Learning to say NO

Saying NO is not easy. Personally I gravitate towards YES. However NO is one of the words that I quickly learnt to use more often the moment our twins were born and all our three children were under three years.

When you are a sleep deprived working mom, weekends become the days to catch up on sleep and this means learning to say NO to requests and invitations without any FOMO.

I will be the first to admit that motherhood is demanding and takes a lot from you. I also know that sometimes we take on too much be it at work, with our families and even friends and we end up complaining about how we struggle to ‘balance’ it all. Part of self care and getting balance (which I prefer to call rhythm) is learning to say NO.

1. Saying NO to friends/ family

I have already said I gravitate towards YES or you could say I like pleasing others. My children’s arrival challenged this. How is it even possible to go out with three children under three to our usual girls coffee? The biggest challenge comes when our friends or family cannot take NO for an answer. For me the below have worked most of the time.

– Delay the response to give you more time but still get back with your NO.(😉😉 Now my family know how I operate..)

– With family give reasons for the NO so that they do not make assumptions or take it personally.

– How you say NO is very important as your tone of voice also communicates more than the words you choose.

2. Saying NO to children

My children are persistent. They just do not take NO for an answer (like the widow in the Bible who wanted justice against her adversary). This is a very good quality and I like that they do not give up easily. I have therefore found ways of saying NO without actually using that word. The below is a typical conversation in our home many times a week.

Zaya: Mummy I want chocolate/ candy/ ice cream….( NB this is a few minutes or an hour before supper)

Answer 1: Delayed gratification which is also conditional.

If you eat supper first and then I will give you chocolate.

Answer 2: Offer a healthier alternative

What if I offer you X instead?

Answer 3: Distract with something else that the child likes. Most times they forget about the request or should I say sometimes.

Hey Zaya come see what I found.

Answer 4: Use an authority figure the child respects. In my case its the school teacher. It could even be their favourite cartoon character.

Do you think Miss Alice would want you to have candy before supper?

Of course there are also situation where an out right NO is needed so that the child clearly understands acceptable behaviour.

Unconsciously working moms say YES to ease the guilt of being away from the children. Please do not fall into this trap.

3. Saying NO at work

Sometimes you know you are truly not able to take on more but you find yourself agreeing to certain requests for reasons I will not detail here. In some work places this is further complicated by the words they put into the contract that says ‘…. and any other duties….’

Here are my views on when to say NO at work and how to say it.

When to say NO

– When what you are being asked to do goes against your values.

– When what you are being asked to do is clearly outside of your job description and can easily be done by someone else that you know has the time to do it at that particular time.

– When you already have more urgent priorities that are already agreed and cannot take on more work without compromising the quality of what you are already doing.

-When you have clearly weighed the risks of saying NO and can live with the consequences of that decision.

How to say NO

-Explain your situation without going into many details.

– If this particular task can only be done by you, then clearly present the most realistic timelines for completion given your current workload. By all means avoid taking on more when you cannot deliver it when it’s needed.

– If possible say NO in person. If this is not possible, a phone call is always better than an email.

– How you say no and your tone of voice matters.

Just to tie it all, do not just say NO for the sake of it. When a YES is appropriate, then by all means say YES but if you are a “people pleaser” like me then learn to say NO.

Share with me how you say no to children, family and at work.


Put it into perspective

The Cambridge Dictionary defines putting something into perspective as comparing it to other things to allow for a proper or accurate judgement or assessment. I had an Aha Moment about this that i would like to share with you today.

The past two weeks have been extremely busy for me with a lot of travel. By the end of last week, I was really tired and looking forward to coming home to my family. Imagine my disappointment as I was checking in at the airport just after 10pm on Friday night, only to be told the flight had been delayed by two hours and instead of taking off at midnight, it would take off around 2am. I was annoyed, irritated and everything in between. I would have landed home around 5am and been home by 630am, early enough to get a few hours of rest and then spend time with my kids watching the royal wedding. I was still wondering what I would do for four hours at the airport when I saw the report about another school shooting in the US. All of a sudden my irritation with a delayed flight seemed out of place compared to the parents who were never going to see thier children again.

I will give another example. I remember one time I was looking at my computer so intently. Now I don’t even remember what the issue was on this particular day but the look on my face must have been so intense that a colleague who was passing by stopped and asked if everything was okay. Whatever my response was, it’s his response that just helped me snap out of it. “Its okay, it’s not like we are working on a cure for a terminal illness…its just cereal that we are selling

Its easy to complain about whatever it is that you might feel is not going accordingly to schedule. This week i would like to encourage you to put your situation into perspective. Is it really that bad? Take some time to appreciate and find joy in the mundane things. Let this week be about putting things into perspective.

Have a great week ahead mamas.

