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It may seem that because I am involved in everything and always willing to go the extra mile, I must be the most selfless and generous person ever. While I would like for those things are true about me, sometimes it is just that I don’t know how to say no.

Every time you say yes to something, you are choosing to say no to something else. This concept is true in any area where there is a limited amount of something. It’s much easier for me to understand this concept as it pertains to our finances. We have a limited amount of money. Therefore, I can buy a daily $5 fancy coffee, or I can say no to that little splurge and choose to save those $5 a day for a vacation. It’s not difficult to say no to the coffee if I know that I get something better in return.

I know how to say no when it comes to my finances

In finance, this has been pretty easy for me. I can recognize the cost/benefit and look forward to that upcoming vacation. It’s been freeing for me to stick to a budget to do or have the things we really value. Participating in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University helped me see these concepts in action as we now have an emergency fund, savings and can go on family vacations. The photo books that we keep in the family room remind me of this daily. The experiences in those books remind me that the financial sacrifices are worth it.

Other areas of my life… not so much

Recognizing that these budgeting concepts apply in other areas of my life is an important step, but in situations where there are people involved, it seems I still don’t know how to say no. This is the “people pleaser” in me that I fight constantly. This deep-seated need to make everyone happy recently brought me to a pretty low place.

Here is a Pastor’s wife confession that I’m not even sure I want to admit. It feels wrong to say, but I think it is because I have been conditioned to believe that as the pastor’s wife, I need always to be willing and able to help everyone. While that is mostly true of me, I am still a human that has a lot of growing yet to do. Here goes…

I sometimes become bitter and resentful about the things I say yes to!

Yep. I said it. I say yes to things that I have a choice about, and then I get mad about having to do the thing I said yes to. It seems so ridiculous as I write it. Apparently, I have the emotional intelligence of a toddler at times. I’m like the kid who says they want extra spaghetti and then throws it on the floor because they hate spaghetti.

Ummm… If you don’t want to do something, just say no, Carrie!

Words to help you learn how to say no. Text reads "Sorry I can't... because I don't want to."
If only it was this easy!

Entering quarantine

In March of 2020, the world turned upside down, and church services went online. It turns out that I needed that time alone in my living room. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I could actually focus on God, the Bible teaching, and worship without putting out fires and worrying about everyone else. With my job’s craziness and the anxiety I felt because of it, I really needed that alone time. For that hour and a half of church in my living room, I could actually breathe! The first month of the shutdown, when the church was closed, was actually healing for me.

The typical life of a pastor’s wife

For the past ten years, I have served every Sunday without a break. Serving in ministries where I am not gifted to fill a need was a weekly occurrence. I served in Children’s Ministry while also being a teacher and a mom, greeted at the door, taught Jr. High, and filled in in the nursery. Serving my church is one of the things I enjoy most, but I desperately needed that break!

That hour and a half on Sunday helped me realize that I need to prioritize some things because I am trying to do too much. Frustration and bitterness were setting in because I wanted to do it all, but I was spread so thin that I was not doing anything well. At least I didn’t feel like I was.

Teaching was crushing me- I didn’t know how to say no

I had already said no to many things since I started teaching. It was apparent that I should have said no to something else. That day it was clear to me that I needed the break. Only the break I needed wasn’t from the church; I needed a break from my chosen career.

Working 60+ hours a week at school and feeling like the work was never done was killing me. Sundays, which I had always looked forward to, felt like a burden. I would serve where I was needed, but I didn’t want to talk to anyone. It’s not that I don’t love the people at my church and want to help them; I absolutely do. Exhaustion had set in, and there was nothing left in me to give. This brought with it an enormous amount of guilt, and I was miserable.

Grading papers and lesson planning filled my Saturdays. With a full day at church on Sunday, I never truly had a day off. Guilt overwhelmed me because I am a pastor’s wife who literally moved here to serve this community… and I didn’t have the capacity to do it. In my mind, I was failing my husband, I was failing my church, and I was ultimately failing as a Christian. Right before we went into quarantine, I was at one of the lowest places that I have been in a long time.

