DEAR CAROLYN: I'm the matron of honor in a wedding this fall. Other bridesmaids are planning a bachelorette getaway at the end of the summer. I have a baby and told them I wouldn't be able to get away for that long to a destination that far away because of breastfeeding and child care. I made it absolutely clear I was happy to miss the festivities and would make it up to the bride at another time. To my surprise, a month later, they said they had scratched that plan and come up with something new, shorter and closer, to include me. Unfortunately, all the difficulties are still there, and I can't/don't want to go. But I feel like I have to, since they went so far out of their way to make it possible. None of these women has kids and they probably think I am being ridiculous but are being kind about it. What do I do?
PHILADELPHIA: "Oh, no, I must not have been clear — it's the time away from the baby I can't swing, not the distance."
Or, you make the venue change pay off for you and make only a brief appearance. I don't believe in guilt-based decision-making, but there is something lovely about being wanted, and maybe the modified trip would be a nice break for you.
But if you really just don't have the will or energy, then you say no. "But I want you all to know how much it means to me that you tried."
RE: NEW MOM: This so succinctly shows why I am not a huge fan of how, in our culture, we tell people no by explaining our reasons. I'm sure she said, trying to avoid hurt feelings, "I wouldn't be able to get away for that long to a destination that far away," when she really meant, "I really can't go." So people hear there is a way to solve the problems. I just wish people would just say no when they mean no, and others would take that without hurt feelings.
SIGH: Sigh. "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin de Becker covers this memorably.
In this case, the plan-changers also neglected to ask the matron of honor, "If we did X instead of Y, would that make a difference?"
RE: PHILADELPHIA: I completely understand how hard it is to travel away from a tiny breastfeeding human. That said, I encourage the letter-writer to think hard about the "can't" vs. "don't want to" part. Both are absolutely legitimate, but there's a difference between truly being unable to do something and being overwhelmed by the planning part of something you'd otherwise really enjoy. I had to travel for a work interview when my breastfeeding kiddo was just a few months old. I was a wreck for weeks beforehand, pumping and storing enough milk to last a fortnight when I was only gone for a few days. But once I got there, I so enjoyed the break from being Mom and was much better for it when I returned. And I got the job.
Better for It
BETTER FOR IT: I like these back-to-back because working through the "the 'can't' vs. 'don't want to' part" beforehand is essential to the effective-communication part. Thanks.