Managing the Parenting Blues

We all know that parenting can be the most demanding job to be had. Often your sacrifices and efforts go unnoticed, the “thank you” or “great job” sentiments are often not spoken. You know it’s rewarding, you remind yourself of those sweet smiles, cuddles, and the “I love you” that make it all worth it, yet there still remains a void, a slow nagging feeling of inadequacy and lack of accomplishment. How do you pull yourself out of this negativity and back into that happy parenting attitude you long to be in?

I’m not going to pretend that there is a simple cure-all answer to this question but I think if we take a look into a psychological theory commonly referred to as “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” we can pinpoint the core root of the problem. In his 1943 publication “A Theory of Human Motivation” Abraham Maslow proposed that there are five levels of needs, with the most basic needs creating the foundation for higher level needs to rest on. The first four levels Maslow calls “deficiency needs” because one becomes anxious if these needs are not met. The fifth level is called a “growth need” because it allows a person to reach their fullest potential. The five levels he proposes are:

  1. Physiological: air, food, water, sleep, etc.
  2. Safety: security, health, employment, stability
  3. Love/Belonging: friendship, family, intimacy, love
  4. Esteem: confidence, achievement, respect
  5. Self-actualization: morality, creativity, problem solving

As parents our physiological, or first and most basic, level of needs as proposed by Maslow are often neglected. You remember to feed the kids but forget that you haven’t eaten anything all day and you are most likely not getting the amount of sleep you need, especially if you have a newborn. Now let’s say you have some financial concerns which we could place in the second level of the hierarchy under safety. Not being sure that you can make ends meet, especially when you have children to care for, can be especially frightening. Next, if you are a stay-at-home parent or a single working parent then I would imagine that levels three and four are also affected (Love/Belonging and Esteem).

Often as a stay-at-home mom I feel disconnected from the outside world. I am an introvert and not having much to push me out the door, other than a play-date and enjoying some Vitamin D once in a while, really affects my self-esteem and sense of belonging. As you can see the areas that we become deficient in according to Maslow’s Hierarchy quickly add up and these are the categories that we shouldn’t be scoring points in, these are needs that should already be taken care of before we reach the growth stage of his theory.

My suggestion, work through the first four stages of this list to make sure that your basic needs are being met and if you are still struggling then you need to work on personal growth. Develop a new skill, take a college class that sounds interesting, work through a new reading list, challenge yourself, find something that is just for you. We are told time and time again as parents that we need to remember to take care of ourselves too and that isn’t an easy feat, but I hope that these tips will give you a place to start and help you to feel more confident and happy. After all happier parents make for happier kids.

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