Staying Sane: How well do you meet your “Hierarchy of Needs”?

I had a post already written to send out this evening, but something inside me felt that I needed to talk about the “Hierarchy of Needs” that was developed by Abraham Maslow.   I’m feeling particularly out of balance this evening – after having a VERY hard weekend where I was probably doing a bit too much self reflection.

First, let’s refresh ourselves on the hierarchy of needs:

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Source: Nursing Crib

“A need is something that is essential to the emotional and psychological health and survival of humans. All people strive to meet basic needs at any given time and individual’s need may be met, partially met, or unmet. A person whose needs may be considered to be healthy and a person with one or more unmet needs is at increased risk of illness or health alterations in one or more of the human dimensions.

Maslow’s framework of basic needs is based on the theory that something is a basic need if:  its absence results in illness, its presence prevents or signals health, meeting an unmet need restores health.”

Source: Nursing Crib

Let’s talk about each level and the potential implications to working mothers.


These needs are physical and essentially without them the continuation of human existence ceases.   Physiological needs such as food, water, oxygen, sleep, and bodily functions must be met for life to continue.

Implications to Working Mothers:

I know from personal experience that sleep becomes a challenge.  Hours get stretched so you may not have a choice but to cut into your sleeping hours to keep all the balls in the air.   Some working mothers are NEW moms – returning from maternity leave.   In many cases, these women are still being woken up by their babies in the middle of the night.  However, this likely gets better over time.

Sex is an interesting topic.   And one that is so written about that I probably don’t need to spend much time on this.   An exhausted mommy who is also working simply is exhausted.   And yes, this impacts sex with their partners.  Full stop.  Enough said.


Safety is both physiological and psychological.  How safe is your physical environment?   How safe do you feel psychologically?   Do you have people you can rely upon?  People that you trust?   People that you feel close to?

 Implications to Working Mothers:

I think that this is an area that can become very problematic for working mothers.   You may not be on your “A” game at work (which may be very new to them) and may feel that your job is less secure than it was in the past.    Being responsible for not only yourself but also for the new little beings that you’ve helped to enter into the world can also be a VERY powerful feeling and weight on your shoulders.   You may also be faced with the struggle over working for money to keep the family safe — and may feel like you are working now because you HAVE to for the economic interests of the family — even if this is not what you would choose to do if you had unlimited resources.


The security gained from love and belonging enhances the feeling of safety. Our feeling of structure and security is reinforced when we know where we stand in relation to others, and who we are to them. We all need mutually meaningful relationships with other people.

 Implications to Working Mothers:

This could be another area in flux with working mothers.   The time that you devoted to cultivating friendships may become less frequent.   Some working mothers have the benefit of family close-by that they can rely on, but I know A LOT of families (like ourselves for instance) where extended family is far, far away — if this is you, you may feel like you are cheating yourself, your children, and your extended family the experiences of growing with your growing family.   Extended periods of time between visits can be painful.   The extra effort required may feel too un-natural.

And then there’s the topic of sex again.   Yes, the relationship you had with your husband will forever be different with the entrance of children.   However I think this is an evolution.   In the near term things are very strained but I think eventually couples can begin to accept their new relationships with each other — change, and evolve with it.    At least I hope this is the case.


This boils down to the feeling that you are valued by others.  People who are important to you tell you that you are important and valued.   However this feeling comes from within… “it is related to the assessments of our own adequacy, our performance and our capacity in the various arenas of lives, both personal and professional and that others hold one in high regard.”  Source: Nursing Crib

 Implications to Working Mothers:

This is an area where working mothers may have the “leg-up” on other women.   But I do think that it takes time to get there.   The smile on your child’s face, the squeal of your baby when he/she sees you and so on you can probably feel immediately.   But when re-entering the workforce (after maternity leave, after being a SAHM) you may not feel like you are on your “A” game, or may feel like you have two left feet.   It may take time to honestly FEEL that approval and support from your co-workers and superiors.   But when you get it, you feel on top of the world.   Yes, the feeling like you can have it all — the children, the family, and a feeling of purpose at work where you are doing well — leads to feeling of euphoria.   You become un-stoppable.

I have found in personal experience that these feelings do come, but they often do not stay.   It’s more of a roller-coaster for me, I have my up days, and also my down days when I feel like I can’t do anything right.    But I do think that this is an area where the Working Mother can derive a tremendous amount of fulfillment.


I’m finding it difficult to write about this one because it is still evasive to me.    Sometimes I feel like I lost the “me” to everyone else.   And I desperately want to find the “me” again – although I know deep in my heart that woman I was before marriage and kids is far, far away – I see glimpses of her every now and then, but they are fleeting.

“The need to reach one’s potential through development of one’s unique capabilities.  The process of self – actualization is on that continues throughout life. The following are qualities that indicate achievement of one’s potential:

• Acceptance of self and others as they are

• Focus of interest on problems outside of self

• Ability to be objective

• Feelings of happiness and affection for others

• Respect for all persons

• Ability to discriminate between good and evil

• Creativity as a guideline for solving problems and carrying out interests”

 Implications to Working Mothers:

I think you need to have the time to focus on self-caring of yourself for this need to be met.    And for working mothers this is difficult.   Again, time is a valuable resource that seems to be stretched in all directions except for yourself.   It is encouraging to at least know that this need is viewed as one that continues over time – gets cultivated, changes, is in motion.    So, maybe recognize that you will be able to get there once the dust settles.   Or try to devote pieces of your week for self-reflection and objectivity.

