When "No" is Good for Your Family
- Maribeth Spangenberg Contributor
- 2006 4 Apr
“Mommy, telephone,” the little voice yelled through the bathroom door. Realizing that no place is sacred when there are young children in a home, I raised my voice also in response. “Find out who it is and take a message.”
“It’s Mrs. Jones,” my seven-year old chimed back after a thirty second delay, “She’s coming Wednesday and needs to talk to you about it.”
Evaluation day, I thought to myself. She’s one of the ladies scheduled to come to my house. A decade ago we had been a part of the same homeschool support group, but had not seen each other in years.
“Tell her I’ll be right there!” I quickly finished dressing and answered the call. “So, do you need directions to my house?” I inquired.
“Not exactly,” she replied, “but I do need a favor.
I suddenly felt on guard.
“My daughter needs to be at work at the same time that her evaluation is scheduled and I was wondering if we could trade times with one of your children.”
Anxiety immediately crept in. With these appointments being only two days away, everything was already planned. This particular, much in demand evaluator, was scheduled to come to my home to evaluate my children, as required by our state law. In exchange, I had agreed to allow him to invite other homeschoolers to fill a time slot of seven, one-hour evaluations per day. Having five children who needed evaluating, this worked perfectly for me. The two outsiders would come at the end of the day, just when my children’s ability to sit still had diminished.
I quickly surmised that this old acquaintance was assuming that I would accommodate her need. My stress level was rising as I found myself caught between two choices. Do I say yes and make life easier for this woman, but in so doing, inconvenience my own family? Or do I say no and risk offending her?
I hesitated in a response, indirectly prompting Mrs. Jones to further explain her situation, thus giving me more time to ponder what I should do. (“…He that refraineth his lips is wise.” Prov. 10:19)
“Actually, I had the days mixed up,” she continued. The schedules had been mailed to her months in advance. “I guess I should have checked it before.” By keeping silent and not giving her an immediate answer, she was beginning to feel awkward and continued rationalizing why she needed to change her time. I was also quickly coming to the conclusion that it was not a matter of life and death, but rather one of poor planning on her part. She was really hoping that I would make her life easier with just this one phone call.
If I simply said yes, then she would not need to have her daughter change her work hours nor call someone else to exchange days or times. However, for the sake of her comfort, I would be inconveniencing my family and myself, upsetting our time schedules, rearranging our plans, causing my own children to have to be quiet and sit still longer than necessary, and interfere with our family lunch plans. The added time restraints would also increase the stress and pressure of an already demanding day, a factor I was attempting to minimize by offering my home as an “evaluation station.”
The Lord was indeed gracious to give me these insights with such a small amount of time to think. His compassion was further extended in granting me the grace to explain why I could not comply, and then being able to offer her alternatives.
As I hung up the phone, instead of feeling guilty for not helping her out, I experienced a tremendous amount of peace. At the risk of offending, I had put my family first. For some, this request may have been a small matter. But for me, it would have been a major concern.
Yes, there are times when we need to bend a little, to allow ourselves to be inconvenienced to help a fellow Christian homeschooler, but we need to exercise wisdom, especially when it involves the needs of our family.
God does not intend for us to always fulfill the expectations of others, nor to continually rescue them from the consequences of their own poor planning.
Although my nature is to normally please and comply, I am slowly learning the importance of putting family first and others second. I cannot overlook the needs of those immediately under my care, and the impact that my decisions will have on them. If a situation will cause me further stress, the effects of which will pour out onto my loved ones, then it cannot be the Lord’s Will (Isaiah 26:3).
Life is full of choices, the result of God’s gift of free-will. And every choice needs to be examined in light of, “Will this decision pull me nearer to the Lord, or push me further away? Will an answer of “yes” draw my family closer or will it cause undue stress?”
Robert E. Lee, the famous Confederate Civil War General, and a recognized realist, once wrote to his son, Custis Lee, “You must be aware of one thing, that those you deal with will consider their advantage and not yours. So while being fair and just, you must not neglect your interests.” 1
While this quote is not a spiritual statement, and was said in relation to business dealings, it is a revelation of human nature. As a result, even Christians are subjected to its temptation.
As homeschooling mothers, our interest is our family, and as such, we need to pray for discernment when decisions, however small, need to be made. We should seek God’s wisdom as to the impact it will have on our family. If the possibility exists for a negative effect on our ministry of mothering, then we should not be afraid to say “no”. God will give us the grace we need, to have the priority of family first and others second. We need only to be sensitive to His leading.
Isaiah 26:3 – “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
Proverbs 16:20 – “He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good…”
Footnote – Robert E. Lee on Leadership by H.W. Crocker III, Prima Publishing, Roseville, Calif., copyright 1999, 2000: page 43
Maribeth Spangenberg is wife to Steve, homeschooling mother of nine children, and happy, new grandmother to one granddaughter. She considers it a blessing and a ministry to be able to encourage other mothers and homeschoolers to “stay the course”!
This article was originally published in Eclectic Homeschool Online (www.eho.org) to which Maribeth is a regular contributor to the Home and Family Department. Maribeth also writes weekly devotionals for Homeschool Enrichment newsletter and website (www.homeschoolenrichment.com).