Wednesday, March 17, 2010

no is the new yes

Since I'm sharing all my dirty secrets, I might as well talk about the guilt side of me.

I hate letting people down. I guess everyone says that, but I have serious issues around this one. I won't say no to favors or requests, and I also will very rarely ask for or accept help. Even when it makes no sense. I'll be juggling both kids by myself at the store and need to run to the bathroom, but if a friend offers to hold Josie or watch Gabe so I don't have to take both of them into the stall with me, I'll always say no because I feel funny about asking for help. Even if it means I end up frustrated and sweaty and angry about having to hold Josie and yell at Gabe to STOP TOUCHING THINGS in the stall. If my in laws or a friend offer to do something, I'll say no or tell them it isn't necessary, even though I'm desperate for the help.

I don't know why I do this, but lately I'm making more of an effort to say no to some requests, ask for help, tell the truth about how I'm feeling. I'm slowly coming to the realization that when people offer their help, they sometimes genuinely want to help, and when I occasionally say yes, people are genuinely pleased to be of help to me. Plus, it isn't fair for me to expect people to read my mind and then be annoyed when they don't help me.

Last month, my in-laws asked me to bring the kids to Florida for a weekend in April. Unfortunately, that weekend happens to be the same weekend I was going to visit my parents in California. No problem, they said, fly to Florida from Boston for the weekend, then fly to California, then fly back to Boston (by myself). I actually did this last year, for the same reason. I flew to California, then had to get on a 6am flight with both kids (alone, of course) to fly to Florida, then flew back to Boston alone. And it was HORRIBLE. Seriously, terrible, awful, horrendous. Remind me to tell you about it another time- my eye is twitching just remembering the 6am flight alone.

As soon as they asked, my knee jerk reaction was to say yes. Of course we'll come, I am always happy to make the grandkids accessible, and I am generally flexible and willing to travel and I haven't had too much trouble with both kids on planes. As the days started to go by, though, and Josie continued getting ear infections, and both kids seemed to be perpetually sick, I found my anxiety over the whole flying-to-Florida-for-the-weekend-and-then-continuing-on-to-California thing increasing. Exponentially.

I kept envisioning these scenarios where I'd be alone on the plane and Josie would be in pain from her ears, or having to take her to an emergency room while we were in Florida, or not realizing she had an ear infection before boarding the flight, or being up all night with one or both of them alone, and my eye would start twitching in anticipation. I've never said no to the grandparents, though, and starting now would be really hard.

I decided to float the idea. I tentatively mentioned that I wanted to hold off on buying tickets to see if the kids stopped getting sick. I mentioned that I was having a lot of stress around the whole traveling thing. I said flying in for one weekend and then flying back out and adding extra flights into the mix was maybe not the best idea. I made it clear how many ear infections Josie has been getting and why I was nervous. And then I waited. In the meantime, I changed my mind approximately 87 times over whether to go or not.

I want to be the good daughter in law, I want to be flexible, I want the grandkids to get to see each other and for the grandparents to enjoy their grandkids. But I also want to be fair to myself, fair to my children, make reasonable decisions that make everybody happy. I don't want my kids to suffer just because I hate to disappoint people.

So after 2 months of teetering on the edge, I called my mother in law and said we wouldn't be coming. I told her I didn't want to disappoint them or let them down, but I laid out all my worries and told her I just couldn't do it this year. I'd be happy to bring them out to their house in the Berkshires before and after and I'd even be happy to fly to Florida in late Spring or Summer, but I just couldn't do this one particular weekend. I had to just say no, and I did it myself rather than let Josh do it and let me off the hook.

If they were angry, they did a good job of hiding it. No one has made any comments about us not going beyond the "we wish you were coming" variety, and no one has expressed any belief that I'm being unreasonable by not going. The sky didn't fall in on me, everyone survived, and the weight on my shoulders was lifted instantaneously.

It is going to sound funny, but I'm actually proud of myself. This is who I am, and I don't want to be a totally different person, but I do want to change this side of me a little bit. This was a small step, but for me, it was a significant step and it took days of talking myself up before I was able to make the call and weeks of deciding before I finally said no.

I might even let someone help me pee without juggling two kids in a tiny stall. See how I live dangerously?


liz said...

Yay, you for saying no to some requests and yes to some offers!

Kristin said...

Good for you! My DH is the same way - his knee jerk reaction is to say yes to any and every request. With my encouragement (aka browbeating) over the years, he has gradually gotten a little better about it. Though usually I do end up being the bad guy. He'll do the, "let me ask my wife" thing, and then I get to be the one who says no. I'm quite talented at it, really.

The letting-others-help-me thing, though - yep, I suck at that.