I think I might becoming like my mother…

In a workshop I attended last week, each person was asked to write three things about themself, one of which was suppose to be a lie. My list was as below:

1. I have a degree in Economics

2. I have 6 sisters and 2 brothers

3. I am a Sunday school teacher

Can you guess which of the above is not true about me? The workshop participants all got it wrong. Everyone assumed 2 was the lie. Indeed I have 6 sisters and 2 brothers all from the same mother and father( Hallelujah praise God).

Now that I am a mother myself, to three children aged between three 3 and 6, I wonder how my mother kept her sanity. Every single day I remind myself that if my mother could manage, surely I can too.

I have a work trip out of the country this mother’s day. After reading my children their bedtime story I asked them to each pray and as my son prayed, I found myself crying. He prayed that I would travel well and come back home safely and that I would not forget to buy the things he wants me to bring. As I was wiping my tears, I realised I might becoming like my mother in many ways than one. Here is my list of things I unintentionally find myself doing that my mother used to do.

1. I have become really sensitive since I became a mum. Last night’s praying incident being an example. I cry when my children impress me and I cry when I watch certain movies. My mum used to cry when watching movies on TV or if she listened to certain songs.

2. I can now give “the eye” and my children completely get it. Infact they completely get it that just “the eye” is enough to cause tears. This is such a victory for me. I remember a few years back when our first daughter was about three years old. I tried to give her “the eye” and she said “mummy why are you looking at me like that?”

3. I have three kids and I find myself going through all their names just to call one of them. My mum used to do that too.

4. I never used to understand why my mum would call me from outside where I was playing into the kitchen to pass her the salt which was so close to her she could have taken it herself. Well, I find myself doing similar things. Like calling my daughter from outside where she is playing so she can get me some water to drink. I guess it’s a mummy thing 🙈🙈🙈

5. I find myself unintentionally embarrassing my children just like my mum used to. Like the day she recited her words perfectly and me being the African mum “ululated” so everyone would know she was my child..😂😂. Of course she was not impressed and when I was showing her the video later, she told me not to it again. I still do it… oops!

And you… do you find yourself becoming like your mother?

Have a great Mother’s Day with your loved ones.


When school is out

School holidays are bitter-sweet for me. I will share the bitter first so that you have a sweet taste in the mouth afterwards.😊😊😊😊

My biggest concern is how do I keep three little people entertained for almost four weeks without breaking the bank? I also don’t want them in front of the TV the whole time. Yes there are some really excellent programs on TV my favourite and our son’s favourite is Blaze And The Monster Machines. It has some amazing lessons but even he doesn’t want to watch it all day. Our eldest makes sure she calls me whilst i am at work to tell me that she is bored….. so please share your tips for entertaining a six year old and two three year olds “without breaking the bank”

And for the sweet part now

1. Mornings are now peaceful in our house..at least for the next four weeks. No missing school shoes when we are already running late or tears because someone decides they are not hungry and yet cry the moment we are on the way because now they feel really hungry.

2. No homework for me. You see I have noticed that some of the homework isn’t for the child but for the parent. For example my six year old was to make a boat that would actually float and not sink. I wonder how many six year olds out there are actually able to do this. My conclusion is that this is homework for me the parent…so for the next four weeks I get to be homework free yeah!!!!

Enjoy the school holidays and if you can also take time off work and spend some quality time with these special ones..

Can you own your success?

Sometime last year I graduated from our company’s in-house leadership programme. Each graduate was asked to provide a citation of their achievements during the two year program and their career goals going forward. I had some really good achievements of projects I had led successfully. My problem was writing about it and having it read in front of all other graduates and work colleagues felt as if I was bragging and blowing my own horn. It just felt wrong. I therefore down played my hard work and achievements… I know better now. I also noticed some female colleagues who were graduating had done exactly the same.

Today I would like to share why not owning your success as a woman is counter productive and also ways to actually share your achievements without coming across as bragging.

Reasons us women down play our achievements

1. Not wanting to appear too ambitious. Our paternalistic society is okay with very ambitious man but not women. Because the majority would like to fit into the acceptable, the result is down playing our achievements.

2. Fear of scaring away potential partners who apparently are threatened by successfully women. ( This is a topic for another blog post in the future). By the way only boys are threatened by successfully women. Real man are not.

3. Concern that our achievements might invoke jealous in others and that they might then sabotage or harm us.

4. Not being comfortable with success and fear of being found out for being fraudsters. It’s called imposter syndrome and again this is a post for another day.

Whatever the reason might be, not speaking out about our successes not serve our interests.

Why is it bad?

1. Talking about your achievements does not necessarily equate to bragging or being narcissist. Let this sink in…..

2. Not talking about your achievements means waiting for someone else to notice how hard you work and then hopefully they will take action on it. Well, this could turn out to be a very long wait. I doubt any one wants to give up the power to determine their career destiny in such a way.

