I just wish I felt like my son needed and wanted me.
As I was reflecting on this, I was faced back with the response “Your children aren’t meant to fulfill your needs.” This has remained something that I have pondered over and over. I am clear on the fact that I didn’t have kids to vicariously live through them and their accomplishments. I want my children to do what their hearts and passions call them to do, and for their souls to be filled with happiness and satisfaction in the activities they choose.
My role as a parent
My role as a parent is to love, protect, and facilitate my children’s growth into becoming caring and responsible adults. Their individuality and uniqueness is theirs, and it is my job to help them feel comfortable and confident in who they are. Before I had kids, I was overwhelmed with excitement for the opportunities that accompanied parenthood. I yearned to feel and provide the kind of unconditional love that is contagious and incomparable to any other type of love, to feel the happiness associated with watching my children meet milestones and develop into their own beings. To feel the excitement of encouraging my children to pursue their dreams and celebrating their braveness in trying something new. To create and develop a lifelong relationship with my children, plus so much more. So, when I think back to the original question of “Did I have kids to fulfill my needs?” Well…I guess in a way I did.
Separating my needs from their needs
As I find myself in the trenches of motherhood, I still feel as though my needs are fulfilled by my children. Do I depend on them to fulfill my needs? No, I would not put that kind of pressure on them, but the experience of staying at home with them does satisfy my needs. Being a stay-at-home mom has also become my hobby, my life’s purpose, my job, and my identity. Maybe I have lost a little bit (or a lot) of myself the last few years, but I am okay with that. My kids are only going to be young for so long and at this point in my life, there is nothing else that I’d rather be doing.
The good days with my kids fill my soul with unbelievable happiness, and the bad days often take a toll on my emotional health. When my three-year-old has told me 20 times in one day to “go away” or “I don’t like you,” it takes a toll on me. Although the logical side of my brain reminds me that it is completely normal for a toddler to say these things, my heart soaks in the pain and the hurt eventually permeates into sadness, which leads me back to my desire to feel needed and wanted by my son. I don’t see this as a statement showcasing that my needs haven’t been met, but more of an honest statement driven by mom emotions. Some days I feel like superwoman, and other days I feel like a failure, but none the less, I always feel fulfilled by my role as a mom.
Upon reading about this subject of children filling parent’s needs, one article in particular caught my interest. As I read it, I felt like I was looking back at myself through the words presented on the screen. Researcher Miriam Liss focuses on “intensive parenting,” which is centered in beliefs that
- The mother is the best person to care for the kids,
- That parenting should be centered around the child’s needs and not those of the parents, and
- That kids should be thought of as delightful and wholly fulfilling for parents”…
CHECK, CHECK, CHECK—these are all me. She found that “moms that believed that they should always put the kid’s needs first are way more likely to be unhappy” I quickly became disinterested after reading the claim that “intensive parenting” moms are more likely to be unhappy. I AM happy. I AM fulfilled. Then, as I lay in bed that night I continued to think about what the article said. By no means am I unhappy, I am absolutely fulfilled by my role as a mom, but I do find myself unhappier than maybe I should be when my son rejects me and engages his mighty threenager attitude. When I seek out support from other moms on the tough days, I notice that many of my friends are able to excuse hurtful words from their children and just accept this challenging stage of development; however, I’m not able to do this as easily and instead take the words personally.
Is it because I am an intensive parent?
Am I going to quit being an “intensive parent”? Well, probably not, but what I have learned throughout this reflection journey, coupled with the last two challenging years we’ve had with our son’s behavior, is that I do need to be cautious and keep my emotional health in check. My emotional health hasn’t been the strongest lately. With the pregnancy hormones circulating through my body and the hardships we continue to experience with our son, I have been sadder than normal over the last couple of months. I have experienced feelings of hopelessness and emptiness and maybe my “intensive parenting” style has exacerbated these feelings. I haven’t wanted to accept that I needed help with my son until just a few days ago. It’s been an extremely hard concept to swallow because as an “intensive parent” I have believed that the best person to care for him is me. I swim back and forth between emotions of “I am a failure, why can’t I handle this” to “extra help will be a blessing for all of us and will help me to operate at my prime.”
I am going to try out this new way of accepting that help is okay and that there will be some instances in life where receiving help will make me a better mom. As a type A personality, letting go of some of my “intensive parenting” traits is going to be hard and honestly, I don’t necessarily want to let go of all of them. I am proud of the mom I am. However, while I am completely fulfilled and my needs are SO graciously met by having these two (soon to be three) amazing children in my life, my needs in my role as Melissa also need to be met, I challenge myself to do a better job at continually assessing and being honest about Melissa’s needs in order to be the best Melissa AND Mom I can be!