After returning to work with my second child, I was exhausted and felt stuck. Although I loved my employer and colleagues, the increasing signs of burnout were hard to ignore. More than once after driving for nearly an hour, and hustling into the office, I’d realize I forgot my breast pump. Sometimes, my wallet or notes for the day. Worse, how I got to the office in the first place.
I was teary, forgetful and dangerously tired. As I became more depleted…I worked harder. Although I felt less creative and productive, I tried compensating by putting in more hours.
That was 3 years ago.
Life improved after I changed jobs and my youngest began to sleep through the night, a year later. I was still overwhelmed, however, slowly regained clarity and capacity. Last year, during a conversation with two male colleagues, I tried to summarize why Moms are so stressed. I described how the emotional and physical vigilance of parenting, plus the unending demands of household and work quickly eclipse whatever discretionary time existed pre-kids.
I joked, “There’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and there’s Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs.” Immediately I was intrigued by the idea. It felt powerful. I sketched what it could look like on a piece of paper. Several conversations and two surveys later, I finalized it.
It’s not surprising that after surveying hundreds of Moms, I confirmed I wasn’t alone, most put self-care last. The lack of access, to predictable (or sufficient) personal time, is compounded by guilt about being away from our children. Or obligations. We rarely question if what’s expected of us is reasonable. That is, until the strain of trying to ‘do it all,’ erodes the resilience needed to manage stress and maintain well-being.
Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs™ is based on the same core premise as Maslow’s. His framework for describing human motivation puts the basics -- physiological needs (i.e. food, shelter, water) and safety -- at the base of the triangle. People’s basic needs at the bottom have to be met before they have the freedom to ascend to aspirational goals, like self-esteem and self-actualization, at the top.
Giving Ourselves Permission for Self-Care
Although there are countless resources to help us take great care of our kids, I couldn’t find anything dedicated to the complex journey of caring for ourselves. As I sought research and best practices to improve my development and quality of life, I also wanted to create a safe-space for candid discussions about and celebration of the Mom-life juggle. The good news, there are amazing Moms who make room for self-care, professional growth, entrepreneurship and the pursuit of passion projects. Everywhere! I am fortunate to meet and learn from them on a regular basis.
Let’s help each other make self-care the secret weapon that fuels our creativity and success, shall we? After all, we excel at managing change and happy, fulfilled Moms are at the heart of happy, healthy families.
Leslie Forde works full-time in marketing and business development for an educational publisher. She is also a writer, active volunteer and advocates self-care for Moms from her website, Mom’s Hierarchy of Needs. Follow adventures in Mom-power! Receive the weekly-ish email update for original research, interviews, book reviews and brilliant shortcuts to make time for self-care and growth.