8 Needs of Mom (That’s You) That Probably Are Not Getting Met
Have you ever felt desperately alone? Unbelievably exhausted Overwhelmed beyond even your imagination? How about horribly enraged or heart-wrenchingly sad?
Thinking back on all your experiences in your journey as a mother, all those moments from pregnancy through the dark nights of postpartum and perhaps on to more (and more) children with needs, wants, personalities and personhoods…
What have you needed as a mother?
Here are 8 things I have found from my own experience of mothering and helping mothers:
Mothers give everything. They give all of themselves. They give their eyes, ears, hearts, minds. Mothers give their bodies fully. Mothers need peace. They need 20 minutes of peace to not have little hands on them and over them poking, pulling, grabbing, rubbing, smacking, pinching, twiddling, suckling, and all the other things children do with a mother’s body. Mother’s need some peace. A little can go a long way. The trick is to fully maintain the space for that. We want the peace of mind that someone is with our children that will care for them and set limits respectfully….and will keep them out of the bathroom for 5 more minutes even if they are asking to go find mommy. We need the peace of mind to, even our own heads, be able to stop and fully connect with ourselves, to recenter and become present again. Mothers need peace, and when we get that we come back refreshed, renewed and ready to love bigger and better.
Nap times. Food pickiness. Toddler and teen desires. Childcare for date night. Finding two matching socks and shoes to get out the door on time….When everything about mothering is unpredictable, mothers need some reliability. Now sometimes some of us can swing and flow flexibly without much effort. Sometimes, some of us feel like we are drowning in quicksand. When we can rely on someone, we feel really cared for. It gives us a sense that there really is some order and justice in the world, even if we aren’t able to feel it all the time. When we know we can rely on someone or something that will fill our cup in some way at some later point, we can dive deeper into the whining and the work with a fuller presence and greater peace.
This is not the kind of productivity where I sweep the kitchen and my 20 mo comes and “helps” and “lives” in our space and I “productively” sweep 18 times (to no satisfying completion) to make good on my purpose to keep a clean kitchen. Having those kinds of (unrealistic) productivity goals or focus for our energy where the end result is in direct odds with us (and our children) living full lives make for a lot of frustration and hard feelings. Mothers need productivity that is measurable and complete. “I drank water first thing in the morning to take care of my body.” “I cleared out and reorganized that closet this week.” “I spent 20 minutes every day this week playing with my oldest 1-on-1, and I really found myself maintaining presence and playfulness more easily.” “I set a date and went to yoga and tea with my friend, by myself.” Then there are those bigger picture purposes we have in life: making a contribution and leaving the world a better place. It is important that we set these meaningful goals for ourselves and acknowledge what we have done, however small or large. It is in these thousands of smaller steps that we become the mother and person we wish to be.
Not a listener who will get defensive, take things personally, offer unwanted advice, problem solve or any other unhelpful thing when all you need is someone to listen, fully and deeply. Moms need someone with whom to share the hard, ugly feelings they have and even their darkest thoughts. Someone who will hear their feelings and needs and not think “Oh, what an horrible, ungrateful, unloving mother!” but someone who looks you right in the weepy eyes or takes in the gush of unleashed emotions and truly hears your overwhelm and frustration, rage and sadness. When we feel this space as a mother, and it is such a rare connection, we release a tremendous amount of baggage. When we go back to business mothering with that lightness of being, we light up the lives of our whole family in more calm and conscious ways.
Motherhood is a lone road through a completely transformational rite of passage. Often times it is a lonely road. In the dark of the night with a screaming baby. In the middle of the grocery store with a melted down toddler. When the house is a mess and the laundry piled higher than the kids heads. These are the times when mothers need support. A friend to come over so the kids can play more easily while you move some laundry around. A stranger to hold the door open while you shuffle two or more kids and arms full of bags. A helping hand to bring some lunch or pick something up for your sick child while you stay home with the others that are energetically well. This kind of support is not necessarily natural in the structure of modern life. When we are able to create this Living Family for ourselves, we find that we not only do not feel alone but that we feel the joy of giving back and supporting others with our wisdom, experience, energy and gifts. I believe, nurture the nurturer and you feed the world. This is the power of supporting a mother, in postpartum and any time throughout her journey.
