• Dr. Bill Walker

How Do I Find a Balance Between My Own Needs & the Needs of My Family?

Any family where one member is never able to get their own needs met is a family that is not functioning like it needs to.

This is a particularly common challenge for women who are mothers in a family with pre-K and school age children.

The goal is for a family to work together to ensure each member can have at least some of their individual needs met on a regular basis.

The Challenge of Meeting Family Member Needs.

In emotionally unhealthy families the needs of certain individual members are often sacrificed for the needs of other members. Most common is the mother sacrificing her needs so that she can meet the needs of her children and husband.

It’s true that parenthood can require a significant amount of sacrifice. This is a sacrifice most of us joyfully make because the reward is so great. Sacrificing one’s personal needs only becomes a problem when it occurs to an extreme degree.

The term usually applied to this individual is the “family martyr.” There is nothing healthy about being a martyr.

Every family member needs to have some time for themselves. I have heard many a preschool mother say (with great exasperation), “I cannot even go to the bathroom by myself. I don’t have one second during my child’s waking hours when I can do anything for myself.”

Family members must work together to ensure each member has an opportunity to meet their individual needs, while at the same time not neglecting the needs of the rest of the family.

What Are Individual Needs?

Self needs are whatever you “need” to take care of your ‘self’ physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as an individual.

Individual needs can range from a wife/mother having time alone to read a book, take a long hot bath or have a ‘girl’s night out, to a husband/father being given the opportunity to go fishing/golfing or just work in his woodshop for an hour several nights a week.

While these examples are superficial we all know how such activities can relax and recharge us as individuals.

Even children have self needs, especially teenagers. Teens have a growing need for privacy and a need to associate with other teens apart from the presence of their parents. It is up to the parents to see there are opportunities for these needs to be honored.

How Do We Get Individual Needs Met?

Compromise is a key word here. The enemy of compromise is selfishness. A functional, emotionally healthy family is made up of members who are willing to make temporary sacrifices of their own needs to support the needs of other family members.

What To Do:

I. Make Your Needs Known

Let the rest of the family know what you need(s).

  • A single mother after getting home from work might say to her school age children: “I am feeling really tired right now. I need to lie down for an hour before I start supper. Does anyone need anything before I do?”

  • A wife to her husband: “Julie invited me to go with her & Susan to the movies next Friday night. I really need to spend some time with them. Would you watch the kids so I can do that?”

II. Create a Plan To Make It Happen

What variables need to be addressed so you can do what you want (i.e., ‘need’) to do?

  • Who will watch the kids?

  • What will hubby do for supper?

  • Do you need someone to cover for you at work if you leave an hour early?

The more you address the needs of others before hand the greater chance of you enjoying a stress-free, relaxing time.

Family Member Needs Checkup

1. Do you feel there is a healthy balance between your needs getting met and the needs of your family?

2. If not, what are some of your unmet needs?

3. Identify a couple of the most pressing needs in your life right now. Write them out on a piece of paper, or better, begin keeping a journal.

4. Create a plan for your identified needs being met. Brainstorm possible solutions with family and friends.

Remember – Compromise is the key.