Just Say NoSarah Harrison was feeling frazzled. Why was she always the one who got roped into doing the jobs no one else wanted? Just because she was a stay-at-home mom, everyone thought she had unlimited amounts of time, energy, and resources and could serve with the PTA, her sons’ soccer leagues, and the church youth group.
Stay-at-home mom? By Sarah’s calculations, the last time she’d actually stayed at home was one day in January when both boys were sick with the flu.
That morning, Sarah’s day had started with an hour working the bake sale at Eli’s school followed by another one-hour shift at the book fair at Logan’s school. After ordering twenty-five dollars’ worth of books Logan would probably never read so that he could win a “free” T-shirt, Sarah sped through McDonald’s for a chicken biscuit. Her trusty travel mug with the “I Heart Tea” logo sat in her SUV’s cup holder, and she was pleased that her ginger-flavored black tea was still fairly hot.
While stopped at a red light, Sarah whipped out her cellphone and typed cereal and milk on the list of grocery items she needed to pick up. The red light turned green, and the car behind her honked.
Sarah was tempted to let the driver know what she thought about that, but she was in a hurry, too, headed to the monthly committee meeting of the downtown merchants.
Brad Harrison, her husband, owned a small insurance agency downtown, and Sarah represented Harrison’s Insurance Agency at the merchants’ meetings. Sarah tried to switch gears from school fund-raising and think about her report to the merchants. She was in charge of coordinating refreshments for the downtown Christmas Open House. When she got to the meeting, the business owners were complaining about the parking situation and gossiping about the merchants who hadn’t participated in the fall decorating contest.
I can’t believe these people have nothing better to do than sit around worrying about whether their neighbor has a pumpkin outside the door. Sarah realized she’d been nervously bouncing her foot up and down when Mary Ellen Simpson, who owned a downtown florist, gave her a disapproving look. Mary Ellen lived for those monthly committee meetings and took seriously her position as president of the merchants’ group.
Mary Ellen asked everyone to note a few dates of upcoming meetings, and some committee members pulled out their smartphones to add dates to their calendars. Sarah pretended to do the same, but actually she was typing vitamins onto her grocery list.
After Mary Ellen finally adjourned the interminably long meeting, she asked Sarah to stay behind. Mary Ellen wanted an update on the refreshments list for the Open House, which annoyed Sarah. If Mary Ellen didn’t trust Sarah to do it, why assign her the job?
“You know, Sarah, I envy you,” Mary Ellen said.
Sarah was surprised to hear that. “Really? Why would that be?”
“I’d love to just be a stay-at-home mom like you,” she said. “It must be so nice to have all that time to yourself and do whatever you want all day. I tried that for a few years when my children were young, but I found myself going stir-crazy. Besides, I wanted to put my business degree to good use. But how nice for you that you can be a homemaker.”
“As a matter of fact—”
Sarah was about to give Mary Ellen a snippy response when Mary Ellen’s phone rang. “Hi, Mayor Hudson,” she said, pointing to her phone and mouthing “Excuse me” to Sarah.
Sarah rode home fuming. No one seemed to appreciate her volunteer work, and what was she really accomplishing?
That night after supper, Sarah told Brad about her day and repeated what Mary Ellen had said.
“If you don’t enjoy volunteering, don’t do it anymore,” Brad said.
“Who will help coordinate the Christmas Open House next year if I don’t?”
“They’ll find someone else, or it won’t get done. Either way, life will go on.”
“Yes, I’m serious. You’ve been running around like crazy this past year, so why not take some time off and just say no to everything for a while? Might help you figure out what you really enjoy doing.”
As Sarah prepared to load the dishwasher, her phone rang. She looked at the touchscreen. It was her friend Karen, the PTA president at Ethan’s school.
Sarah picked up, and Karen said, “Hey, guess what? The nominating committee met, and they want you to be PTA president next year. Since there’s never any opposition, I can meet with you sometime after Christmas to let you shadow me for the next few months and get ready to take over in May.”
“Um, Karen, let me stop you right there. No,” Sarah said.
“No?” Karen sounded confused. “What do you mean no?”
“I mean no, I’m not taking on any new projects right now.”
“Are you sure?” Karen sounded genuinely puzzled.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
Karen’s voice lowered. “Is everything okay? Are you and Brad having problems?”
“Not at all,” Sarah said. “But I’m burned out on volunteering and need to take a break. Maybe some other year, but not right now.”
“Well, all right then,” Karen said before hanging up.
Sarah felt slightly guilty, but it had felt great to tell someone no. Strangely, she didn’t feel she owed anyone an explanation for her decision.
Next, she would try saying no to the soccer league.
As Sarah finished loading the top rack of the dishwasher, she popped in the travel tea mug she’d grown so used to sipping her tea from as she burned up the roads each day. Maybe she’d do like her mom and start drinking tea from a teacup instead.
Or maybe she’d have the neighbors over for tea. Maybe she’d start a tea business.
Then Sarah caught herself and smiled. Or maybe I’ll just read a book, or watch a TV program, or enjoy a cup of tea.
She felt better already.