comic by Natalie Dee
We all know how affirming, exciting, and pleasing it can be to say "yes" to life's many possibilities. But "no" can also be joyful. We are all familiar with the rebellious "no," the angry "no," the fearful "no," and the cranky "no." But lately I have discovered the happy, freeing version of "no." The trick is not feeling guilty or lame about opting out of many unnecessary things when you have a more important focus. In that case, saying "no" to all kinds of external pressures can be liberating and fun. Having a baby is a great time to learn the joy of "no."
Working until the moment labor begins: No, thanks.
I started maternity leave one week before my due date, even though I know that most first babies are born late. First of all, you never know. The baby might have decided to come early, and when this week came along and I was still working and the dishwasher broke and the car battery died and the basement plumbing backed up all at once, I would have been one unhappy prego right at the time I should be resting and preparing for birth. All those home disasters have happened this week, but it's OK because my husband and I are off work and can take care of them--and ourselves, too. No biggie.
I've had old-school feminists ask me things like, "So, you're going to work right until the end, right?" and "Won't you be bored if you go on leave too early/take too much time off?" I am baffled by these questions. To me, women's empowerment means that we have the choice to do what is best for ourselves and our families. It's not good to be forced to stay home when we're perfectly willing and able to work; it's equally uncool to be forced to work when we have a very legitimate and important reason to focus on something other than work at this time. Working women are awesome; so are mothers. And seriously, how could anyone think that sitting at a desk somewhere--anywhere--tending to a computer and a copy machine, could be somehow more important, interesting, or affirming than nurturing a new human being?
Rant over--and I'm home with no regrets. I am extremely grateful to my place of work, which is too small and non-profit for FMLA law to apply, for being flexible and supportive of my maternity choice.
Buying every product at Babies 'R Us: Nah, I'm good.
I cannot believe all the baby junk called "essential" in magazines, ads, and parenting blogs. I get a strange exhilaration just thinking about all the money I'm "saving" by not buying all this crap. And even with our minimalist attitude, Mr. G and I have already bought a couple of baby items that we later learned were known to be unsafe for babies--and returned them. Even knowing, as we do, that it is perfectly legal in this country to sell products that are unsafe, it still shocks me a little when those products are designed for babies and sold alongside mandatory safety items (like shady accessories for car seats).
It will be so good to spend lots of time with my baby when she is born... not shopping or managing mountains of junk!
Housekeeping like Martha Stewart: Not today.
It's good to have a clean house before the baby arrives, and my house is no pigsty. But the last-minute nesting spree hasn't kicked in for me, and I'm huge and awkward. I'm not about to be throwing dinner parties or anything for awhile, so it's time for other people besides New Mama to pull their weight in the housekeeping department.
And besides, cooking is men's work at my house.
Yeah, that's right. And to further defile the mid-century wifely standard...
Applying makeup and hair products: Maybe later.
I love to dress up and look nice. But there is a time and a place for everything. Pregnancy hormones give a great opportunity to go without makeup or styling products (if not now, when?), and I'm sure babies don't especially appreciate strangely colored goos and smelly, most likely toxic chemicals slathered all over their mothers' heads. It frees up a lot of my time to set aside my nail polishes, makeup bags, tools and beauty apparatuses for a little while.
Now there's room next to the bathroom sink for a most adorable baby bath mat, baby bath towels, and infant grooming implements like a snot bulb and itty bitty nail scissors!
Along those same lines...
Getting fully dressed: Some other time.
As soon as I got pregnant, I put away all my underwire bras and bought softer, comfier, bigger ones. Now that I'm on maternity leave, I spend whole luxurious days in Victoria's Secret flannel pajamas and fuzzy slippers. Or it might be a pair of sweatpants and one of my husband's old cashmere sweaters. It feels kind of decadent and wrong, because I'm accustomed to getting dressed and leaving the house most days. But so comfy!
And there's less laundry to do! Which is good, because I'm not supposed to carry heavy things like laundry baskets up the stairs.
Which leads me to...
Working out: I'm on break for a couple of months!
I love to stay active and healthy. But right at the end of my pregnancy, I'm taking it easy with short sets of little girlie weights and gentle stretches. And for the six-week recovery period after the birth, it is not recommended to work out as usual. I have a lovely postnatal exercise DVD that has a routine for the recovery time which is done entirely in a seated position. That seems doable!
The other day, I got a phone call from a local gym asking if I wanted to schedule a free tour and set up a free trial membership. "Well, no!" I said happily. "I am due to give birth any day now. I'll call you back when I'm ready to come to a gym." The saleswoman had nothing to say to that except "Congratulations." How often does a telemarketer congratulate you on your excuse for declining their pitch, hm? That's a fun "no."
Not that going to a gym couldn't be fun. Many of the things on my happy "no" list these days are things I might enjoy another time. It's just good to have a joyous reason for taking a break.
Writing a novel: Ask me in a few months.
I love writing! But writing is a lonely sport. It is exciting to have a big, sparkly, living reason to set aside a novel draft for a time--a reason that is much happier than writer's block, burnout, or even just needing to let a project rest. When real living gets in the way of writing--and it's not just writing getting in the way of itself--I expect to come back to the practice renewed, with a deeper understanding and appreciation of life. And maybe a few new mommy-related time management skills.
Deep relaxation is all about letting go, letting things pass by, opting out of participation in anything that is not immediately relevant. And that is what I'm trying to do now, with a sense of excitement and fun that doesn't feel a bit like negativity.
When is the last time you had fun saying "no?"