I needed church in my living room for God to teach me how to say no

That time in my living room gave me the courage to make better choices for our family. For a while, I had known that the thing I really had to say no to was teaching. I loved the people I worked with, the students, and the families at my school. The thought of leaving was heartbreaking, but I knew the job was killing me. Finally, with some encouragement from my son, who said, “You never spend time with us; you are always working!” (OUCH!) I finally had the strength to do something about it. I resigned from my position as a teacher and decided to look for something part-time to have more time for the most important things in my life.

You guys! I went back to school for this! I worked my butt off to pursue this career that I thought was my calling. Since my first year of teaching, I’d known that it wasn’t working for our family, but I kept hoping it would get better. It didn’t. On a positive note, we did get to take the best vacation ever! The problem is… vacation was the only real quality time we had together and it only happened once a year!

I now recognize that even though I was helping people and “making a difference in the world,” my job took me away from all the things I value most; my husband, my kids, and the church community we moved here to serve. I had become bitter and angry at all of my obligations. Not because I didn’t enjoy them or want to serve, but because I felt like I was drowning. Once I quit my job, I felt free.

This is not a working mom vs. stay at home mom debate

I feel the need to be clear on something here. This is not me saying that all women should stay home, and my problems were caused because I went back to work. While many women thrive while staying home, some of the best moms I know work full-time and still spend quality time with their kids and serve others. In fact, some of them do it better when they are working. I have many teacher friends who have been able to find a balance and are “rock stars” in my book. I do not believe there is a one size fits all “right way.” For me, working 60 hours a week was not helping anyone, and I was miserable.

Image to show how to say no. The text reads "I'm sorry, I can't... but thank you for inviting me.
Practice, practice, practice!

Learning how to say no allows me to say yes

Yes to my kids

Several things happened after I had the courage to say no to teaching. First, I have spent more time with my kids in the past few months than I have in the last 4 years combined. Really, our 2-week yearly vacation was our only true quality family time. Now, I can do fun things with them again and create things like I did when they were little. My son literally said, “You spend so much time with us now; it’s great!” Learning how to say no has allowed me to say yes to my kids.

Yes to my husband

Next, I actually enjoy time with my husband again. Don’t get me wrong, my husband is my favorite person in the universe. He’s funny, kind, and the least annoying person I have ever met. However, when I am stressed out, my frustration gets taken out on him because he is safe. We have been able to have fun together again. We laugh a lot, run errands together, and force our kids to do things with us. I have missed him so much. Learning how to say no has allowed me to say yes to my husband.

Yes to serving and blessing others

Additionally, I am again in a place where I enjoy serving at church. Making plans with friends is something I look forward to, and I look for opportunities to invite people into my home. I didn’t realize the impact of losing these things, but I had to say no to all of them in order to teach. I only have so much time in the day, and my job took up 90% of it. Slowly bringing these things back has brought me joy. Learning how to say no has allowed me to say yes to serving and blessing others.

Yes to something that fills my soul

Finally, I was able to start this blog. For the past ten years, I have had it on my heart but always filled my plate with other things. For years I wanted to be a voice for those, like me, who don’t have it all together. Not because I think I have arrived, but because in my mistakes and trial and error, I have learned some things and have come out okay on the other side. By learning to say no, I discovered that my dream differed from what I thought it was. I have found something that fills my soul.

It’s not like quitting my job magically solved the problem; Overcommitment is still an issue because I don’t want to let people down. This is a character flaw that I am working on. Continuing to be thoughtful about my decisions is a way forward. In the past, putting a system in place has helped me to be intentional with my time. If you are like me, you will benefit from a system too.

How do you keep saying no in order to say yes?

The American Psychological Association has a great article on avoiding overcommitment. The four steps that they give to making good choices are: Examine your schedule and available time, survey and prioritize, avoid last-minute commitments, and say “no” and “yes” and mean it.

Create a budget for your time

Having a budget helped me tremendously with my finances. I need that same sort of budget for my time, as well. Prioritizing values will ensure that there is enough time for the things that I love. For me, it is God, my family, close friends, and serving others. It is too easy to fall back into the trap of saying yes to everything and then feeling resentful.

