New Mom Basics: The Art Of Saying “No”

A newborn holds his father’s finger. Image owned by Adrienne Gibbs. Permission required for use.

I got an interesting request the other day. It was from a friend asking me to host a Super Bowl party for “for everyone.” Why? “Because,” she wrote, “You have a big basement. All you have to do is finish the walls, fix the lights and bar and throw a party!” Notwithstanding the fact that someone texted me to suggest I throw a Super Bowl party in my unfinished and not up to code basement, but who would then clean my house, provide the food, breastfeed my newborn while people came over, sanitize everything after they left, shovel and de-ice every walkway, provide the liquor, set the TV up (or buy a new one) and play hostess with the mostess during a five- to seven-hour event?

Full stop.

It seems that the only people who read articles on new baby rules are parents with new babies. So, how do we reach the others? Sure, you can passive aggressively share articles like this one on your FB page. But the childless won’t really be checking for child-specific articles on your page. What’s a parent to do? Learn the art of saying no.

Be upfront. Communicate in person. Correct them at the first infraction.

That’s it. Super simple.

Moms have to get a backbone. Practice right now while baby is new because you will use it later. Again and again. And again.

I told my friend that I’m not interested in throwing a party. She pushed back, arguing that my basement was the perfect size. I told her again that I’m not interested in throwing a party. I also didn’t bring my baby into it. I didn’t bring up RSV season or people walking in smelling like cigarette smoke. I didn’t even bring up the fact that my kids will be napping during prime Super Bowl action and all that hooting and hollering would wake them up.

Nope. I simply said no. (Plus, to myself I’m thinking: I’m planning on getting a sitter and going to a dope ass Super Bowl party downtown, on a heated rooftop deck, with friends.)

I’ve had to say no a lot lately. With two children, it’s nigh impossible to go everywhere and do everything with one crying and the other sick, or one sleepy and the other having a must-nurse-all-the-time growth spurt. And it’s winter. In Chicago. With one I could easily go to the 7 p.m. church concert or hit up three picnics on one day in the summer. But with two? I can only go to one picnic, and then I have to go early and leave early or not go at all. Because if my kids miss nap? That affects bedtime. And if bedtime gets affected for one night? My kids are all messed up for at least two weeks after. I learned this the hard way. So at this point I’d rather sit it out than sit up every night for weeks, patting a screaming baby on the head because he is overtired and refuses to sleep.

Yes. That’s just me. And no, I hardly ever explain the intricacies of my baby schedule with the folks who could care less. They don’t want excuses. They want answers. Yes or no?

I finally learned that NO works well for me because explaining your position opens the door for someone to argue with you about how you raise your children. That’s no bueno and unwanted. If I can’t go or don’t want to go to the wedding or the birthday or the Vegas trip, I’ll send a gift or card if warranted and then keep it moving. Once I hit the Lotto and get a nanny or once my kids get a wee bit older and don’t need me and the hubs for basic sustenance and care, I’ll (we’ll) be back on the town.

This “no plan” won’t work for everybody, but I promise you it will work for most. It will most certainly piss some people off, especially if like me, you were born to be a people pleaser. The good news is that anyone who is angry that you don’t want to subject your child to, say, the sound levels at Lollapalooza, can go throw themselves off a cliff. Lolla might have a cute little kids area, but let’s be honest, it aint for newborns. At least not mine…  And who really wants to argue with a parent about what she or he should do with regards to their progeny? See? Unless the kid is in mortal danger, it’s not even worth entertaining that kind of conversation.

That said, be strategic about it. Don’t say no to everything. Just say no to a few things, and then a few more. By the time your newborn gets to kindergarten, you will have a highly developed sense of no-ness, and when people ask you to take three days off of work to drive 300 miles for a one year old’s birthday party where older kids are not invited because “they might make the baby sick,” you will be able to clearly discern what your response should be on the RSVP email or card.

I know what mine was. What’s yours?

Adrienne SG is a Chicago writer. Follow her on twitter @adriennewrites and on her blog southsideparenting.

One comment

  1. “I finally learned that NO works well for me because explaining your position opens the door for someone to argue with you about how you raise your children.” I’m trying to learn! This post is a great start!


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