As humans, we all have needs. As a mother, part of your role is also teaching your children how to meet their own needs (such as dressing themselves, how to perform self-hygiene, stay safe, etc.). Aside from teaching children this, the responsibilities of a mother seem never-ending:
Meeting your children’s needs for education
Providing intellectual and developmental stimulation
Ensuring healthy levels of social interaction
Making sure your spouse and children know they are loved and appreciated.
But what about YOU and your needs?
Every mother is a woman. The young, vibrant woman who loves to laugh and feel beautiful resides in every mother, and every mother’s emotional needs include the need to feel loved, appreciated, strong and confident in her ability to handle everyday life. However, if we look at the sleep-deprived realities of having a baby; looking after young children; the energy required to provide a home; put food on the table; facilitate education and nurture family life - it’s already extremely demanding for any mother. And let’s add the past year of navigating the pandemic to the mix and it’s easy to see why there could be a lot of daily stress added to your life as a mother.
The link between stress and unmet needs
There is a direct correlation between high stress and unmet needs. Needs become more acute in times of stress, and needs that are insufficiently met may cause stress.
If you feel burned out, you may become frustrated and find it difficult to be patient with your children and appreciate their needs.
As your children’s needs are not met, they may become more stressed.
This can result in a downward spiral of unmet needs, increased stress, and greater frustration.
If you feel depleted, exhausted, drained, and burned out, you will not feel like taking care of your children’s needs. You may feel resentful and not be physically or emotionally up to the task. You may miss out on the joys and pleasures of parenting your youngsters.
Times of high stress
You may experience this vicious cycle very strongly during certain stages of parenting, such as when you have a newborn, an active toddler, and/or teenagers. You may also feel increased stress and be less able to handle your needs or those of your children during times of transition, such as a divorce, moving home, or a serious illness.
Reasons for not getting your needs met:
Certain beliefs may get in the way of your meeting your needs:
Children’s needs always come first.
I can only be happy when my children are happy/well-behaved/quiet / doing well in school, etc.
I have no right to put myself first.
I must be a “perfect” parent.
I asked for this!
I can do it better myself.
I can not rely on anybody else to help me.
It is too much work to get my needs met.
It doesn’t count if I have to ask for help.
Only other people can satisfy my needs; I can’t take care of myself.
It is weak to have needs.
In addition there are certain parenting realities which are obstacles to getting your needs met.
You may not even know what would make you feel better.
You may not have enough support from other people.
There may be time or money constraints holding you back.
“How can I fit in anything for myself when I am already doing as much as I can in a day. I have a toddler who is on the move all the time and a child in elementary school who has extra-curricular activities. Plus I am working part-time. When I get back from getting the older one where he has to be, I still have to cook dinner, help with homework, and do the bedtime routine…..”
You can fill in the details of your own life, but you get the picture. Doing something for yourself might feel like one more thing on your “to-do” list.
If you were shamed or criticised for having needs when you were a child or your needs were not met, you may believe that:
It is not okay to have needs.
Your needs will not be met now.
You do not deserve to have someone comfort you now.
In addition, if your needs were not met when you were a child, you may have trouble accepting and meeting your children’s needs because it wasn’t modeled for you. You may be resentful of your children’s requests, or you may go overboard trying to satisfy every whim in an effort not pass on to them your childhood feelings of deprivation.
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