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No: A Complete Sentence

Matthew 5:37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ ‘No’

” ‘No’ is a complete sentence.”- Anne Lamott. This something I wish I had firmly planted in my mind throughout my pregnancy and postpartum journey. Throughout my journey, I was constantly faced with novel interactions that never really occurred to me would even come up. For example, it took me a while for my bump to start showing, and when it did, some people saw fit to “pop” my theoretical bubble without a second thought and place their hand on my stomach. Good intentioned or not, I didn’t like it. In fact I actively avoid touching other people outside my immediate family because I am not a touchy feely kind of person. But even with all this in mind, I just stayed quiet.

Then, when my son arrived, things really took a turn. I had absolutely no desire to interact with the outside world, let alone fight off anyone who decided that for some reason that babies are the same as puppies, and they needed to be lauded around for all to see. I had seemingly set it in my mind that no one was going to get too close to him, especially with him being so small and coming early. Because if I couldn’t stand up for myself, surely I could do it for my son. I remember going to a get together with family and sort of coaching myself on how I could set boundaries and no matter what I would stick to it. My son wasn’t even two months old at the time so he was still very fresh. I remember the first person asking to hold him and I remember just kind of freezing up. The word no almost came out, but it somehow turned into ok. Then he was passed off to the next person, and then the next, and the next after that. I hated every second of it, but still I was quiet. Unfortunately, another family function came, and I still couldn’t muster the courage and it happened again.

During all of this I was trying to make the decision on going back to work. My mental health was shot. I was running on less than fumes. Even though the thought of leaving my child physically hurt, for some reason, I had convinced myself that I HAD to go back to work. This was despite the fact that my husband and I had worked out financials and decided we could make it work if I decided I couldn’t return. In retrospect I think I had decided part of my worth was tied to being able to provide financially for my family. I didn’t even realize how severely I was undervaluing my work as a stay and home mom at the time. So Instead of saying no, I again reluctantly agreed to return to work.

Again, no is a complete sentence. I understand that now. To me, this means you do not have to say anything after you simply say no. No one is entitled to an explanation of why they can’t have access to you or your child, home, etc. No, does not have to be dressed in pleasantries or “Im sorries”. I could have saved myself a lot of mental and emotional stress if I had just said no but I also try to exercise grace with myself because no matter how old we are, we are still learning. I am in a place now where I can confidently say no. For me, it felt like one day a switch just flipped and I had it with myself and other entitled people. I remember thinking, I shouldn’t have to explain to other adults what is and isn’t admissible, and need I remind them, my response should be accepted, if for no other reason than it’s what i’ve decided. In cases where more context is needed, this does not mean the other party needs to know every aspect of why I made the decision to say no. I now tactfully apply my no’s and yes’ where I see fit and I am stern, not rude. Many people will try to tell you they are the same thing, but that isn’t true. Say “no” to make your “yes’s” mean more. It’s that simple. -Anne Lamott

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