The POWER of “No” for the single parent

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How many times have you agreed to volunteer at your child’s school or your church, only to realize later that you are overextended? How much energy do you expend performing duties you regret ever saying “yes” to? You may have the best of intentions. But, can your mind, body and soul remain healthy in the midst of exhaustion? For the single parent, the overwhelming responsibilities added to your life by not saying “No” can lead to despair and exhaustion.

Most parents want to help, that is natural. What is different for the single parent is the amount of resources. The single parent has only one parental resource. When you want to volunteer for the PTA meeting or to bake cupcakes for the class field trip, you don’t have a back-up if you are tired or burned out. What toll does this take on your children? Whether you realize it or not, how you react to volunteering will shape your child’s view on helping others. As the event approaches, what attitude do your children see in mom? Do they see mom happy and excited? Show your children the joy of helping others.

Before you say yes …

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he has enough to finish it?” Luke 14:28

I am an absolute advocate of helping others and giving to those in need. Before I can do that though, I must “count the cost”.

1. How will this help others?

2. Do I have the extra energy – emotional/physical?

3. Is this a short term or long term commitment?

4. Will I overextend myself?

According to the MacMillan Website, to overextend means to use more of something than is reasonable or sensible. Always saying “yes” is neither reasonable nor sensible. Most often you will end up angry, bitter and tired.


Do you find yourself saying “yes” far more often than you should? Do have you established boundaries? If not, get some – NOW. By identifying personal boundaries, you will ensure optimal results. You will find your experiences and tasks are much more enjoyable. Remember, when you say “no”, you are protecting your mental and physical health and by way of extension, the health of your children.

1. What’s my limit?

2. Practice, practice, practice

3. Unfortunately, I can’t.

Most of us inherently know what our limits are but we often ignore the warnings and plow ahead anyway. Why? Maybe you want everyone to be happy or maybe you are prone to feelings of guilt. Whatever the cause of ignoring your limits, stop it – now. Firmly yet politely make “NO” an increased part of your vocabulary. You should even practice saying “NO” in your mind, visualizing the words coming out of your month. Stand in front of a mirror and practice. This may seem silly to some, but you won’t accomplish what you don’t practice. Avoid saying “I’m sorry…” when declining a request as this implies you have done something wrong. It also communicates inwardly that you should feel guilty for some reason.


Have you overextended yourself?

· Feelings of fatigue?

· Are you more short-tempered?

· Dreading the event or deadline?

· Reduced productivity at work?

What single parents need most is a plan to ensure they don’t overcommit. It is very easy to find yourself in this position if you are constantly saying “yes” to every request. Keep a calendar close by and choose how many days of the month you will dedicate to volunteering. This can be two to four days of YOUR choice. Remember, this is your life, your schedule, your time. If an event comes up on a day that doesn’t fit with the calendar, remember the ‘Power of No’ begins with you.

You don’t “have to” volunteer … you “get to” volunteer. Changing your internal dialogue to a more positive view will increase your psychological band-with and enhance your volunteer experience. There will always be another chance to volunteer, you can count on it. The ‘Power of No’ will determine the quality of your volunteer experience and the quality of your life.

1 Response

  1. Maria says:

    This is very helpful. As a single mother of three, I always feel pressure from the schools about volunteering.
    I am sooooo tired at the end of the day, that I can barely get dinner ready. There are some great tips here on how to volunteer but not wear yourself out. Thanks!!

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