PROMPT: When was the last time you felt needed?
Any parent of young children will tell you that they are never NOT needed. It’s a given. Making food, helping with homework, walking them to school, putting band-aids on scrapes and staying up late into the night when they have a nightmare. There’s cleaning and laundry and doctor’s appointments. Tantrums and time outs. It can seem exhausting and frustrating (and often is) but then when they STOP needing you–it’s like a kick in the gut.
Suddenly they can walk themselves to school and don’t want to be seen in public kissing their parents. Or with their parents period. You turn around one day and they’re reaching the top shelf to get the cereal box down without having to stand on their tippy toes. They’re doing homework YOU don’t understand. You’ve become obsolete.
So what happens after that? What happens when parents became bystanders instead of active players? How does one go about feeling needed?
You find a new role.
I witnessed my mom do it with me in middle school. One day she wasn’t just Mom anymore. She was my counselor, my friend, my teacher. It’s like my eyes opened a little wider and I saw her more clearly as someone more than just a cook and a housekeeper. She took an interest in my interests and there were something things we shared together as a young adult and a friend.
I think I opened her eyes a little bit too because suddenly I had my own opinions that refuted hers and we had calm and rational discussions about it. I defended my choices against her and I knew it was hard for her not to assert her authority over me and say “BECAUSE I SAID SO”. We still have a good relationship to this day as two grown women trying to make it in the world. It’s still a little weird to talk about sex and intimacy with my mom sometimes but she’s still my mom. I trust her more than anyone in the world.
For those of you who aren’t parents, in order for you to feel needed, I recommend volunteering or joining a group that shares your interests. I volunteer at an Animal Shelter with my free time. Shelters ALWAYS need help and you get paid in doggie kisses. There ain’t nothing better! But if you’re not an animal person you can volunteer at a political campaign or help an environmentalist group clean up a park. You can join a Book club or a bowling league or take a photography class.
Try anything. Because you can.
It’s really not about needing to be needed. It’s about finding contentment in your own life ASIDE from being needed. Some people feel bereft without someone depending on them. I feel that this is an excuse to look away from one’s own deep-seated problems; using distractions to keep them busy. It takes a while to realize this and to take appropriate action but I’m here to tell you, this is how it is. If you can’t be content being by yourself, in your own life, nothing else will give you true happiness. You’ll always be looking for someone else to fill your cup and you really should be filling your own.
Share your happiness with others. Don’t depend on them to do it for you.