Hierarchy of Needs for Mothers
You may have heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a 5 tier model of human needs of physiological, safety, love, esteem, and finally, self actualization. In order to move up to self actualization, one must fully complete each stage within themselves. I studied this theory ad nauseum in college and while I do see the benefit in this pyramid view of progress, in motherhood, however, it just seems like another requirement to keep all the balls in the air, to be unable to move to the next level because we’re giving so much of ourselves to others, all the while putting an unhealthy focus on perfection instead of progress.
If we take a similar model but apply it to a seesaw visual instead of a pyramid, it becomes so much more beneficial and applicable to women during this time of our lives. Picture a seesaw, a long, narrow board supported by a single middle pivot point; as one end goes up, the other goes down, but when both sides are even, balance can be obtained.
Looking at the needs of a mother, let’s think about what should be given attention in order to flourish. Most can fit into four categories: Self, Health, Relationships, and Spirituality. Imagine them on the seesaw, teetering back and forth as life ebbs and flows. When we loosen our grip on that perfection for each, there can be a give and take. The goal, not being to find self actualization such as Maslow’s hierarchy, but to find balance in our lives.
Taking time for looking inward, fulfilling self care and practicing self love. Self Care and taking time for yourself look drastically different as we become mothers. A luxurious spa day requires a lot more planning than before and just isn’t always a possibility when we might need it. What we can do is work to really accept and love ourselves. Positively thinking about our body image, thanking our beautiful bodies for all they do for us.
We may not be able to give the phsyical health aspect of our needs the focus we’d like, attending fitness classes, training for races, whatever we like to do to add movement and exercise into our lives, but practicing self love, self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-respect, and self-care is so beneficial and recognizing it and putting focus into that need can help balance the lack created from missing another aspect.
Feeling recognized and supported is an important part of a mother’s needs. Can we build strong relationships with people where you are equally sharing and giving love? Notice how you are mentally and energetically taking care of yourself. Are you setting healthy boundaries, are you putting too much on your plate, taking too much responsibility for everyone around you (but yourself)’s happiness and success?
Plus, we have all heard the adage, it takes a village. Having a community of women who support your personal growth and help you honor your truth has been essential for us at Enlightenedhood. We created the community we lacked and were craving and we want to share it with mothers everywhere. We have felt the enormous benefit of having like-minded women to share this journey with. Being able to learn from other’s experiences, share our own stories, and grow together has helped us keep our seesaw of needs balanced.
When we think about what our full body needs to feel whole, we need sleep, hydration, healthy nutrition, and movement. When my son was 4 weeks old, a friend told me that I should work out while he slept so that I could get the endorphins and feel better about my body faster. This advice might work for some women but for me it just made me more tired, frustrated, and stressed. Maybe I lost the baby weight faster but it didn’t help me appreciate my body or love myself or my situation any more. For me, it was more important that I focused on my health in other ways. When I loosened my grip on physical activity and focused my attention in other areas that made me feel the same endorphins and love, I was able to give myself more grace. I focused more on eating high vibrancy foods to raise the frequency of my body energy. I definitely wasn’t getting enough sleep but I was able to release guilt around letting things go unfinished when I could nap instead of feeling guilty for needing a break. Incorporating yoga nidra practices was incredibly beneficial for dynamic sleep.
Looking inward, finding a connection to something bigger than ourselves, finding the benefit of meditation and prayer can be so helpful for creating that balance in our lives. Every mindfulness practice is important, no matter what it looks like or how long or intense your practice is. You don’t need to wake up at 5 am for your rituals,work with the power of crystals, or meditate sitting down. It is so important to us that we help to make spirituality and mindfulness accessible to all women and mothers. There are ways to take the wealth of spiritual knowledge available and bring it into your lives in ways that are actually attainable for you at this somewhat chaotic time of your life!
It isn’t necessary for one need to be the fulfilled or even be the primary focus before moving on to the next as some just can’t be given full priority right now. Let’s use sleep as an example. At this time in our lives, our sleep just isn’t always in our control. Our kids are teething, cranky, sick, wanting us, whatever it is, getting the prescribed 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep seems like maybe we have a better change of winning the lottery. Instead of trying to force this need or neglecting other needs in order to find success in this one category, what we can do is use the other 3 categories to help keep the balance in our lives. We are able to maintain that even level by letting other categories pick up the slack from what we can’t commit to at this time. We are able to continue our growth and journey without becoming frustrated or stuck.
Once I redefined my view of what fulfilling my needs looked like for me (at least for now) I was able to restructure my plans and find balance. As I accepted that everything didn’t need to be perfect at all times and that each category has a natural ebb and flow, I was able to give myself peace and find time to recharge.
The key to this Hierarchy of Needs is about what balance looks like to YOU. Take time to tune in to what makes you feel good, what makes you feel like you’re running into a brick wall, what are you juggling unnecessarily, where are you insisting things be perfect. When you feel out of balance, take a look at these 4 main needs and try to see where you can adjust the focus and attention in order to create balance across the board. I hope that shifting the perspective on success help you balance your role as a mother with the new woman you are becoming.