Saying no for self preservation


Earlier this week, I was struggling to get out the door.  I followed my four year old in his snow boots, carrying his backpack, my work tote, my lunch box, my gym bag and a heavy bag of library books to return.  I had a nighttime board meeting after work, and wanted to hit the gym on the way home.  I thought about my upcoming week-a church event for my daughter, an interview for a marketing campaign at my all girls high school, a lunchtime meeting I was supervising at the med school, a musical with my mother, a craft night with my staff and a family baby shower.  Woah.  I took a deep breath and threw my totes in the car.

As a mom, I say “No” all the time to my kids.  No, you cannot have a third cookie.  No, you cannot have a sleepover.  As a doctor, I say no in my daily work life. No, this is a virus and antibiotics are not indicated.  But on a personal note, the challenge lies within saying no so I don’t get buried under commitments.

This has been a year of great opportunity and lots of invitations have come my way for exciting projects, whether an amazing women in medicine committee, a writing offer, a board position or a unique opportunity at the medical school.  And I’ve had to say “No” often.  It’s tough to say no to such incredible activities, but for me, it is necessary for self preservation.

I co-own a busy primary care practice, supervising physician assistants and teaching medical students in addition to my usual patient load each day.  At home, I have three school age kids and an incredible husband who also works full time.  These obligations necessitate careful consideration any time a new opportunity comes my way.  First, I always wonder, “Do I have time for it?” My husband and mother are great at guiding me  as I tend to be more optimistic.  I am thankful for this as I hate clutter, feeling overwhelmed and being pressed for time and disorganization.  I value my sleep, regular exercise and time with my family.  Sometimes adding one thing means not being able to participate in something else.

Equally as important is the idea that whatever I add to my already busy life MUST be inline with my goals and priorities.  Will it lead to personal development or open doors for future career opportunities?  I was on vacation in Toronto recently and came across this quote from a Canadian astronaut that really resonated with me.  I find it extra cool as he tweeted it from space:

“Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you and start moving your life in that direction…Look at who you want to be and start sculpting yourself into that person…Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become.”

So far in 2019, I have had to say no to some really wonderful opportunities.  But, I think that when it comes to your career, when you are able to say no, you’re in a good place. After all, it really is about you, your goals, aspirations, and family priorities.  And it has to be.  It’s a matter of self preservation.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Aimee says:

    This is an awesome article, as a busy working mama myself. However, the physician assistant in me was pretty bummed to see her list “supervising physician assistants” as one of the many busy tasks in her day. Perhaps if she utilized her PAs as the independent and autonomous providers we are capable of being, she would find even more free time in her life. I know I have operated as the solo provider in my clinic for weeks at a time so my “supervising” physician could take a vacation. It worked beautifully for us and our patients. I hope she considers her advanced practitioners in this way more, and a little less as a burden of her daily responsibilities.


    1. Thank you Aimee for the comment. My physician assistants are incredibly independent and rarely need direct supervision. I love having advanced practice providers in my practice. However being available to them certainly plays a role in my daily responsibilities.


      1. Aimee says:

        Completely understood. I just thought I would share the impression this gave your reader (at least one) in the way this was worded. Like I said, I hope your PAs are an asset that make your life and job a lot easier. In this article it seems they are a part of your burden given the context. I’m sure you did not mean it that way. I am always receptive to the feedback I get when I write, especially if my intent is not clear to my readers. I hope you are receptive as well, perhaps finding a time and place to honor your PAs in a future article. I would look forward to reading that as much as I generally enjoyed this one. Best of luck in your quest for life balance!


      2. Thank you for the feedback. Appreciative you took the time and will keep it in mind next time.


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