Dear First Time Moms

Dear First Time Moms,

Congratulations! You have joined the honored circle of motherhood. It may look like most mothers have it all together, but the truth is, they really don’t. Most of us are trying to stay one step ahead of our children. Remember this. None of us have children and motherhood all figured out. None of us have it all together.

Here is a partial list of things to remember as a first-time mother.

Don’t Compare. Those perfect pictures shown on Instagram, in magazines, and elsewhere are only a thin slice of reality. You have no idea how long it took to get everyone set up for the picture, or how long perfection was maintained after the picture. Remember, none of us have it together for more than a few minutes. Life is full of peaceful, clean, everyone dressed and smiling moments, only occasionally.

Every mother is different. One is calm and assured. One is nervous and unsure. One seems to have all the right answers, then baby two comes along and nothing works. All of us are similar and yet different. And what works for one mother, fails for another.

Every Child is different. One sleeps through the night. One screams through the night. One loves to be cuddled, the other doesn’t. One loves tummy time, the other detests it. One is eating everything, the other is allergic to everything. One loves the new and interesting surprises of life, the other loves the established routine. One walks at 9 months, the other at 19 months. One crawls, the other never crawls. One newborn poops 4 times a day, the other once a week. There is a wide range of normal.

Please continue reading at Mothering Beyond Expectations where I am guest posting today. Thanks.


Linking up at Arabah Joy (#Grace & Truth).


How and Why We Must Learn to Say No

We women are nurtures, caretakers, lovers of others, and let-me-help-you serving machines. And that is wonderful and good. But these traits can cause trouble when we start getting to many tasks on our plates and wear ourselves out.

You ever done that? Over committed and burned the oil of too-much-to-accomplish on both ends of the calendar page?

I have. And not only do I suffer, but those around me suffer. I get tired and cranky and very-little-patience fits me to a tee. And then I often topple into the martyr syndrome. 

Not a pretty sight. And in that not-so-pretty-state, I am not helping myself or others very effectively. Which means I am not accomplishing what I set out to do. My desire to say yes is backfiring like a stubborn car with an engine problem. And if anyone will listen, my complaints are about as loud.

So how can we learn to say no?

It really isn’t that hard to say no. In fact, it can pop out of my mouth without much thought when a child comes and asks me, “Mom, can I stay up for another three hours,” and in numerous other situations. Saying the word no, is not the problem. The feelings that engulf me before or after I say no are the problem. It is the guilt. Shame. Pressure. A feeling of letting others down. Or not meeting expectations (theirs or mine) that weighs down on me, that makes it so hard to say no.

We have this desire to look good, have others be pleased with us, not disappoint, to . . . okay, let’s be honest here, glorify our self.

In other words, what motivates me, makes it hard to say no.

I can pronounce this powerful two-letter word very easily, but not when I am motivated by praise, guilt, self-promotion, or pleasing others.

And that’s the rub.

So, what can I do to set healthy boundaries for myself (and others)? How can I more easily say no when I need to? What can I do to check my motivations? How can I not be motivated by guilt?

Here are some things that can help when faced with a decision:


1. Realize there are lots of good and right things we are going to have to say no to. Sometimes it is easy to say no to something because we don’t want to do it or maybe it is wrong. But sometimes it is hard to say no to good and right things. An older lady gave me this advice shortly after I was married, and I have had to remind myself of this many times. I can’t say yes to every interesting movie or girlfriend outing or to each service endeavor or I would run myself ragged. We have so many good and right choices to choose from that we will end up saying no to things we really want to do sometimes. For no other reason than we can’t do it all.

2. Figure out your purpose, goal, dream, or calling for this season in life.  When we know where we are headed and what we need to spend most of our waking hours doing, it makes it easier to say no to things that will keep us from our purpose or delay our goals. If my goal is exercise every morning, then I can’t commit my mornings to other activities. If my job is to homeschool my children, then I need to keep my day hours free from commitments. If I am trying to start a business, then I need to dedicate time to do this. Say no, so you can yes to the most important things.

3. Ask yourself why you feel motivated to say yes. Guilt, shame, trying to prove something, to feel loved or wanted, because we don’t want to miss out or be the only one saying no, or because we want to look good are all motivators that prompt us to say yes. But they are not healthy motivators. And when we say yes to these motivators, they often build resentment and bitterness in our heart.

