Although I’m single, I empathize with my married mommy friends. Often, they’ll get invited somewhere and have to turn down the invitation because of a parent-teacher meeting, a soccer game, a play date or simply because their child is sick.
All valid reasons, all completely acceptable to me.
They feel bad about it, they sometimes say they wish they had the freedom to do what they wanted, but they take comfort in knowing they are good parents and their children will one day appreciate what they do for them. (I’m paraphrasing here.)
Children, and family, are a good excuse. So are weddings, funerals, class field trips, church bake sales, and having to bake a thousand cupcakes for the church bake sale.
As a single person, I’m rarely that lucky.
What I mean is, my previous commitments rarely sound like a good reason to pass up on something, anything, that a friend asks me to do.
For some reason, saying “I can’t because I’m going grocery shopping,” or, even worse, “Sorry, I’m working on my novel outline,” usually comes across as a cop-out.
I’m getting ready to write a novel-in- a-month in just a couple of weeks, participating in National Novel Writing Month. I did it last year (yes! I wrote a book that is languishing in a pile in my closet) after deciding at the last minute to do it; I wrote on the fly, picking a topic on November 1st and just writing whatever came into my mind every day until I finished.
This year, I’m planning ahead: picking a plot, writing an outline, fleshing out the characters and scenes ahead of time.
Unfortunately, the only time I have to do this is at night and on the weekends. And even I know that telling a friend, “I can’t because I’m working on my novel,” is less than convincing.
The fact is, I usually feel the need to schedule “me” time. I put aside time to write, to grocery-shop, to work out, to wear my pajamas. On Friday nights I get excited about spending a day doing house chores, trying out some recipes I’ve been tearing out of magazines, then watching “Saturday Night Live.” Yes, that’s right. I plan ahead for “Jammie Sundays,” when I stay unshowered and undressed from sun-up to sun-down.
So when I plan to spend an entire Saturday writing my novel outline, and a friend calls to get together, I feel guilty saying no. I think that telling them, “I can’t; I have another commitment—I’m writing,” sounds weak and fake.
What is a good enough reason to say no?
I realize that some of you are (sarcastically) thinking, “Oh, poor single person, not enough ‘me’ time,” but there are a couple of things to remember here.
First, I have no back-up. I live alone, so anything that has to be done to maintain this house has to be done by me—there is no one to ask to help or to cover for me.
More importantly, I’ve made the decision to be single and to not have children. I did this because I wanted to have time for writing and other creative and social pursuits. The difference is, making sacrifices to do something for family or children is considered noble, while making time for personal interests when single is considered selfish.
I respect and admire the women I know who are keeping households and raising children and often working full-time. I bow down to them because I couldn’t do what they’re doing.
But I want everyone to understand that saying no to stay home and write a book is a valid excuse.
And yes, Jammie Sunday is a real commitment to myself that can’t be broken.