The topic of our needs as moms, as well as the societal structure that keeps us from meeting those needs, comes up a lot in my sessions. So much so that I thought it would be helpful to share my perspective on this as a therapist who works both with moms and their kids.
Interestingly, we get a LOT of calls from parents wanting their kids to receive support. What seems to be so much harder is for parents to find resources (time, money, energy, etc.) to have support of their own. Particularly moms. All too often, we are last on the list - even the list that we create.
The worst part is that sometimes we then also carry shame around our inability to engage in the ever popular self-care. We feel that everyone else is doing all the things, all the time so we should be able to as well. We believe that everyone else is balancing it all perfectly, or at least better than we are so instead of speaking out about the issues we are facing, even in a global pandemic that has across the board disproportionately affected moms, we feel that we are letting everyone down. Even ourselves.
And honestly, so many of us are just too exhausted to even think about what we need or how we can get those needs met. Plus, our tiny humans that we are responsible for are much more demanding than our internal systems saying, hey, I can’t do things like this forever. So we just seem to keep pushing on and on and on. For many, the pandemic has highlighted just how unrealistic the expectations we have of ourselves. It has shone a light on the systems of power at play in so many ways but also worn us down so much that it can be hard to make realistic changes now.
What I think is important to consider is the cost.
Unfortunately, like everything else in this life, there are pros and cons to everything. And there are certainly pros to trying to keep it all together and put your needs last. It might mean your family seems happier and runs smoother for the moment. It might mean that you feel productive and accomplished when your to-do list shrinks a bit. It might mean that your kids completed their homework today. It looks different for each person but there certainly are pros to these situations.
However, there is also a cost. Most often, we are sacrificing our own needs, emotions, health, sleep, and even our sanity for our families. While I could go on and on about WHY we do this (which is of course important and perhaps the topic of another blog post), I think it is important to consider why we would STOP doing this. And that is because I find the cost to be too great.
Why do our needs matter as much if not more than our loved ones?
Here’s what I notice in my life, friends, and my office. Moms are the ones who keep things going. We are the glue that holds our families together. And my biggest concern when moms are living lives that are not sustainable for them is that - the whole family will eventually suffer. I often think of the concept from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People called “Sharpen the Saw” which essentially says that we are the tools of our lives and we need to take care of those tools (ourselves) in order to live an effective life.
I can tell you that this is 1000% true. Every time (okay, many times) that we get calls from parents about their kids, I feel that the parents most likely could use the support as much, if not more than their kids. When parents are feeling better and coping better, particularly moms, their kids tend to do better too.
This does not mean that parents are the source of their kids troubles but it does mean that we are more equipped to help our kids with their troubles if we are meeting our own needs and managing our stress, anxiety, emotions, responsibilities more effectively. When we don’t do this, we are more likely to be the least effective versions of ourselves. For some that might mean we are less emotionally available for our families, we yell more, set less boundaries even when we know we should set them, we play less, we laugh less, etc.
So, I invite you to consider how this might play out in your family.
How are you meeting your needs?
What comes up for you when you consider prioritizing yourself and your needs?
What would it look like to spend 30 minutes a day (heck, I’ll take 5 min if that’s all you have right now) on something just for you.
What is the cost for you when you aren’t able to prioritize yourself?
Some of these questions might be uncomfortable. Setting limits and boundaries and taking time to care for yourself will likely be uncomfortable too. That is why the last question about the cost is so important, if we can remember that taking care of ourselves, having and meeting our own needs, is not SELFISH, but a gift we are giving our family, it will be an easier pill to swallow.
Hang in there mamas. I know this pandemic has been a wild ride for most of us. We can do this together.
At Thrive, we take a positive, client centered approach to therapy that is focused on creating a genuine connection with our clients. If you would like to talk with a Thrive Therapist about yourself, your child, or teen attending therapy via video sessions, please reach out to us by phone at 858-342-1304.
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