Parents often selflessly put aside their wants and needs for their children and that is admirable but what does that actually accomplish? Parents may begin to feel drained of energy or burnt out.
When I came to my first Parents Anonymous meeting I was anxious to fix everything that I was doing wrong. I figured it would take me maybe two months— three tops. The pressing need at the time was the homework problems. I was soaking up other parents’ tips on communicating more effectively, getting the girls to listen and teaching them to help do chores. There was so much to learn.
Raven, the parent leader of our group, was explaining one day what getting our needs as a parent meant. To her, it meant making sure she got her pap smear and other checkups every year. To Becky it meant having five or six hours alone to recharge her energy by pampering herself with a manicure or yoga class. Caroline liked to go to the movies or shopping with her sister unescorted by kids.
The group asked me what I did to get my needs met and I was not sure. It had been so long since I had thought about “me” that I did not know what to tell them.
As I left the meeting I thought about getting my needs met all the way home. According to the members whatever I do or get should make me feel valued as an important part of my family. I thought of the many things I needed but was not getting— it was time.
The next week Becky, Raven and Caroline anxiously wanted to know what I did to get my needs met. (Drum roll) The magic word for me was— underwear – drawers – panties! I told them I had worn the same underwear for at least five years so I bought all new undies and threw out all the old. After dealing with the worn out elastic and ‘holy’ undies I was ready. The members laughed and shook their heads but it sure meant a lot to me.
If you ask ten people what getting their needs met means to them, you may get ten different answers. Some think of getting one’s needs met as being indulgent while others say it is a healing of sorts. Janie even suggested a trip to the jeweler but I’m pretty sure she was joking.
With practice I got better at self-care and getting my own needs met. I arranged medical and dental appointments and had tests done. I took time for myself to read or to have coffee with friends; I have taken trips, workshops and classes.
Over the years I learned you cannot wait for others to appreciate you, you must take the first steps yourself. We do not need validation or permission from a spouse or partner. Your importance should be right up there with your children; if your children’s clothing gets worn out or too small, you replace the clothing with some that fits. Why would you need any less?
If you are ever in doubt ask your peers— what do they do to get their needs met?