Candid Motherhood: The “No Quota”


I have two daughters.  Both are strong willed.  For those that know me well, this is not surprising. I’m sure my parents chuckle every time they think about it.

My older daughter is focused, driven and particular. She is the epitome of Type-A first born.  My younger daughter is stubborn, argumentative and clever.  She seems to have an endless supply of persuasive negotiating tactics. I like to imagine that if I had a business to run, I would want my first born as the CEO and my second born as my attorney.

It is my philosophy that strong-willed kids are a gift.  Sort of like inheriting a multi-national corporation is a gift.  Raising strong-willed kids seems like insurmountable work, but if you put your back into it and add a measure of grace, you will end up with a kid with greater-than-average potential and leadership qualities.

On this particular day, everything had been a struggle.  At 5:51am, I woke up to my daughter The Attorney, “Mom, I’m ready to go.” (Only imagine this being said through a bullhorn. Volume of voice is one of daughter #2’s negotiating tactics.) I peeled my face off the pillow and squinted at her.  It was December, and she had on a Hawaiian print spaghetti strapped sundress that was 2 sizes too small, thigh-high candy cane striped socks with Santa fur on top and black galoshes.

Me: “Ready to go where, honey?”

The Attorney: “To school. We get to meet Peanut Butter today!”

Me: “You get to meet some peanut butter today?!?” I was awakened strait from REM sleep so I was feeling nauseous and nothing made sense.

The Attorney: “NO, MOM! Peanut Butter is Teacher’s guinea pig!”

Me: “There isn’t even an EEK of daylight outside right now.  As far as I’m concerned it’s the middle of the night.  The Sun is not awake yet. You need to go lay back down in your bed.”

The Attorney: “NO. I don’t want to go back to sleep.  I’m not tired.”

Me: “Child, you don’t have to go to sleep, but if you value your safety you will go lay down in bed silently with your eyes closed.”

The Attorney: “OK.  But I’m NOT sleeping.”

Who needs a snooze bar when you have children?  I quickly slipped back into Dream Sleep, and about 7 minutes later my older daughter, The CEO, is standing by my bed starring intently at the back of my head.  I started to get that creepy sensation that I was being watched, so I slowly turned over.

Me: “Did your sister wake you up?” As I said this I noticed that she was fully dressed in a weather appropriate outfit with her hair already in a pony tail.

The CEO: “Yes, but I made the most of it.  I got ready for school, ate a bowl of cereal and I made some lemon Kool-Aid that I am planning on selling at a lemonade stand in front of the house.”

Me, slightly shocked: “Well that will be a fun after school activity…(yawn.)”

The CEO: “NO.  I want to do it now.”

Me: “It’s winter.  We won’t have daylight for another hour and then it’s time to leave for school.”

The CEO: “But MOM! I already have the table set up out front and the signs made.”

Me: “The CIA should seriously consider hiring you and your sister as Terrorist Interrogators. You would crack those guys like an egg.”

The CEO: “…Whatever. So, can I do my lemonade stand now?”

Me: “I will tell you what I told your sister…If you value your safety, you will go lay quietly in your bed until I say that this house can wake up!”

Snorts.  Rolls eyes. Stomps away.

The rest of the morning was a sea of No. …No, I don’t feel like eating any of the eight choices that you listed for breakfast.  …No, I don’t want to put on shorts under my skirt or a sweater over my spaghetti straps. (I remedied this with The Attorney by showing her the school handbook that covers dress code and modesty.  You know how lawyers are with contracts.) …No, I didn’t bring my backpack downstairs from my room.  …No, I didn’t remember to get my lunch out of the fridge. …No, I don’t think that doing my lemonade stand after school will yield a better return on investment.

We were finally getting in the car to head to school. I told my younger daughter to please get into the car on HER side so that she didn’t have to climb over her sister.  No, she said,  she didn’t want to walk around to the other side of the car.

At that point, I was done.  Sometimes you have to reach the end of your wits to have a true epiphany.  I got down on my knees so that I could look The Attorney strait in the eye.  “Child, did you know that we have a ‘No Quota’ in the Murray family?” She said she didn’t even know what that meant. “That means that you get a certain number of times that you can use the word ‘No’ in a day before you run out.  It is 8:15 and you’ve used up your quota.”

“Ok, Mom.  I’ll get in on my side.” She walks over, gets in the car and clicks on her seatbelt faster than you can say “Twilight Zone.”

No one was more surprised than I was that this worked.  We now use the concept of the

“No Quota” frequently with our girls.  We remind them that “No” is an important word, but that they must use it wisely, they don’t want to have too much day left over at the end of their quota.

Unfortunately, about an hour after I had this epiphany, I had another. I was finally alone in my car after I had dropped the kids off when I realized that parents have a “No Quota” too.  I was reminded that I need to use my “No’s” wisely as well.  When I find myself meeting my No Quota before noon, it’s usually on days that I am overtired, overscheduled or lazy.  I should be saving my “No’s” for the times when it is really something that they can’t or shouldn’t do.  Not for the times when their requests are too time consuming, too labor intensive or too inconvenient.

Being a parent, especially a mom, requires sacrificial love.  And sacrificial love has to say “Yes” a lot.  I will take it a step further and say that we should see our need to say “yes” to our kids as a privilege. I’m no pushover, but I know I need to say “yes” more often to my kids. Before I know it they won’t look to me for permission, approval or help.  I have this one chance to be their ally and their helper, so as often as possible I need to find ways to accommodate pre-dawn wardrobe malfunctions and early morning entrepreneurial schemes.

I can sleep when the nest is empty. And that day will come too soon.


Karis Murray is a Scottsdale, Arizona native and mother to daughters Riley, age 7 and Lydia, age 6.  She is currently the Creative Director for the Family Matters Minute Radio Show and serves as Lead Writer and Editor for the show.  She has been a freelance writer for more than 10 years and is a poet in her own mind!  Learn more about Karis at her blog:


  1. Oh, I so enjoyed this. I can imagine my oldest being the CEO as well. You are such a great writer, and story teller, Karis.

  2. Thanks ladies. I feel pretty confident that my kids will feed me an endless supply of crazy stories to tell…

  3. Oh my gosh K – I totally remember you telling me parts of this story after it happened!! You have Jeff and I rolling right now!

    I love the idea of a “No Quota”. There are days where I feel like that’s all I say and I have to stop myself because that’s totally not a good way to be a mom.

    Thanks for the funny insight once again…you talented writer!

    • Glad you two enjoyed it. You are raising 3 amazing little women.

      Thanks for the encouragement, but don’t give me too much credit. I am provided with great material on a daily basis.

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