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No is a four letter word, and other lies my mother taught me


There’s a certain word that is whispered in kitchens, living rooms and board rooms across the country. It’s a word with so much power, and so much stigma, that some women are even afraid to whisper the word, even when they are amongst friends (men, however, don’t seem to have a problem with it). The guilt surrounding this word is greater than any Jewish guilt my grandmother gave me. It’s a hard word to hear, and almost impossible for some people to say. A word that has been around for hundreds of years. A word that we, as children, said more often than our parents would have liked.

It’s the “N” word.

Not that one. The other “N” word.

It’s a two letter word that begins with “n” and ends with “o” and even now I’m having difficulties putting the letters together to form the word.

I blame motherhood. BM (Before Motherhood) my life was busy, but I was able to pick and choose among the many social and work obligations. I would accept or decline with a simple “Wouldn’t miss it!” or “I’m sorry, I would love to, but I’m already booked”.
Motherhood stripped that from me. Somehow when I delivered my daughter I lost my grasp on the space-time continuum (weeks whip by in a day, and a day can last a month) and sleep deprivation has made me stupid. I have days where I can’t remember my own name, much less where I’m supposed to be and when. Not only am I sleep deprived and lost in time, being a mother has added a whole slew of “must dos” to my daily list (did not know that children need to eat EVERY DAY – and not just a granola bar and cup of coffee, or coffee and a handful of supplements). In spite of this, I have found myself unable to turn down any request. Make gingerbread houses with the kindergarten class? Sounds like fun! Put together a memory book for each kid in the class? Why not?! (Never mind that I don’t seem to have a scrapbooking gene). As my daughter grew up, her activity level has increased (soccer, band, choir, robotics) which means that my free time has dwindled. I found myself trying to squeeze 32 hours of activities into a 24 hour day, and I only have ONE child! How do the mothers of multiples do it? (Note to prospective parental units – never let the number of children outnumber the number of adults in the house).

And then one day I heard of this magical word. The women who whispered it looked…different. Relaxed. Calm. Rested. Their hair was brushed and their clothes were clean. One of them took pity on me. She looked calm and relaxed. I has hot, sweaty, sunburned and dirty after spending all day at the soccer field, refereeing and coaching my daughter’s team. “I don’t know how you do it.” She said, as she picked grass out of my hair.

“It’s the only exercise I get.”

“Not that – EVERYTHING. You coach, you referee, and you volunteer for all the committees.”

“Well,” I squirmed. Her eyes glinted with laughter. “They ASKED.”

She leaned in, looked around to make sure nobody was listening, and whispered “You don’t have to say ‘yes’.”

I blinked, dumfounded. How had I forgotten? My BM life had included invitations that were declined. Somehow this little magic word had fallen out of my head when I was in the hospital. I could blame sleep deprivation, the epidural or the morphine drip, but I’d rather blame my mother (She’s dead, so she can’t deny it). She took care of our house, our meals, did all the shopping and the cooking and the nursing and the chauffeuring and the laundry and the committees and never complained. She behaved as if the “other n-word” was a four letter word. The only answer to any request was yes.

I am not my mother. Well, not yet anyway.


There. I said it. The world didn’t end, I wasn’t hit by lighting, and nobody unfriended me on Facebook (Well, not yet anyway).


Fabulous Female searching for sanity while raising two children (a teenaged female and her father) in the Southern California suburbs.

15 thoughts on “No is a four letter word, and other lies my mother taught me

  1. Ah yes, Early Stage Motherhood Syndrome. The good news is it does ease and it isn’t fatal. You get more practice when you have more than one (giggle). I have 4 (they are, thank God mostly adult-ish now) but I remember the days and craze of which you speak! Especially the, “How could we have more kids than us!” Here’s the deal – they (eventually) sleep through the night and the day when they are teenagers, and you will regain your rest and mojo. Any questions? Feel free to ask.


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