3. Down playing your achievements might result in you being passed over for opportunities that you want and this usually makes you resentful.

4. I believe if you cannot speak up for yourself you will not be able to speak up for others. It is therefore important to learn how to self promote appropriately.

How to own your success

A workmate from another country reached out to me about a project I had submitted that had won me a cash prize. Being the humble and modest person I am, I kept on using the word ‘we’ throughout the conversation instead of ‘i’. When he asked who the others i had worked with were, that is when I realised I was actually down playing the hard work I had put in the project by not owning up to the fact that I had actually worked on it alone. After this conversation I therefore sought to find how I could showcase my achievements without coming across as bragging.

1. For me the first thing is to be comfortable with individual success. Some cultures are more communal and emphasise the ‘we’ and others are more individualistic. I come from the former and even when I have worked on something alone, I still believe there are others supporting me behind the scenes. Being comfortable with individual success and believing that i am worthy of it for me becomes the first step to then sharing my achievements.

2. The next step is to acknowledge and highlight the hard work and effort I have put in. I have now learnt to accept compliments and not respond to well done by saying ..oh it was nothing. I sometimes still slip up and give such responses …but that’s okay, I am still a work in progress. We all are.

3. Finally where I have received support from other team members, I acknowledge it. This is where it gets confusing and mixed up. It’s about giving credit to those who have supported yet still showing my role in rallying the support successfully.

So today my encouragement is do not be afraid to shine. We are still in the month of celebrating women so owning your success is one way to #pressforprogress.

How are you owning your success? Share in the comments section below.

Mum in Stilettos

If i wasn’t afraid…

This past week i was in a workshop in Dubai organised by the Facebook Middle East and Africa office. I learnt in two days what would have taken me months but that’s not the purpose of today’s post. On the walls at the offices, there are different posters that speak to some of Facebook’s beliefs and values. All the posters spoke to me but one in particular stood out and it was written What would you do if you were not afraid?

I have been reflecting on this over the last few days and it occurred to me that there are things i did not do because i was afraid. Afraid that i would fail, afraid of rejection and afraid of disapproval.

I started this blog over five years ago just a year after our first daughter was born. I felt overwhelmed as a first time mum trying to balance my work demands and my family demands. I therefore started writing down some of the challenges i was facing and how i was dealing with them. Because of the fears i mentioned above, i did not link my blog to any of my social media pages. Once in a while i would share a link to the blog on my Facebook page and only tag close family members. I feared disapproval and rejection if i put it out there. I had many ‘what ifs’.

At the beginning of this year i resolved to deal with my fears and see what would happen. I rebranded my blog, opened up Facebook and Instagram pages and a Twitter handle. I can tell you right now that pushing through my fears is actually less frightening than living with the fear from helplessness. It’s still early days but the responses to my blog posts show me that there are other young working mothers out there who are wondering how to manage it all and if i wasn’t afraid, i would have created this platform earlier.

What would you do if you were not afraid? Share your feedback in the comments section. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Mom In Stilettos

Experiencing motherhood guilt?… it’s perfectly okay..

Is it just me or there are other working mums out there that also experience motherhood guilt? Initially i thought the longer i was a mother, the easier it would get…but no. Next week Thursday i will be 6 years a mother and it has not really gotten better. Here are some of the things i feel guilty about.

1. I feel guilty about having a few minutes to myself. Three kids under 6 is not a walk in the park. Sometimes i just want time to be ‘me’, not a mother wiping bottoms, not a peacekeeper stopping a fight over the pink doll and definitely not being cross examined by little people on why they should eat their carrots. To find ‘me’, I have resorted to locking myself in the bedroom and at times in the bathroom, wherever works at that particular moment and ignored soft little knocks on the door and immediately felt guilty for doing that to ny children.

2. I am that mum that misses school functions and that really makes feel guilty. I missed my daughter’s swimming gala the other term and when i received the videos of her receiving her certificate, my heart just broke. One time our daughter told me she was the only one whose mum was not picking her up from school everyday and that made me feel very guilty.

3. I feel guilty when i get too busy at work and get home when my children are already in bed.

4. I feel guilty when we leave the children at home in order to have ‘us time’ with my hubby and i can’t stop talking about them or checking on them every other hour.

5. And i also feel guilty about feeling guilty….😟😟😟

On really a serious note though, i have learnt in my few years as a mother that my children are perfectly okay and a lot of this guilt is about me and the things i need to deal.

So its perfectly okay …….

-It’s perfectly okay if i lock myself wherever i choose in order to find myself

-It’s perfectly okay to be passionate about my work as it allows me to give my children opportunities they would not have if i was doing something else

-It’s perfectly okay to spend time with my hubby without the kids. If our relationship is healthy we become better parents to them.

-And it’s perfectly okay to be a great mom and a great boss lady too.

Do you sometimes feel motherhood guilt? Share in the comments section below.