Mariah Carey Got Me Thinking About ‘The Art of Saying No’

Mariah Carey just debuted the title track of her yet-to-be-released album The Art of Letting Go. While I can’t say that the songstress (and mama to two-year-old twins Monroe and Moroccan) appears much on my playlists these days–I’m a Rolling Stones-kinda gal–the title did make me stop and think for a moment. But I wasn’t mourning the demise of a relationship, nor was I nursing a broken heart. Rather, it had me contemplating what I call “The Art of Saying No.”

I’ve become a master at the art of saying no. I say no to anything that isn’t essential. My husband and I both work intense, full-time jobs and our two kids are our focus outside of the office. So if it’s “extra-curricular,” chances are, I’m gonna decline. Before you go thinking that I’m an asocial hermit, think again. I saw the light at the end of a very overscheduled tunnel when I ran into a friend this past spring and she told me that she was “working really hard to not be busy.” Aliza Licht, another busy working mom who balances full home and work lives, echoed the sentiment. She picks and chooses what she wants to do, managing her stress level to allow her to focus on projects that she really loves. I took her advice and applied it to my family life. Here’s how:

1. Just say no to play dates. My kids play with their friends after school, under the watchful eye of our babysitter. But on weekends, my husband and I like to keep the children to ourselves. This leaves us free to create our own schedules and spend quality time as a family.

2. Just say no to “catching up.” I have lots of lovely acquaintances and former colleagues. Oftentimes, we exchange emails that end with a spirited “Let’s catch up over drinks soon!” Yeah, it’s not gonna happen. The fact is that I have one free night a week, and it’s reserved for good friends that I really want to spend time with. Other than that, an email exchange is all that I can afford these days.

3. Just say no to PTA meetings, bringing snacks, and anything else. I used to feel really guilty about not signing up for the multitude of duties at my kids’ schools. No more. I’ve got too much on my plate, and bringing cheese sticks to the classroom or manning a booth at the school fair will only stress me out. I’d rather do a quick online donation to the school’s PTA.

4. Just say no to unnecessary conference calls, meetings, or anything else. Nope, I don’t want to hop on a call, nor do I want to attend a breakfast about your new product. It’s not the best use of my time and as a busy working mom, I need to be as strict about my time budgeting as I am about my financial budgeting.

5. Just say no to decorating, crafting, or anything else that you feel like you “should” do just because it’s the holidays. Again, I could feel guilty because I didn’t make pumpkin-themed DIY masks this Halloween. But I don’t. Instead, I feel awesome about buying my kids the costumes that they liked at the party store and spending that extra hour relaxing in our home with a great book on the couch with my kids.