No, you can’t have chocolate for breakfast. No, you can’t get an iPhone just because your friends have one. No, you can’t jump on your bed or skip school or date until you are 18.

I’m a Mean Mom. I have absolutely no problem telling any of my four boys, “No!”

No, you can’t have a free day in English class. No, you can’t wait until tomorrow to take your test. No, you can’t eat candy in my classroom or play games or use profanity.

I’m a Mean Teacher. I have absolutely no problem telling any of my students, “No!”

So why do I have such a hard time saying “No” to everyone else? Will I be in charge of that committee? Why sure! Do I have time to make fifteen posters? Of course! Can I bring a four-course meal to this random person I’ve never met and could I have it done by tonight? Definitely!

I try to say “No,” but somehow it comes out in strange phrases like, “Let me see what I can do,” or “That day doesn’t work but maybe a different date would.” NO. Just two simple letters. Why is it so hard to say this to my peers when I don’t even hesitate to tell my children or students? Instead I say yes in some form or other, and then I end up being frustrated with the person who asked the question and even more frustrated with myself.

I pride myself in being the Mean Mom and the Mean Teacher, but I guess I don’t want to be the Mean Me.

Usually I do have a reason behind my no’s to my kids and try to provide a better alternative. No, you may not eat chocolate for breakfast. Try oatmeal instead. But sometimes my reasons are less compelling. “Because I told you to!” or “Because I’m the MOM!”

Shazam!! Like a lightning bolt it hit me! I don’t always HAVE to have a reason. Sometimes it’s ok to say no just because. Sometimes it’s ok to say no because I am a mom. . . a full-time mom with a full-time job.

I know that if I am more selective about when I say yes, I will be less frustrated and better able to help with the projects I agree to do. I know it won’t be easy to change the pattern I have developed over the last 40-plus years. Admitting you have a problem is the first step in recovering, right?

It isn’t that I don’t WANT to help you out. It isn’t that I’m not flattered that you think I can do the job. Sometimes I just NEED to say no because by telling you NO, I’m actually telling myself YES!

And just for the record, I told two telemarketers NO today! Baby steps, I know!

Kristi Bose

Kristi Bose teaches English and drama at Southern Valley High School in South Central Nebraska. She and her husband Michael have four boys ages four to fifteen. They live in the country where they raise show pigs, a small cattle herd, and a few goats. She enjoys fishing in the river behind their house, reading, traveling and spending time with her family.