Just Say No to Signups


Today I threw away fliers.  I crumpled them up and recycled the heck out of them.

This may not seem like a big deal to you, but I am a Joiner.  I join things.  At all my kids’ open houses, I went in thinking, “Stay strong, Melanie,” and then proceeded to stroll around the gym writing down my email for anyone with a sign up sheet.  Art class?  Sure, I can cut things out and hang things up.  Running club?  I hate running, but here’s my address and lemme know how I can help.  Boy Scouts?  For sure.  Jesus club?  I love Jesus, where do I sign?

And then my inbox blew up.  Principals, PTOs, teachers, and All the Clubs.  I started getting sweaty every afternoon when the emails rolled in and the fliers exploded out of backpacks.  I felt personally responsible for every piece of paper and activity going down at all three schools.

And then I had a nervous breakdown.  Well, nervous isn’t really accurate.  I started maniacally laughing, which let to tears, which dissolved into me rocking myself muttering, “I can’t do it.  I can’t.  I can’t.”

My Firstborn, Joiner, Personally-Responsible-for-Every-Little-Thing-that-Keeps-Our-Planet-Going personality finally shipwrecked on the rocky shore of elementary school.  Can you relate?  Are you over-emailed?  Are you having panic attacks every time you open a backpack?

So I’m deleting and throwing stuff away.  I mean, I’m trying to save the important stuff, let’s don’t get crazy, but I’m realizing it isn’t all important and it isn’t all up to me.  Can you hear me breathing a shaky breath of relief?  Take one with me.  Inhale, exhale, ahhhhh.

Our neighbors just sent their last child off to college and entered the world of Empty Nesting.  Every evening, they sit on their porch, enjoy a glass of wine, and chuckle over the total zoo going on in my front yard.

I love these people.  They’re kind to my kids, helpful and friendly, and their wisdom is unparalleled.  Getting three kids grown and out the door earns you the right to offer guidance to those of us near the beginning of our races, especially when you’re delightful and precious, which they are.

A few nights ago, I staggered into their yard, bellowing over my shoulder, “Kids, clean up the bikes, get inside, and get ready for bed…did you hear me?…DID YOU HEAR ME?!”

Neighbors: (laughing) Hang in there, mom.

Me: How’s empty nesting?  Is it nice?  It looks nice.

(I’m not sure, but I thought I saw a little extra glisten in the corners of their eyes.  Because when the zoo goes away, it leaves a little too much silence?)

Neighbors: How’s school going?

Me: I’m overwhelmed.  All the signups!  What on earth?  I have three kids at three schools and my inbox is overflowing with signups for everything from working in the classroom to joining committees.  I don’t know how to do all this stuff and I feel guilty all the time.  Ack!

Neighbors: Just say no.

Me: I’m sorry, what?

Neighbors: Don’t do all that stuff.  It’s okay to say no.

See?  See why they are the wisest people ever?

Just say no.  I mean, I learned about the drugs, but I didn’t know about the signups.  We can say no to signups, too.

Since school started, I’ve been dragging myself from one meeting to the next, signing up for everything under the sun, because that’s what “good moms” do.

But maybe I’m falling for a lie.  Maybe good moms don’t spread themselves so thin that they resent their kids for even going to school and having interests.

So pick something.  Be awesome at it.  And it’s okay to throw some stuff away.  Just say no to signups…at least most of them.



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  • Valerie

    Wow. I need me some wise neighbors.

    Heck, I’d just settle for neighbors! ;-)

    • Melanie Dale

      Neighbors are fabulous. Neighbors rock my face off. I highly recommend. :)

  • caffchronicles

    Yes. This! I tried to be that Mom for two years, and got burned by the PTO. No more. All their papers went into the trash. I emailed my daughter’s teacher and let her know I was open to help with their classroom from 9:30-11am (while my son is in pre-k, leaving me time before and after for p/u and d/o). I don’t occasionally mind helping in her room (I also signed up in my son’s room) because I liked to be connected with the teacher and get to know her classmates. But I’m not going to do any of the bigger stuff.

    • Melanie Dale

      Sounds good! You’re helping, but with good boundaries so it doesn’t take over your life.

  • Jaime James

    My new “Just Say No” is for free samples:) I got some free samples of laundry detergent at the grand opening of Family Dollar last week. I never knew clothes could smell so nasty after being washed. So “Just Say No to Free Samples” is the new campaign I’m on:)

    • Melanie Dale

      Eww…that’s a good word there, Jaime…although I do love free samples…. Maybe dollar store samples are a no-no?

  • Jennifer Wilcox Knott


  • WornOutMama

    “Just say no. I mean, I learned about the drugs, but I didn’t know about the signups. We can say no to signups, too” – Best line ever! I am so THAT mom! I serve on the PTO, single handed-ly run the Pk-8 book fair, help at the fun run and am the Den leader/Cubmaster for my son’s cub scout program. I plan annual events for the group, multiple meetings per month and still try to fit in basketball, volleyball, baseball, etc.Oh, and I also have a full time job and business to run. I’m exhausted all the time and hate that our society puts this pressure on us to do it all. My poor kids don’t even like activities anymore because they get stuck going to so many meetings to plan them… so I am trying the “no” thing. I told my mom the other day – I can be a GREAT mom, a GREAT scout leader, a GREAT PTO helper…but I cannot do them all simultaneously! Some things gotta go and it’s not going to be my sanity!

    • Melanie Dale

      Yes! We cannot do them all simultaneously! So true. I’ve been deleting the hundreds of sign-up emails that have accrued in the last month and it feels good.





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