My highest values deserve at least as much attention as I put into my finances. Looking at how much time we have (examine your schedule) and intentionally setting time aside for the most important things (survey and prioritize) is critical. I even choose to pencil in time for last-minute plans. Some of our favorite things happen last minute because I don’t have to stress seeing them on the schedule. Then it’s no longer an overcommitment but a choice. The difficult part of all of this is that sometimes we still have to say no to really good things!

It is a certainty that unexpected things will still come up. I mean, I am married to a pastor. Crises happen. I need to be prepared for them by not already overcommitting myself. That way, when things get interrupted, it’s not devastating. I’ll be honest. When I have one night a month with my family and someone needs my husband; it sucks! The goal is that I have more than one night a month set aside for my family.

Constantly reassess

A google table is shown on a macbook. Colors are distributed to visually look at where time is being spent in order to know when to say yes and when to say no.
I started coloring in time slots to assess my week

Our priorities can change each month, week, or day, as life has different seasons. But, we must be intentional about what we are saying yes to and what we are saying no to. Consider a monthly “time budget meeting” to keep yourself in check. Also, find a good planner or create your own spreadsheet. I am doing both of these things. Keep a list of your priorities and color code them to ensure that your time is not being eaten up by too many things that don’t matter. In my daily planner, I use different colors for each category. On the spreadsheet, I can color code and see the bigger picture of what my time is being spent on.

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See it on paper

I made a simple google doc and colored in the time slots by category. I categorized self-care, kids, husband, work, and church. If you would like to use a blank version of mine to see what your week looks like, click here. <<blank time budget tracker>>

In Conclusion, I realize that everyone can’t just quit their jobs if they are unhappy. I also think there are times to say yes simply because it is the right thing to do, even when we need to give up a bit of family time or self-care. But we must check our priorities and make sure we are doing our best to spend time on the things that matter. I can easily get sucked into watching a show for 2 hours but then get mad that I don’t get enough sleep. It’s not always a matter of time, but priorities. Pay attention to the things your yesses are keeping you from. That is the first step to making a change.

I am grateful for that time that I had church alone in my living room so that God could open my eyes to see what really matters and give me the strength to make changes.

Pin it for later

Pinable image. The text reads "How to say no so you can say yes to what really matters

Want to find some fun things to do with your family, check out these posts.

Click here <<Forced Family Fun>>


  1. Bear, I had the opposite problem in a way. I was determined to be a fulltime mother, with PTA, Girl Scouts, and all the rest. I grew to resent it. I found I needed to be around adults. I needed to earn a salary to feel self-worth. My brain turned to Jell-O. I grew short-tempered and impatient. I started working part-time doing income tax preparation, and I felt a kind of freedom I had missed. I finally decided to go to work fulltime, and I became a much better person, wife, and mother. I was fully present at home and in the office. And I also had a ready excuse to say no to the things I really didn’t want to do. Thank you for being honest about the pressures of motherhood and family. We each need to find our own place of equilibrium and to recognize when the balance changes. Love you. Keep sharing your wisdom.

    • I have so many friends who are like that, Lorna. They are able to be fully engaged at home and at work and were wonderful mothers. I couldn’t figure out how to do that with teaching. My job now allows for that and I love it. We were all made differently for a reason. The world needs different kinds of people. 🙂

  2. Carrie I enjoy reading your blog posts!
    There is a nice meme saying ‘You cannot please everyone – you are not an avocado’ ?
    We do often tend to try to please everyone, especially as women, and even when it comes on our expense… but that might creates regret and resentment, which can & should be avoided.
    You hit the key points about priorities and time management, which really are what it is all about ?

    • I love the meme! Lol. Thank you for your kind words. I am getting better at this, but it has always been a struggle for me! It’s getting better as I get older.

  3. Very interesting blog post – I think that quarantine has been great to bring clarity in our priorities and how we spend our time. There is definitely no wrong answer!

  4. I am getting a lot of valuable knowledge from reading mom blogger’s blogs like yours.
    this is such a practical post.
    saying yes to all the things we don’t want to do is the sure way to frustration and resentment.
    thank you so much for emphasizing these key points.

