If you’ve ever taken a basic psychology course or followed a self-care expert on Instagram, you’ve probably heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is a theory of human needs put forward by Abraham Maslow in the 1940’s illustrated as a pyramid in order of importance, starting with a strong foundation your basic needs for survival like physiological, safety, social needs, and followed by self-actualization, sense of fulfillment and happiness.
Mothers are masters at helping our children meet this full range of human needs—from providing physical nourishment and safety, love and affection, all the way up to supporting emotional and spiritual growth.
But who provides these things for you?
We need to eat, sleep, and feel secure. We yearn for companionship and support, we dream of achievements and appreciation. Because even after those needs of basic survival are met, we often don’t find it to be enough. There’s a reason you often hear the phrase “you can’t pour from an empty cup” in discussions about motherhood.
Needs of a mother are more interrelated than a normal person. It is difficult to be present and engaged at work if you have had sleepless nights. It’s hard to take pride in your motherhood and be a confident parent if you aren’t getting any support or reinforcement from your friends and family. It requires utmost patience and super multitasking skills if you have a monkey (or a whole zoo) dancing on your head.
Where “need” and “nourishment” intersect, that’s your sweet spot.
Seek out connection: Community and connection can bring us to a place of healing. For moms this can look like asking for help from family and friends, or finding a local support group. Allowing others ‘in’ to care for us can be a vulnerable experience, but when the risk of being vulnerable is taken, we are able to engage with more nourishment and find ourselves re-energized to engage in motherhood and our work.
Forget the notion of “balance”: The idea of "balance" is a unicorn; it’s a myth. In order for something to be "balanced," you need perfect weight on either side, and perfection is just not attainable. Also, perfectionism is typically externally driven. What will others think? If we get in touch with our internal values and use those values to make the tough decisions of prioritizing, our day-to-day lives can slowly become more aligned with what’s most important to us. Sometimes, that means pouring ourselves into our families, sometimes it means saying "yes" to our work or projects, and sometimes it means acknowledging that we are running on fumes and need to say "yes" to ourselves.
If you need help figuring out where you need to fill up your own cup, here are some self-reflection questions to get you started:
- What role does nourishment have in your life right now?
- What gets in the way of nourishment for you?
- How might some of your personal values connect with caring for yourself?