4. Decide whether you can joyfully say yes without later feeling aggravation, remorse, or resentment. It is not fair to us, or the other person, if we say that we will do something, and then the day of we are stomping around all upset about say yes.

5. Understand that when you say no, things will still get done. We don’t have to do it all or do it again because we have done it in the past. Other people can step in and do it. In fact, our no, gives someone else the opportunity to say yes.

6. Remember that saying no now doesn’t mean you say no to it forever. Certain times of our lives have more commitments, limitations, or responsibilities. Maybe I can’t say yes to something now, but I can in a few years.

7. Trust your intuition. You know if you have the time and energy to take on one more thing without feeling resentment and while still completing your current job and duties, getting enough sleep, and taking care of yourself.

8. Renegotiation can take place anytime. Just because you have been doing something for the last eleven years, does not mean you have to keep doing it. Maybe it is time to renegotiate and take it off your plate.

9. Schedule time for fun, relaxation, getting together with friends, and just to be. If we don’t set aside time for these things, they usually don’t happen. Be intentional and make it happen. All work makes Jill a tired and cranky girl.

10. Don’t say yes right away. Give yourself a day or two to think about it.

11. When you say no, you don’t have to explain why you are saying no. Just politely say no. The other person does not need to be told why or how you can’t do something. There is no need to justify your decision.

12. Set boundaries for your self because these boundaries will not set themselves. When we start respecting our limitations and set boundaries, others will respect them too.

13. Learn to tell yourself no. We need to be self-controlled, order our own lives, and readjust our expectations when they are not healthy. We can’t stay up past midnight watching movies and wake up cheerful the next morning.

14. Pray for wisdom and direction. God knows what is best for us. When we look to him for advice, he reminds us of our worth, our reason for being, and helps us set our priorities.

Saying no can be hard, but if we are saying no for the right reasons, it becomes easier. When we are evaluating our motives, remembering the current direction of our life, and setting boundaries for our self, we are headed in the right direction.

And that’s a healthy direction to be headed.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.


If you need some weekly encouragement and hope, tied up with some humor? Subscribe and join the journey. Life is sweeter when we walk alongside one another.

Join the discussion: What helps you say no?

May link up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory); and Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope),  Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), Arabah Joy (#Grace & Truth).

Why We Can’t Say No, But Must

We women can be focused driven work machines. We strive to accomplish more than possible, spin the gears nonstop until after the day is done, and are often multi-tasking like a pro. We can change diapers with our eyes closed while planning a mental to-do list for the next 24 hours, cook dinner and give an oral spelling test at the same time, slam dunk a presentation at work and then transition to shuttling the kids to sports. Such is the skill of most women.

We are not born capable, multitasking, accomplish-all machines, but as time passes and we reach adulthood and acquire more responsibility, we hone and refine this hurry-and-accomplish-all-that-life-throws at us skill.

And this is a good thing.

But it can also be a not so good thing.

Because we women tend to overcommit ourselves, pile more on our plate than we can reasonably accomplish, carry around guilt and unreasonable expectations, and we have a hard time saying no.

We may run on guilt and “I should,” because what people think is often very important to us.

So why do we women run ourselves ragged trying to do it all, please all, and struggle with this fear to say no?

I have never seen an article aimed at men that explains why they need to quit overcommitting themselves. I have never heard men confess to each other that ‘no’ needs to be part of their vocabulary. Nor have I caught them complaining (or is it bragging) about how they are just so busy they can hardly catch their breath.  

This struggle to say ‘yes’ to often and ‘no’ to little seems to be more of a struggle for women than men.

So, what motivates this fear we women have of saying no?

 1. Our own expectations that we can and should be able to do everything. (We often have higher expectations for ourselves then others have for us.)

2.  We didn’t hear other women saying no and setting healthy boundaries when we were growing up.

3. We grew up hearing that we could do it all.

4. We think saying ‘no’ is admitting defeat or is being weak. (And the last thing we want to be is weak.)

5. We are easily motivated by guilt. Our own and others. And this guilt to please others also doesn’t want to let others down or disappoint them, so we say yes. We think it is our job or responsibility. And as the years pass, we tend to pile more and more onto our job description.

6. We think no one else will do it. Or do it right. Or do it on time. Or do it the way it needs to be done. So, we do it.