  5. I have always struggled with saying no. I just can’t come to the terms to saying no to anyone. Really needed this. Thanks for sharing.

    • That was me for years. I still struggle, but more and more I am choosing what to say yes to instead of trying to do it all. It has been so healthy for me. Thank you for reading.

    • Yes! Without guilt or explanation. That is where I have always struggled. Thank you for your comment!

  6. I think this is such an important message. Sometimes we feel like we have to do it all, and we’re failing someone (ourselves, another person,) by saying no. But in order to be our best for ourselves and our families, we have to realize what’s most important and when it’s ok not to do something. And that’s why I love your suggestions about time budgeting. Giving an actual practical way to prioritize is really helpful, and can definitely help us learn to say no!

    • Thank you, Janel. I have struggled with this for so long. I needed to look at it in a new way and see it on paper in order to try to change. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment.

  7. I struggle with saying no a lot. I’m good with no spending etc when necessary but when it comes to the social aspect, I’m not so great. I always feel guilty for declining something, especially if it’s just because I don’t feel like it rather than because it clashes with something else. Covid has actually made me a lot better at that because everyone has new boundaries for social events now x


    • It’s great when we can find the positives that are coming out of this crappy Covid time! Thanks for reading.

  8. Thanks for these tips! Definitely helpful is prioritizing what you should say yes to and what you can say no to.

  9. So well put! It’s so hard being a “people pleaser” sometimes. I know I get it wrong when I end up where you were…exhausted, bitter at what I had said yes to, and feeling guilty that I’m letting everyone down. It’s a constant checking in with the Lord to see if it’s really my “best yes.” The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lysa TerKeurst is a great read…plus having people in your life willing to ask you, “Is this really your best yes?” Boy how that’s helped me! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Great post that hit home. I stop spreading myself thin years ago and have to remind myself that I must say no and that it is ok. Resentment is gone, happy life and a happy family and happy me are here to stay. Thank you for sharing from the depth of your heart, which is your position must have been hard. I commend you for it.

  11. It was awesome post. But I didn’t had that problem as I always tell what I feel. I never compromised on what I wanted. But I know there are lot of people having typical problems.

    • That is great that you have never struggled with this. I think the people-pleasers like me struggle more than most. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  12. Love the honesty in this post, we can only make the necessary changes when we start being honest with ourselves. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Ahh! I need this in my life right now. Learning to say no is something I struggle with so much. Thanks for the great post, I have it bookmarked for when I need to remind myself! 🙂

    • It can be so very difficult. Thinking about what I have to say no to in order to say yes really helps me. 🙂

  14. Very important article i must say. It is important to be clear on your priorities and put important needs first.

  15. I’ve recently started saying to to more requests from people. Not all people and not all requests, but I started to notice people were just asking and I couldn’t say no. I now selectively say no, and although it’s weird and hard to do so, I am finding I have more time for my home life and kids and me. Thanks for sharing !

  16. Hi Carrie! Oof your post just resonates with me. I can also say no to finances but never to other aspects of my life. I am a people pleaser and an overthinker. Not a good combination. Sigh. But you are right, saying yes to something means no to something else. I do color code my tasks and meetings but I don’t do a time budget meeting I’ll implement that starting this month. Thank you for this post. Stay safe and sound! 🙂

    • I can totally relate to the bad combo that is overthinking and people-pleasing. The world needs people like us, but we need to learn a healthy balance. I’m constantly worried about how to keep others happy. Hopefully, paying attention to how we are spending our time will help bring some balance and freedom. 🙂

  17. This is amazing! So much truth and reflection. Love the idea of a budget for your time and the reminder of what you can say yes to when you have the aborigines say no! Thank you so much!

  18. Love this! Over the last few months I have become more asse,rtive about saying “NO” to others so I can start saying “YES” to myself, my husband, and our future. It can be hard at times, I am a recovering people pleaser myself, but it is worth it and becoming easier the more I say no.

  19. What an amazing and inspiring story. Learning how to say no is such a vital but difficult lesson, I’m still working on this. I really liked how you framed it though…saying no to one thing allows you to say yes to something else. And if that something else is more aligned with you, it’s for the better. Thank you for sharing.

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