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How I Stopped Resenting My Family for Needing Me

Photograph by Getty Images

Oh thank God I’m not the only one. For a while it was starting to feel like I was the only one who sometimes felt trapped or constrained by the role of being a mom. But in the new UK edition of Harper’s Bazaar, even actress Clare Danes confesses to feeling, “resentment and anxiety” due to the hardships and responsibility of motherhood. So phew, it’s not just me.

In all the “you’re becoming a new mommy” advice I got before my eldest child was born, not one person said, “Everyone’s going to need you and you’re going to hate it.” But for me, the neediness of motherhood proved the hardest adjustment of all. I could endure the weeks with little or no sleep and somehow made peace with the Groundhog Day-ness of motherhood, where everyday is the same as the last, but being needed so badly was not a feeling I welcomed with open arms.

In fact I hated it.

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Prior to being a mom, I was an independent gal who wasn’t used to needing others or being needed. I had close friendships and was deeply connected to my husband, but I had always relied on myself and was comfortable when others did the same. But let’s face it, kids are needy and they always want their mommy. After all, when was the last time anyone’s child woke up from a bad dream screaming, “Daddy!”

It just doesn’t happen.

It can feel like even the best of dads get to opt-in to parenting when their schedule or desire allows while mom is the default parent, always on duty with an answer for everything. For me, it felt constraining. And while I loved my kids like crazy and didn’t resent them for needing me, I did feel resentment just being needed all the time by everybody.

But the last thing I wanted my kids to feel was that I somehow resented, or felt put upon by them for simply doing their jobs as kids, which was to need their mom. So I made some changes. I stopped resenting being needed and learned how to enjoy it. Here’s how:

1. I Made Peace With My Kids Feeling Unhappy Sometimes.

My kids may want mommy all the time, but that doesn’t mean they get mommy all the time. Once I made peace with the fact that my kids would be unhappy but fine with whomever was caring for them at the time, I stopped resenting them for wishing it were me who was taking care of them at the time.

2. I Let, Required and Requested My Husband Do More.

Just because I have ovaries doesn’t mean I always have the answer to every parenting question at hand. My husband might do things differently in relation to our kids, but he’s fully capable of doing things with our kids. Instead of resenting my husband for not doing more, I required he did. Turns out he was up to the task just like me!

Just because our kids need us doesn’t mean we moms can’t have needs too.

3. I Stopped Trying to Multitask.

I noticed that much of my resentment came from me needing to do a lot of things at once. My kids felt like a stumbling block to me being as productive as possible. So when I’m with my kids, I’m not also trying to work. When I’m at work, I’m not worrying about the kids. My instinct is to always be as productive as possible, but sometimes being present in whatever it is I’m doing at the time is more productive. Then I’m not angry that one is keeping me from the other.

4. I Made Peace With People Being Disappointed in Me.

My kids may call for mommy in the night, but sometimes they’re going to get daddy. And sometimes, they’re going to be under the care of a trusted babysitter for an afternoon or evening. I can’t be everywhere and keep everyone’s needs. So I’m okay with my kids or my spouse being disappointed in me not being available to them in every moment. They’ll get over it.

5. I Stopped Feeling Responsible for My Husband’s Happiness.

I often joke that having a husband and two kids is like having three kids, but I’m not always joking. Most women, including me, often feel like we are also responsible for our husband’s happiness. Truth is, we’re not. So while I always want to be a loving partner, friend and wife to my husband, I’m not his mother. I don’t have to act like I am.

6. I Became More Confident, Realizing How Much I Have to Give My Family

The more confident I became as a parent and as a person the more I realized just how much I have to give to my family. So while I don’t want to feel tapped out or depleted, I know that I have a lot of energy, patience and time for my family. So instead of resenting them needing me, I’ve become happy to share. And I know it’s my job to teach my kids how capable and competent they are. That’s the opposite of needy!

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And when all else fails and I’m feeling cranky and resentful, I know it’s time to take a break and do something that’s fulfilling to me. I may not always be able to get out of town, but I can always find time to read a good book, go for a run or meet up with a friend. Just because our kids need us doesn’t mean we moms can’t have needs too. The more we tend to our own needs and happiness, the more energy we have to end to everyone else’s. Trust me!

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