I think it all started with the bread winner in the family. He was asked to stay a little later, come in a little earlier or give up a few hours of his day off. And because he was the breadwinner, he was nervous to say no, besides, it was a chance to make a few more bucks for the family, and who couldn't use that? It was the responsible thing to do.
Then it was the mother in the family. She was asked to bake cookies for the class party, and bring brownies for the PTO cake sale. Could she sell gift wrap to help support the Boy Scout troop, and this was her territory for selling Girl Scout Cookies. It was for her kids school, and her kids community after all, so how could she say no?
And our town park needed to get rid of those dangerous and outdated monkey bars, and wouldn't it be nice to have that pre-school play area, the one with the musical bridge, you know, just like the one they have at the playground at the next town over from us? And the baseball field is just atrocious! It needs to be ripped out, turned over and reseeded. It makes me ashamed to have any of the other teams playing on our diamond. And since it was for the community, who could say no?
Then the ranch across the street got an addition that changed it from a one story into a two story. The house next door got all new landscaping, and the house a few doors down got all it's concrete work changed into brick. And our little house looked so.... shabby compared to the other houses, so we took out a second mortgage and spruced the place up. It was the right thing to do.
Then Sharon's teeth came in crooked. They weren't detrimental to her, but no one's kids have crooked teeth anymore. So even though our dental insurance didn't pay for any of the orthodontia work, we had the work done anyway. We just put it on the credit card. Ouch! But it had to be done.
Mom had to take a job outside of the home for us to be able to make our bills, so the school hired someone to do all the jobs that Mom couldn't volunteer for anymore. Then the taxes had to go up to pay for the salary, for the person who gets paid to do the work Mom used to volunteer for.
Do we know how to say "no" anymore? There was the time back when I was a kid, that grownups had the prerogative to say "no", and they didn't have to explain why. They were the grownups, they said no. That was the end of it. No.
Many families didn't have a second car, a color tv, any of the game systems, a yearly vacation, gymnastic lessons, after school sports, flute lessons or braces on every one of their kids teeth. And they didn't have to try to find excuses for it. They didn't have it, that's the way it was. They just said "no."
Are we brave enough to follow their example?
No, I won't take on more hours so that I am working nearly 12 hours a day. No explanation, just no. Obviously, I don't mean not to help out when there is a crisis at work, or a down sizing. But if and when the economy ever goes back to what we used to know as normal, don't let yourself become a serf. At the very least, don't give up your Sundays.
No, I won't take on every volunteer job thrust on me until it is as if I have a full time job that takes away the quality time with the very kids that I'm supposed to be staying home with.
No, I won't be pressured into keeping up with the Joneses (neighbors statistics say I won't even know) and putting my family into financial peril by taking out a new mortgage or home equity loan.
No, I won't be pressured into cosmetic orthodontia work, cell phone plans, allowances, cars or anything else that society deems is absolutely necessary for kids nowadays and digging a financial grave for myself by trying to afford something that I can't.
No, I won't let my taxes go up, especially when most people's salaries are either stagnant or actually less than 5 years ago, because a grass sports field is no longer the style and everyone else has astro turf, because the school wants to increase it's budget, because the police want a new station, because the town wants to put in new street lights.
I don't have to tell you why I am saying no. I am the grown up, and I say no.