Recently I was talking to a mom who was expressing some of her frustrations as a parent of two teenagers. Although she mostly plays the role of mom, she also plays the role of chauffeur and taxi driver. Since it’s summertime and her kids are out of school for a few months, she wants to give them as many memorable experiences as possible where they get to play before next semester.
Even though her kids have the summer off, she still has to work full-time as does her husband and is tired after her 9am-5pm work schedule. She recognizes how her teens are having the kind of fun she wanted to have when she was in high school. Whether it’s picking her son up after a bonfire at the beach, or back and forth trips to the mall with her daughter, she’s driving around town to make sure they have safe, reliable transportation.
It all seems like a never ending ride when she picks them up from one place, and as soon as they get in the car, they are asking her to take them someplace later that night or the next day. It must be so much fun to do as much as they can during those hours they would normally be in school. Her cry out for help was expressed literally by using the words of “I need a vacation from their vacation”.
Like the vacation my client Danielle wanted to take so badly but couldn’t because of her frustrations with money. We dug deeper into the specifics of her financial situation and she revealed something she doesn’t normally express. Although she’s a go-getter and works really hard to earn a good living, she has always felt this need to take care of others.
This part of her came about because of some her experiences growing up. She had a mother who struggled to keep food on the table and the bills paid. So Danielle started doing her part to contribute at an early age by working while she was in high school. She further developed this person who was a financial caretaker by extending help to a brother as they entered their adult years.
Her brother had lost his job a few years back and had spiraled into a depression where he couldn’t find another job. His way of dealing with the stress was to drink to relax which was the beginning of a long-term problem. On top of that, her brother has kids and Danielle was afraid that if she didn’t send him money that the kids wouldn’t be taken care of.
Like the ability a woman has to take care of herself in a relationship. Gina shared with me a story about a guy she has been seeing for two years. It too was like a spiraled rollercoaster ride that had its ups and downs. She admitted they had a strong sexual connection, and that although they had a good time when they were together, she also knew that it wasn’t necessarily the healthiest relationship for her.
She went back and forth as to whether or not she wanted more of a committed relationship with him. She recognized how this isn’t really the kind of person she wanted to be with long term, but yet she found herself going back and then got frustrated when he would say he can’t give her anything more. During those evenings when she wanted nothing more than to have some intimacy, she was overcome with disappointment when he would say, “I can’t” or “not tonight”.
“Why does it always have to be when it’s convenient for him?” was a major question she was asking out loud in our sessions. Just when she would get to that point of being done, she would tell him so and it was then that he would start to show up in the way she would ideally want him to. The trouble was, it wasn’t consistent, it was a pattern and she knew she was done and didn’t know how to say no to him.
Being able to say yes is one thing, and being able to say no is sometimes more powerful! What most people don’t realize is that when you have a hard time saying no, it’s most often because you’re not willing to admit to something that you’re afraid of. Are you afraid of disappointing someone else? Are you afraid that you will scare someone off? Is the fear about looking selfish or as if you aren’t a caring person?
If you are one of those people who has a hard time saying no, have you thought about the fact that you might be enabling someone else to continue being the way they are and being reliant on you? So by saying no, what are you saying “yes” to? I’m not going to suggest that you’re wondering what you are saying yes to, as you can probably guess, it’s you! Let me say that again. By being able to say no to someone else, you are really saying yes to you!
There’s also the possibility that the people you say yes to all the time are so used to it, and now unconsciously expect it, that their appreciation for your generosity has waned. Whether it’s your time, your emotions, or financial help, what would it be like to say “no, not this time”. By looking out for your own needs first, to make sure you are taking care of you, you will then make powerful choices about how it is that you can take care of others.
Like Gina who took a deeper look at what it is that she truly values in a relationship. After getting some relationship coaching she also got really honest with herself about what she wants right now in her life. She admitted that she does want to a more serious long-term relationship, and wants to feel like her romantic partner is looking out for her needs in addition to his own.
Although she was afraid to admit that, she felt much better once she did! The clarity she now had about what she valued also included the value she has to offer as a woman. She now felt great about the conversation she was going to have with this guy and how empowered she would feel once she did
Like the empowered feeling Danielle got, when she thought about the possibility of no longer having to be financially responsible for her brother. She too was afraid to admit it at first because of what it would mean about her if she didn’t help him. She now saw that if she started to say no, he would have to find a way to take care of himself and his kids.
After asking her more questions during our last coaching session, she was able to admit that he was fully capable of stepping up. Since she was filling the shoes as the provider all those years, it meant that he didn’t have to. Her then having to admit that she has possibly an enabler all this time was hard for her too, but once she did, she also learned that by empowering herself to say no, she would then empower him to say yes.
Such as the yes the mom wanted to say to herself with regards to giving herself that vacation! She is a mom who loves her kids tremendously and was enjoying seeing how much fun they were having. In the process of letting go of her frustration, she could clearly see what she would be gaining.
In delving deeper as to why she was saying yes, she became peaceful about being able to say no. What she would gain is the self-respect and the pride in knowing that she is setting a good example. When her kids get older, they will look back at this time and remember that their mom too said no, not only because she had to work the next day but because of the love she holds for herself.