7. We rationalize “what’s one more thing?’ One more child? One more meeting? One more committee?

8. We think we should do it because we have done it the last four years. Or is it ten years? Everyone is depending on us and we know how to do it right. 

9. We want to be strong and capable, so we say yes and then yes again. We are after all, supper women. We think super women don’t need help and don’t ask for help.

10. We have this inner nature to nurture, take care of, and help, which of course is a very good thing. Unless we can’t say no and feel responsible for things that are not our responsibility. 

11. Past or present shame motivates us. Maybe we were told by our mother, or someone else, we were not very helpful, and years later we are still trying to prove their words wrong. 

12. People tell us we should do it, or expect us to do it. We don’t want to let them down.

13. We are good at doing something, and know we are good at doing it, and it is hard to say no because we know we will do a darn good job.

14. We have been doing it for years. Why stop now? And if we stop, who will do it? And if we stop people protest.

15. We feel everyone else’s needs come before ours. Or that they should if we are a good mother, wife, sister, daughter, employee  . . ..

16. We feel we need to be busy. Our worth comes from how much we accomplish, and we feel important when we are busy. Busy is our new important.

17. Saying yes makes us feel good and keeps us from feeling our real emotions.

Although this is a rather lengthy list, there are still reasons not listed (please leave them in the comments if you think of any).

The important thing to remember is that different things motivate us to say yes, and different circumstances or people bring forth different triggers (or emotions).

One person may make us feel guilty, another person may play upon our need to nurture, while another situation may make us feel selfish if we say no.

The point is . . .

We have assorted reasons about why we say yes to often, and don’t say no enough. One reason will not cover all circumstances or people. This is also why it is easier to say no sometimes, and harder other times.

So, what’s the problem with all this?

When we say yes to often, and no not enough, we often fall into the martyr syndrome or the victim syndrome. Neither is very pretty or fun to live with.

What is the martyr syndrome?

A martyr does everything herself. She wants to appear as the only one good enough to do things right and silently looks for recognition and pats on the back for all her hard work and helping of others. She never asks for help (others would not do it correctly, or do it at all). When others don’t praise her efforts, or notice that she is biting off more than she can handle and step in and help her (but without her asking), she becomes bitter, resentful, sarcastic, and snippy. Guilt and shame are two of the tools she uses to make those around her feel bad for not helping her or appreciating her.

What is the victim syndrome?

A victim feels like she does it all (and often feels she doesn’t have a choice but to do it all). She feels that everyone takes her for granted and relies on her to much. She feels overworked and taken advantage of, but she won’t stand up and say no (or feels she can’t say no without consequences). Instead she tries to get others to feel remorseful for all her yes’s. She does this by serving a heaping dose of guilt and shame on those around her. Her goal is to make others feel sorry for her, while making them think she has no other choice but to continue doing what she is doing and sacrificing her happiness and time for them.

Like I said, neither the martyr or victim is pretty to live within close proximity to.

There is good news. Both the martyr and victim are roles we choose to play, or not play.

Like so much of life, we can choose to be a martyr or victim. And we can also bounce between the two roles depending on our audience and time of day. Or we can be strong women who learn to make healthy choices, take responsibility for our own attitudes (and not blame others or circumstances), and learn to say no.

We can model how to set healthy boundaries to our co-workers, sisters, daughters, friends, and mothers that respect our needs and the needs of those we help and serve, or we can become victims and martyrs and make those within close proximity run for cover from us. We can take responsibility for our own choices, life, and attitudes, or we can blame others and be motivated by guilt and trying to please others. We can try to be super women who have it all together, and are ever ready to help everyone but ourselves, or we can be honest, vulnerable, and tender with ourselves and others. We can try and do it all on our own (and miserably fail), or we can show more strength by asking for help from others and our creator. We can look for the approval of others, or the approval of God. We can base our worth on our to-do list and accomplishments, or we can base our worth on being his child. We can give our self grace, or beat our self up. The choice is ours.   

What will you choose?

Next week’s post – Tips on HOW to say no and WHY we must learn to say no.


Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.


If you need some weekly encouragement and hope, tied up with some humor? Subscribe and join the journey. Life is sweeter when we walk alongside one another.

Join the discussion: What keeps you from saying no? (Mine are 1, 2, 5,  6, 9, and 14.)

May link up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory); and Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope),  Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), Arabah Joy (#Grace & Truth).