What Season Are You In? (And How to Graciously Say "No")

What Season Are You In? (And How to Say “No”)


It’s back to school week on DoSayGive and this week I am sharing tips and nuggets of wisdom with y’all when it comes to managing the back to school craziness. It wasn’t until my first daughter was in kindergarten that I heard someone use the term “season” when it came to parenting. I know that parenting was a season, but I didn’t understand that parenting had different seasons. It really changed my perspective, taken away a lot of mom guilt, and given me the power to say “no” when needed.

I once volunteered to be the auction chair of our sweet preschool at a time when I probably shouldn’t have. As a former event planner I thought this was one way I could give back, but at the time I had a medically dependent child who I was taking to an average of six therapy and doctor appointments a week, a husband trying to start his own business, and very little outside help. I knew deep down in my heart I should have turned down the offer, but I didn’t want to let anyone down.

I didn’t know how to say no.

Because I didn’t have the capacity to take on this large role (which was like a part time job), I ended up being very stressed out for months and took out my stress on my husband and children. Of course, it’s no one’s fault but my own for signing up in the first place, but at the time I didn’t understand that I had a legit “out” and could use it unapologetically.

You see, I felt guilty for not being able to serve like other moms, but I didn’t realize that they might have been in a different season. Perhaps they just had one child left in preschool and wanted to savor every little bit of the cuteness. Or perhaps they just had more capacity in their schedules with a full-time nanny, or grandparents who could help with carpool or doctor’s appointments, or a husband that came home at 5:30 so they could get some “to dos” done before they got too tired:).

So what season are you in? Are you a mom with three children under the age of five  who are very needy? Or are going to have a bit more time on your hand with all your children in school full-time this year? Are you working outside the home and so have limited time for much else besides being with your children?

When the class signups come out – or the PTA starts emailing – truly think about what season you are in right now. If you have a lot on your plate this year, it’s okay to just sign up for little jobs you can do from home or that won’t require a lot of babysitters (or stress!). And this applies to all your commitments. Church, neighborhood, extended family, etc.

Last August I had SO many friends and fellow moms that pulled me aside and insisted I not sign up for anything at school. We had just experienced a difficult summer, with bed rest and a preemie baby who had just come home from the hospital.  “Enjoy this time with Louise; you will never get it back,” they said. “You have a good excuse not to sign up; use it.” Y’all this was such a gift to my mom guilt complex. Try doing this for a mom friend!

This year my kindergartener is only in school part time and I want to enjoy any extra time I have with her. Oh and I do have a baby, too! Oh and I work 30-40 hours  a week. (Reminding myself here before I am tempted to do too much!)

When Louise is a bit older (and I am not working so much) I hope I am in a position to serve and give back to our wonderful school in a bigger capacity. Our schools need our help, but we also need to keep our sanity!

How to Decline Politely

So how do you politely turn down an offer or nomination for something you don’t have the capacity for? I wrote an entire post about it here but here are a few easy things to say:

My all time favorite line: “I know you will understand, but…(I have a new baby, don’t have any room in my schedule, already have made volunteer commitments at my other daughter’s school.)” 

Not a total no, leaving it open to the future: “I would love to at some point, but right now I am just not in the right season of life to take on that big of a role. Maybe another year!”

Blame someone else: “Oh you are so so sweet to ask! But my husband would absolutely kill me if I added one more thing to my plate!” Or “This is the last year before my youngest goes to school all day and I want to have an open schedule in the afternoons to be free to do spur of the moment things with her.Thanks for understanding!” 

No gracious person will protest any of the above responses. Remember, this is your life and you get to decide how you spend it. As my mother said, there will always be someone else who can volunteer. And I have found that to be generally true!

But when it’s you have a season that allows for it, make sure that’s you as you will be helping out another mom who doesn’t need one more thing on her plate:).

Do you have any helpful “things to say” when you need to say no? Share below!

And don’t miss my three tips for keeping perspective when you have a kindergartener in yesterday’s post

Thank you so much to Ali Wood Photography for these beautiful images!


Shop the Post:

Pink Reversible Sweater // White Jeans 

Green dress: Vintage Florence Eiseman (on sale here)

Yellow Dress: Smocked Auctions sample sale





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5 thoughts on “What Season Are You In? (And How to Say “No”)

  1. I love this! My daughter is medically fragile, and I have had to turn down a lot of things I truly wanted to do in our church. Because my husband is the pastor, I felt a lot of guilt at times for not being as connected as I wanted to be. Of course our church family understood, it was my own heart that felt bad about saying no. Sometimes the sacrifice is in saying “no” when you really want to say “yes!” Lysa Terkeurst’s book The Best Yes is a great resource on this topic. Her example: “ My heart wants to say yes, but….”

  2. I loved this post, Lee! I actually sent it to a few friends. It is helpful to me as we prepare for the arrival of our third baby, right before school starts!
    Thank you again for your wisdom and grace!

  3. As a former PTA President, I’m seeing a lot of people feeling VERY comfortable saying “no” to a lot of things. While I agree that you must examine your specific place at that time of life, we must all remember there are little or simple tasks that can be accomplished together. Plus, I’ve been able to make friends with other parents in other grades due to my involvement! You’re probably never going to be felt called to lunch duty but you might get something out of serving just once!

    1. Thanks so much for this thoughtful feedback! I agree schools rely so much on parental involvement and it can be a wonderful way to meet new mom friends. I definitely didn’t mean to say to not volunteer at all but just to know your capacity each season. Some years it’s okay just to sign up for smaller jobs. I know in a preschool situation, for example, just about everyone has the excuse of having small children at home. But some have more capacity to do the “big” jobs than others depending on their childcare situation, other church, school, and volunteer commitments, etc.

      Of course, if all parents are required to sign up for something like lunch duty, etc. then obviously everyone should do their part.