Mothers are needed by their children. The sky is also blue. And I’m Captain Obvious.
But the sky isn’t always blue, is it? And mothers are also their own beautiful selves, separate entities from their children. And just as the sky sways from color to color, children’s needs change over time.
I love being a mother, but I’ve never taken satisfaction from being needed. I appreciate being appreciated, but being too needed overwhelms me and makes me feel resentful and frustrated. Being needed all the time makes me feel I don’t have my own sense of self; instead, it makes me feel I’m in danger of basing my worth on whether or not my kids need me.
Let me put it this way: If I went away for a vacation by myself and returned to find everything a disaster, I wouldn’t swoon at the evidence that I’m needed. I’d be angry that people can’t figure out how to get along without me.
In fact, I actively go out of my way to make sure all parties involved understand I am not at anyone’s beck and call. I’m myself first; a wife and mother second and third.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not sitting around, actively ignoring my children’s needs while I laugh and eat peanut butter M&M’s. In fact, I find a lot of satisfaction in making my children’s lives magical and fulfilled. 75% of my day is consumed by my children’s needs and wants (I just did the math), and that’s fine. When I became a parent, I certainly didn’t sign up for a 24/7 beach vacation.
But my kids are not all there is to me, and I hecka don’t like doing chores. In fact, I’ve never enjoyed parenthood so much as I do now that my kids can sweep, vacuum, do laundry, make sandwiches, and watch the baby for a few minutes.
Being needed less for these tasks is the bee’s knees.
I’ve been doing the motherhood thing long enough to know there’s more than one way to slice a pie. If you’re a mama who relishes being needed for all those things, you’re not worse than me. You might be better, but you certainly aren’t worse.
I Like When My Children Need ME (And I Hope They Always Do)
As my children grow and need me less and less for their daily tasks, it’s easy to begin to feel they can handle everything on their own. I’ve spent so much effort teaching my kids how to handle tasks and chores that I sometimes feel I can step back.
But while I can step back from helping them get dressed, I’m realizing they now need ME — not so much my hands and their ability to zip coats, slice apples, and wipe bums. No, they need ME as a person. And that’s actually a magical, liberating stage to enter.
My youngest child has been waking me up to this phenomenon. Rex has always been very articulate with his thoughts. Even as a small baby, he showed me his feelings and needs through facial expressions and gestures in a way that shocked me. Now that he speaks, he constantly humbles me as he shares what’s going on in his head.
Often, he will cry when he wakes up from his nap. I’ve told him he doesn’t need to cry; that he can just call out to me when he’s ready to wake up and I’ll come get him. Sometimes, he does just that. But more often than not, he cries.
This is out of character for my bubbly, happy baby boy who smiled at the nurses after being stabbed repeatedly with an IV at 2 months old; who delivers knock-knock joke punchlines with perfect comedic timing at 2 years old; who is always on the look-out for how to make someone near him laugh.
When he cries, and I pick him up from his crib, I ask him why he’s crying.
His answer is always the same.
“I wanted you.”
Aside from melting my heart to a puddle of love every time he tells me this, it’s also a daily wake-up call. When he says this, I can almost guarantee the other children are feeling the same way, but are unable to express it. He acts as the barometer for our family, and I am learning to listen.
He’s not crying for me because he has a dirty diaper or because he’s hungry. He’s crying for me because he wants me. He needs me, and he doesn’t want to go any longer without me.
Pre-children, I may have thought this sounds so stifling — to be needed all the time. But now, as I hear Rex tell me he needs me, and as I respond by giving my children ME, I realize they’re creating a new me. I’m still Rebecca, but I’m learning to be Rebecca who gives her whole self.
And that’s pretty magical.
Me? I’m all in.
Menial chores my kids can do on their own? I’m decidedly out.