trap can keep us off kilter with ourselves, out of sync with our family, and most importantly out of communion with God.  Those three things add up to one ugly word:   STRESS.

“But,” you might say, “I want my child involved in the community.  I want to be in touch with other moms, and be part of the action.  I don’t want them to miss out.”  I think it’s that last part that really niggles at our minds.

To be honest, it’s hard for me to say no.  I don’t know why, but a welling sense of guilt begins to build in my gut when I tell my child no.  Their eyes fill with longing and a little voice in my head whispers, “They might not get this chance again.”  Sometimes I give in and add yet another thing that my schedule really can’t handle.

Lately though, I’ve felt convicted to protect my family.  That’s what I’m likening this to:  protection.  We can’t be all we are supposed to be if we are stressed out, disconnected from our families and separated from the One who gives us strength to face the day.  And if we never stop, if we are always on the go, we won’t hear His still, small voice that speaks to us, guides us, empowers us to make it through our day, and we might just miss out on an opportunity God has planned for US.  So I’ve decided to pray about every opportunity, and ask “Even though this is good, will it keep us apart as a family?  Will it cause undo stress?  Will other relationships suffer because of it (my relationship with the Lord, my husband, my children)?  And if the answer to any of them is “yes,” then I’m going to ignore my guilt and just say “no.”

I’ll let you know how I’m doing!

Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.


  1. Billie Jo Robbins
    Dec 18, 2009

    I so agree with this. As a person with a chronic illness you are forced to say no. It is so sad to me that most people don’t know what or who they would be without their busyness. When that choice of busyness is taken away from you you are either left with feeling worthless and a nothing, or you come to learn what is truly important in life…I have learned that “being” a Christian is just as important and to me even more important than “doing” Christian things. Thank you for putting this into words!

  2. homeschooltam
    Dec 18, 2009

    I also agree. It is so hard not to feel as if we need to do everything, especially when our friends are doing everything.

    When a person is so busy that they can’t do things they *should* do, or when they are so busy with other commitments that they ignore their commitments to family or friends, then they are too busy!

    I struggle with this all the time. I don’t know the entire answer, because sometimes saying “no” drops things squarely in someone else’s lap. Perhaps it does belong there, but sometimes our saying “no” makes someone else’s life really impossible or difficult. So, I think prayer is really important.

    It is also even more difficult if those who are overly-busy look down on those who are less so or who make choices to say “no.” Or, even worse, decide that because someone has said “no” on occasion, not to invite them to participate in anything similar in the future (when the answer just might have been “yes.”)

    I just think about when I was a kid, when I was involved in ONE thing at a time most of the time (occasionally two), and most nights were spent at home with my family. That was really nice.

  3. Laurene Wells
    Dec 18, 2009

    I have faced a few major struggles with this very issue this year. Trying to take a stand to protect my family, and yes, I think “protect” is a very good word choice! I would even go so far as to say fight for my family! Defend my family! Guard my family! It feels so much like the world is trying to grab my family away from me, trying to steal my time, steal my evenings, steal my children from me. I lost ground over the years, and now I am having to fight very hard to gain it back. I am finding also that it is harder to recover ground once lost than to stand firm from the begining. People who have gotten used to me saying “OK, sure” to everything sometimes seem to be personally insulted, or at best terribly disappointed, when I tell them that I really can’t do that thing they want me to do. In some cases they feel like they can just talk me into it if they can find the right angle to persuade me. A very wise friend once told me though, “There are MANY good things in the world. But we must choose among them and pick only the BEST things for our family, and be willing to let some of those good things fall by they way so that we can enjoy the best things in life together.” Sometimes that means missing out on a few really good camps, it means missing some really good classes, it means missing some really good extra curricular activities, so we can stay home and have the best experience together creating memories that will last a lifetime. Holding on to this focus is hard when your kids are growing up and on the verge of leaving home, trying to stretch their wings and get ready to fly on their own, and yet it’s the most important thing ever to treasure these last few years we have together while the kids are home. We will never get them back again!


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