It’s nice to be needed but much of the overwhelm we experience as women doing all the things is that we are relied upon often unnecessarily.
Your natural inclination may well be to help. Mine is. And it is an honourable and admirable attribute.
We pride ourselves on our willingness to help others. We raise our children to seek to help others. This is a fine quality in a human being.
But, there is a habit of need that sabotages our wellbeing and if you find yourself swamped with obligations or interruptions that hijack your attention from your agenda to someone else’s, then it might be time to start practicing the idea that you’re not needed.
Being needed can be nothing more than a habit
In the beginning, motherhood requires that we do a lot of thinking for others, and a lot of doing of things for them too. Babies and small children truly do need us for everything.
We (may) also take over running the household, often because we’re spending most of our time in it.
We know where the things are. We are maintaining the food supply. Paying the bills. Organising the things.
A pattern emerges from this in which we are needed for knowledge, for effort, and so we do what is required.
The pattern persists though, long after the need has expired.
Everyone falls in to the habit of neediness.
Our children are in the habit of needing us.
Partners too. Colleagues. Clients. Bosses.
And we are in the habit of being needed, and so we continue to carry a load that others could share without thinking that perhaps, we don’t have to.
When you’re still making the school lunches long past the time your kid can wield a knife.
When the laundry is left to you even when everyone else in the house can sort a white from a dark and push a button.
When dishes are left in the sink and you’re still the magic kitchen fairy that makes them go away.
When you’re always the one to organise the family get-togethers, the kids’ parties, or any other event even though anyone else can pick a date and send out invites.
When you’re the fount of all knowledge, everyone’s personal RAM, and Google wrapped into one, so any question about anything from anyone is directed your way.
These are the habits that see others ask questions they could work out for themselves if they just thought a moment.
Do we have any sticky tape? (I don’t know, did you look in the drawer?)
What time is it? (I don’t know, I don’t wear a watch – I’d have to go find a clock the same as you do to find out).
Where is my uniform? (I don’t know, did you look in the wardrobe/laundry/clothesline/school bag?)
Do we have any bread? (I don’t know, did you look in the cupboard/freezer?)
Work emails asking questions the sender could Google for themselves. Or take the time to work out for themselves.
Fulfilling these kinds of needs takes up time, energy and brain space.
Break the habit and act like you’re not needed
This habitual neediness transfers someone else’s burden to us. If you’re conscientious, you automatically fulfill the need and provide the answers even if it interrupts you, slows you down from your commitments, or distracts you from something more important or urgent.
It’s an unnecessary drain on your time and energy.
It’s not a deliberate attempt to sabotage you – it’s just everyone is in a habit that needs to be broken.
We are not blameless in these habits either – needing to be needed can see us perpetuate the habit rather than develop some boundaries for our own sake.
And so here’s an idea for you to try so you can gently break the bad habit of neediness: practice the idea that you’re not needed.
Don’t jump into the fray when it is brought to you.
Don’t immediately answer. Provide an opportunity for someone else to solve the problem.
Leave your phone on silent and don’t respond to texts that really don’t need your attention, or at least straight away.
Treat your family like flatmates with the expectation they can and will pull their own weight.
Disappear at times when you’re relied upon too much so that others are forced to do it themselves.
Leave the inbox to do it’s thing and give people time to sort out their enquiry or issue for themselves first.
Create space for others to step into.
When we always fill the gap, we leave no room for others to have a turn. We deny others the chance to learn, grow and lead for themselves.
When you’re always there and always available, it allows the habit to persist.
If you have the time and energy to do the thing you’re asked, well and good. It’s the constant habitual practice of mindless neediness that is the problem.
Being needed is an energy transaction – taking care of someone else’s needs costs you physical, mental or emotional energy.
Practicing the idea that you’re not needed can allow you to save spending too much energy on the trivial, and instead save it to invest on fulfilling the deeper needs of others – to be loved, nurtured, honoured, and supported.
These are the things we’d prefer to be needed for, right?