Parents' needs are important too.
Updated: Sep 30, 2019
For many of us, our needs as individuals, let alone as parents, aren’t even on the radar.
After the birth of my second child, I negated my needs for too long and gave in to victim mode.
But a realisation came out of that experience. It meant empowering myself to take action.
‘"What are my needs?"
Answering this question
can be one of the most powerful
transformations of your life.’
~ Barbara Bowen
ASK YOURSELF SOME QUESTIONS:
- What are your red flags when you’re getting exhausted/triggered/stressed?
- What are the symptoms when you reach that state?
- What would help?
- What’s your ultimate need in each one of those situations?
- What systems can you put in place now, so your need/s can be met without waiting to hit crisis mode?
When you have a new baby, and later a toddler, a preschool child, maybe two plus kids by then, a school-aged child, a teenager – oh and don’t forget the partner – life moves at a different pace.
The quest to find balance can cause too much pressure when other things are taking priority.
So a good place to start is by redefining what balance means.
For me, it simply means choosing my priorities. And priorities can change with time. This is never truer than when becoming a parent, when time can take on a different meaning too.
What tool can you use to bring these priorities to the forefront at any given time?
In textiles, weaving is a method of fabric production in which two distinct sets of yarn or thread are interlaced at right angles to form a fabric or cloth.
The weft are the threads that run horizontally on the loom and get woven in front of and behind. The warp are the threads that are strung vertically on the loom.
Having a needs-weave (the balance wheel feels too broad for me) means that you can constantly bring different priorities to the surface, while recognising that all these different threads of life are interconnected.
There will be times when you just want a two-minute shower in your day – weave it in! Some days, just that and feeding another human being (your new baby) is plenty to handle.
The great thing about the needs-weave I created is that it can be short term.
I love the idea of envisioning the future, and I’m all about designing future fabulousness, but sometimes you just need to focus on the ant-level view, not the whole forest.
You can stay in the one weave for as long as you like (though I recommend checking in with yourself often to make sure your top needs are being met before crisis mode hits).
The needs-weave can include things as specific as
* one massage a month
* go for a walk in the morning
* go see a movie by myself
* go back to work two days a week
* ask for flexible working arrangements today so I can spend more time with family
* start painting again
* have a beer with a mate
* go on a housework strike
* talk about myself outside the context of motherhood during this one coffee date with a friend
* go to the library to write that report
* take a nap every day this week
Further, your needs can all fall under the same category (personal, emotional, spiritual, mental, physical, professional...) because it focuses on what you need now.
This is about giving ourselves permission to truly look after our needs and not get too bogged down with the pressure of having a ‘balanced’ life at all times.
Instead, we look at what needs our attention, and what impact this has, while taking into consideration our circumstances, passions, values and individuality, as well as our responsibilities as parents or parents-to-be.
COMMUNICATE YOUR NEEDS
A most important part after recognising our needs is to communicate them. Sometimes this can be the hardest part, so there are some steps to follow.
‘By communicating your needs to others, you’re creating a mutually respectful environment, one where they’ll feel free to express their needs too. So really, telling people what you need is pretty selfless!
Just be ready to hear and honor theirs as well.’
~ Kaylee Rupp
That telling people what you need is a selfless act.
2. State your need
(To your baby) ‘I’m going to the toilet, you are safe in your blanket. I’ll be back in [insert x amount of] minutes’
(To your toddler) ‘I need to sit for a few minutes and drink my [insert fave beverage here]. As soon as I finish [and take all the time you need] we can play for forty-five minutes.’
(To your partner) ‘I need some quiet time and really don’t feel like going out with your friends tonight. Why don’t you go? Or we both go next week?
3. Validate feelings
Because I have been clear about stating my needs for many years now, my kids hardly flinch (hubby takes a bit longer to come around sometimes!)
Still, there are many times they don’t like it, and they complain and disagree. I take their expressions, in Janet Lansbury’s words: 'As a wonderfully honest, authentic and respectful way [to communicate].’
It’s a crucial step, though, to validate their feelings:
This needs to be practised from the very beginning. From day one.
‘I can hear you crying’ You wanted me back sooner? I’m here now’
‘I can see that you really don’t like my suggestion.’
‘I can see you are disappointed. You’ve been looking forward to tonight’
4. Follow through
Once I’ve done what I need, I give 100 per cent (the 100 per cent I can manage at that particular moment) to being with my son/s doing whatever we have agreed to do together if that’s what I promised.
I don’t take calls or messages. I don’t constantly look at the clock and we spend together the time I said we would
If I say I’d do something, I follow through.
5. Own it
I learned the hard way that not taking care of my needs was not only detrimental for my physical, emotional and mental health but detrimental for the whole family.
Believe that by putting your needs first, your children, your partner and people around you will learn and accept that you have needs.
6. Look at the big picture
When we take care of our needs, we are better parents.
It really is about sanity preservation!
Here's to parent-wellbeing - at all times.
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*This article is an excerpt from my book Welcome to Parenthood