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“NO.” is a complete sentence.

Three years ago, I decided to change things up for Lent and instead of giving up chocolate or social media, I decided to do some inward reflection and what ended up happening was a daily journal which I shared on my personal Facebook page. I shared stories of daily patient encounters (patient identifiers obviously changed), but stories with meaning…. Parables, if you will. I found this such a rewarding experience that I have repeated this every Lenten season since and I have saved all of these patient stories. In this blog, I hope to bring back some of my favorites.

A mom comes into the office. She has three kids in multiple sports and activities at the same time during the school year which amounts to 2-3 different practices/classes most nights of the week with at least three games on weekends, some of which involve traveling fair distances. All of the kids love their respective sports/activities, all of them are talented, and all of them are still good students. She comes in a little late, apologizing, with a venti cup of something in her hand. She finally gets to sit and lovingly gushes about her children’s accomplishments and then almost in the same breath defensively says that she doesn’t feel like she can say no to any of it because they’re great kids, and she’s helping groom them for a bright future as great adults. So she continues telling her story of picking up and dropping off, of racing between practices, of eating meals in the car, of finishing dishes and laundry after putting the kids to bed and then finally heading off to bed herself before doing it all again the next day.

Photo by Caleb Oquendo on

The other side of this story is that she was scheduled to see me for an emergency room follow up. Her blood pressure issues had resulted in a hospital stay and cardiac evaluation. Everything turned out fine so she was prescribed a blood pressure medication and was back at it because “I don’t have time to be out of commission”.

This is a patient of mine but we all know that person. Hell, we may be that person (🙋🏻‍♀️) so absolutely no judgements from me… But what I told her and what we should tell each other is this:

You can say “no”. It’s ok to say “no”.

It’s ok to slow down the pace. You’re not a bad parent for doing that. You HAVE to practice self-care, not just for you but for them. Everyone will be better for it. There are real, physical, emotional and mental consequences from filling everyone else’s cup by emptying your own. Be kind to yourself. Find ways to refill your own cup. Refuel so that you can do it all over again the next day. If there are lists of lessons to teach your children how to be great adults, that has to be on one of them.

Vintage VW van. Gauche. Because my husband’s family had one when he was growing up 😂

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