This is raw and down in there deep. It’s a truth I am not even sure most independent, strong-minded mamas like myself are willing to admit and cuddle up with. See, I believe this piece right here is connected to our feelings of Not Enough. Not doing enough. Not knowing enough. Not being enough. Not good enough. All wrong… So, when we really need to lose it, when we are feeling empty and vulnerable and beyond the edge and we look around and see that our family and home march on relentlessly with their needs we find ourselves shaken to the core and wondering: What will happen if I fall apart? What would happen if I was no longer able to hold everything together? What if, may I not dwell on it, I die? As mothers we need to be able to fall apart and let some balls drop during the juggling act. We need to know that we will be loved, cared for, respected, and valued even as we let go fully into helplessness or self care. When we do not have this security, resentment and rage, fear and sadness set in. When we have this security, we find our well of superpowers runs deeper than we thought, and a positive spin cycle begins.
People are hard on mothers. We are supposed to do it all and never ask for anything. We are not to have needs and are to know everyone else’s before they do. Mothers carry these unrealistic societal and cultural messages in their hearts and minds. We have high expectations for ourselves. We fail. Often. What we don’t always do, and need, is find forgiveness. We continue the disconnection after we yell instead of continuing the dance and feeling our way into forgiveness with our children and our partners. We say the most unkind and hurtful things to ourselves and don’t stop to acknowledge our humanity and human needs we were trying to meet or having at the time. Mothers need forgiveness. It is through this forgiveness from ourselves even more than others that we can release guilt, that mantle of motherhood weighing many of us mamas down to the ground with it’s relentless pain. We can forgive each other and hold each other up as mothers, knowing and seeing the work we are all doing, stating and hearing our conviction to learn and do differently next time. Forgiveness is a precious yet powerful key to a connected family and community.
It’s not that we know everything. And those that think they know everything and are “doing it right,” tend to rub the wrong way the others of us working to “do right by our family.” It’s that in general clarity leads to confidence. When we have a sense of what we are doing and where we want to be we feel more confident that we can get somewhere. When we are feeling lost and alone in the darkness we feel stuck in the middle of nowhere. I find that clarity can roll in both from predictable places such as books or coaching courses or from unexpected corners such as reading a blog post or getting an email from a friend. Clarity can be that pain we feel when we have cried our eyes out in overwhelm and frustration. I believe we hold deep knowing within and can hear this powerful voice clearly when the cacophony of the critical choirs charges onto the scene. From this place of presence, we make our most conscious decisions, the ones we live for and the ones we can live with.
These needs are not the stuff outlined in books and sites on peaceful parenting, attachment parenting, gentle discipline.
These extremely helpful resources for us as mothers direct us firmly to the importance of self care and meeting our own needs. However, many of us struggle to identify what we are feeling (beyond frustrated, angry, hurt, happy, excited, tired, grateful — and sometimes not even those). On top of that, understanding what we are needing is the first step because then we often need to ask for help. And there we go with a whole host of hopelessness that we will ever get our needs met, even if we do find a way to ask, again and again. (And some of us have, yes?)
Well, now you know the secret source of my inspiration and heart of my motivation.
I know moms have needs because I have needs. I know getting our needs met is hard because I have struggled with self care and calls for support. I have been up dry-eyed and dragging, pacing my bedroom floor with a (not so) little one in my arms in the middle of the night (last night). I have a To Do List longer than I have time to write it. I juggle nurturing my business, my children, my partnership, my dog, and myself and struggle with not feeling good enough like every mother does who is striving for something precious.
I just wanted to take a moment to say to you, just as I wish to with my children:
“MOTHER, I see you. I hear you. I get it. I am here. You are safe. Share your story with me. Tell me what’s on your mind and in your heart. I may not be able to be all of these to you, but A Living Family is about a strong community founded in all of these things. We are each greater than we know, and together we are greatest.”