Give Yourself Permission to Say No

by Katelyn Denning February 17, 2023

mother talking to son

I don’t do kid birthday parties.

The thought of picking a theme, finding a location, making food, buying favors, and managing the chaos that is a bunch of young kids and parents high on sugar and adrenaline is just too much for me.

So I decided early on that we would keep kid birthdays to immediate family only (plus grandparents) and make them special in our own way.

In a world with so many claims on my time, it felt like one way that I could give myself a little break.

One way that I could reclaim some time, even if it was only once a year.

But I’d be lying if I told you I never second-guessed that decision, because I do.

Every time I see a post on IG of a friend’s party for their kid. Or we get an invitation to a friend’s birthday party and I think about how we won’t be reciprocating that invite.

I wonder if I’m doing enough.

If maybe it would be worth my time to pull everything together for an elaborate party.

That’s the thing about deciding how you’ll spend your time.

It’s one thing to say you’re not going to throw kid birthday parties or you’re not going to enroll in the super amazing, but super expensive preschool, or you’re only going to do one extracurricular activity at a time.

It’s another to not second-guess that decision.

To not feel like maybe you should just throw a birthday party or enroll in the “magical” preschool or sign up for all the extracurricular activities.

There are a million ways you could spend your time. A million decisions that you have to make as parents about how you’ll parent, how you want to live your life, and what you want to prioritize. And no one gives you a rule book to follow because there is no right way.

So you look around. You look at how others are doing things to see what’s possible, what you like, what you don’t like.

But at some point you have to decide for yourself. You have to stop researching and thinking and crowd-sourcing and you have to decide.

Will you figure out a way to cook every meal at home or will you decide that making 4 out of 7 meals at home is enough?

Will you sign up for 4 extracurriculars this spring or will you decide that one at a time is enough?

Will you say yes to that extra work project because it’s what you should do or will you decide that the workload and exposure you have now is enough?

You decide and then you have to commit to that decision. You have to trust that this is what’s right for me, for now.

That it is enough.

But here’s the good news about deciding what’s enough…

It’s not set in stone.

No one’s making you sign a contract.

So what you say is enough this year, this season, or even this week, might not be enough later on. And that’s ok.

You’re allowed to change your mind.

Just like you’re allowed to change your mind the other way as well.

Just because your current workload used to be enough without anything extra doesn’t mean this month you can’t speak up and volunteer for more.

Just because doing just one extracurricular last season was enough doesn’t mean that this season you can’t sign up for three.

Your circumstances will change. Your kids will change. Your schedule will change. YOU will change.

And so you can change your mind too.

But don’t live in indecision.

Don’t decide your enough and then second-guess it. Make your decision and move on until you feel ready for more, for something different.

I discovered that kid birthday parties were not my thing by throwing one.

When my oldest was two I thought that was what I wanted to do. And so we hosted a big party and after that, I was exhausted and drained and so I asked myself: “Was it fun for me? For my son? Were we just doing it because it seemed like what we were supposed to do? Would we want to do it again?”

It was after that that I decided, this was something I could eliminate. Our family parties would be enough for now.

So if you’re doing something right now that feels like more than enough for you. That’s good too! Now you know. And you can change.

You can focus your energy and time on the things that matter to you.

You can decide what is enough for you, for your family, and for your time. And then you can commit to that choice for as long as it works, but you don’t have to do it all.

Katelyn Denning


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