So why did I feel the need to post on this subject?   I feel like many of the above needs are in flux for working mothers.   But I do hope that it gets easier over time.   It also helps to explain the feelings of inadequacy, fear, and tension that you may be feeling when trying to juggle the needs of your children, the needs of your work, the needs of your partner, and the needs of yourself.
So tips for staying sane?   Maybe the first part is just recognizing that these needs are normal and apply to everyone.   They are fundamental to happiness and health.    So if you feel out of balance, extremely unhappy, or just feeling lost — try to isolate the basic need that may be unmet or partially met, and then try to take control and take action to make that situation better for yourself.    This is easier said than done, I know.
In my case, I have seriously unmet needs in terms of safety as well as love and belonging.   I also think this is true with self-actualization, but I do not expect those needs to be met at this particular point in my life.   I’ve recognized these imbalances and am trying to drive change but it has been a LONG process that has NOT been easy — and I still have a LONG way to go; but enough about me.
Hopefully this post will resonate with someone and help in some small way.   YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thanks for listening –
– Mama K


  1. Hello, I am a 58 year old going through the pain of the collapse of my 37 year marriage that ended suddenly through no choice of my own. I have been exploring Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. One aspect not mentioned in your summary of Maslow’s heirachy of needs above is that supposedly the needs in the lower levels must be met before those in the upper levels. So at a time of crisis, say after a flood or earthquake, people’s needs become very basic – for food, water and shelter – as they begin to rebuild their lives. At those times they have little need for self-esteem or fulfilling their highest potential by self -actualizing. Gradually as basic needs are met, then they can move onto the higher levels of a safe environment, then companionship. I am learning that the ending of a marriage is similar to such a crisis, especially if it is unexpected and sudden. It rocks the very foundation of your life and threatens everything you ever had; self-esteem, family, companionship, emotional and financial security. You are thrown into a survival mind-set of fulfilling basic needs because everything else is gone. I am finding that it is helping me to actually accept this fact and begin rebuilding my life by starting with those basics needs and ensuring they are met first in a positive way to give myself a strong foundation before tackling those needs higher up – so refocusing first on food (by following a good diet), my health, a safe secure peaceful home environment and, although it’s a little higher up, focussing on my family. After I have healed and become strong at this level I will try to begin to move up the levels and focus on getting my finances back on track and seeking out new friendships, new interests etc, one step (or one level) at a time. That’s my theory anyway.

    • THank you so much for this; and so sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. In retrospect, you are so right. Thinking back over the past several months, I have found that I’m craving the basic simplicity that you need in life. I am getting LOTS of sleep when I am not with the kids. It is almost frightening how much I can sleep these days. I am also focusing more on food – more than I ever have in the past. I am really rebalancing my diet and finding that I am drawn and crave healthier foods. And this is showing. It is rebuilding me. People are noticing a difference in me and saying so. I feel stronger. And happier. And more energetic. I have been retreating over the past few months and spending a lot of free time by myself. I needed the solitude. I am opening myself up more these days. I am interacting with the neighbors, and finding a true blessing in the community that I have found myself in. I love where I live. And the positive attitude has a spiral affect. It’s getting better for me. I am still not through the entire divorce but I can only imagine how great the full freedom will feel once this part of my life is behind me. I feel for you. And I thank you for taking the time to reach out and connect. I so appreciate this. Please keep in touch. I hope your journey is making you stronger.

      • Thanks for the detailed reply and for sharing more of the background to your situation. Yes, this trauma IS making me stronger in many ways, although it has taken me quite a while to get to that point of admission. I am not quite through it all yet either (the divorce) and am now looking forward to having a ‘clean slate’ from which to begin my new life. Best wishes to you and your journey. Yes, I will keep in touch.

  2. I love this post. Totally fascinating. I believe that we are constantly evolving (and in some cases devolving) through each of the stages of this hierarchy. It is true that motherhood forever changes us and we do lose the “me” of our youth. The exhaustion that young children brings to our lives does impact the bottom rungs of the hierarchy. Our self actualization, however, thrives through these years. As mothers we learn to look beyond ourselves. I was far more self centered before children and motherhood forced me to consider the world beyond me because I want to make it a safe and thriving place for my kids. Marriage was the first step in evolving beyond myself and the addition of children just catapulted me to explore my more intuitive nature and my awareness of where I stand on life issues and how I impact my family, friends and community rather than just how these relationships affect me. Admittedly, the first four levels of the hierarchy take a blow in the early years of child rearing….but I am surfacing on the other side of these years and I can tell you there are great strides that are gained in the aftermath. I felt fairly asexual for years of nursing pregnancy and toddler years….but that feeling passed with full force as my kids grew less reliant upon me. (there is totally hope and contemporary romance books are fabulous fuel for the cause!) Relationships with friends, husbands and family also improve and change during this time. I never had time for friends when my kids were really little because my focus fell so heavily on them. Now I make the time because it is more available as my kids pursue their own friendships and interests. I actually was closer with family during the toddler and baby years because I needed the support and advise. I now focus more heavily on friendships and my marriage. The marriage is what takes a big hit during early motherhood. We give so much of ourselves to our kids that sometimes it feels like there is very little left to share. The awareness of the imbalance is the key to solving this dilemma. Making time for date night is critical (both to have time together without kids and to dress sexy and feel good about yourself as a woman not mother), constant communication is essential (that you are tired but that you still need each other), and the ability to support one another through this time of complete selflessness sustains the relationship until times are a little less taxing (and they will be….it is always that whole time factor)

    • You are wonderful – you take what I put out there and take it to the next level. So insightful. Thanks as always and I’m really looking forward to meeting you someday.


  1. […] Hierarchy of Needs and the implications to working mothers more than one year ago — see post here. It is amazing to me the difference of where I was emotionally and with my life between then and […]

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