maternal needs

Years ago I attended a teacher training workshop where the fellow leading it had a really interesting piece of advice. He said it was valuable to know all the ignoble reasons you wanted to teach. It's easy to point to the noble reasons, after all, reasons to do with helping and uplifting people, but the other reasons, the less lovely reasons are also important because they're tied up with your own needs.

That's an idea which stuck with me, and I brought it into parenting - why did I want to be a mom? Not the pretty reasons about loving someone else but the reasons I wasn't really comfortable with. Reasons having to do with me, my ego, my desire to be powerful and in control, and my fantasies about how cool I would be, how much my kid would love me because I'm just so awesome. Not exactly pretty stuff! And it has been true that those less-than-noble reasons are bound up in my needs - and as such, they're guideposts for meeting my needs; my personal needs and my maternal needs.

It's not popular to talk about maternal needs. I think sometimes there's a fear that admitting to those will diminish us, make us something less-than. I remember how shocking it was to first read advice on an unschooling list to smell my child's head as a way to relax. It seemed weird.

There's a lot of advice "out there" about getting your grown-up woman needs met away from your kids. Sometimes that can be a good thing, but meeting your needs doesn't have to be separate... and that's where knowing the dark side of why you want to be a mom (and a home/unschooling mom besides!) can be valuable. You may find you have ways to meet some of your own needs, your personal needs, right there at home already. You're popular. You're valued - so much so your kids want you to do things for them all day long. Your kids think you're pretty cool - so cool they want to show you everything that's important to them. Those kinds of requests can feel overwhelming, so it can help to re-frame them in terms of meeting your own needs, too. It's okay to be the coolest, most valuable, most popular person in your own home. It's a good thing, even.

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