The Happiness Connection  

Balancing your needs

Of a life full of decisions, the hardest ones are often those that involve other people.

As my parents progress through their 90s, they need more and more support. They don’t want to leave their home, but the list of ways they need help is continually growing.

We already have assistance in place for personal care, meals, and cleaning, and I’m currently trying to persuade my mom to employ a laundry service. Even with this support, there is so much more they need help with.

I take them to all their medical appointments, pick up medications, get their groceries, deal with paperwork like bills, and help with other sporadic situations as they arise.

Does this leave them with more things to take care of themselves? Absolutely.

Things became trickier this week when I strained my lower back helping my dad get up after a fall. This isn’t a new injury for me. Nursing it back to health includes protecting it from further damage for a few weeks.

Sometimes this can be difficult. When it snows, I still have to clear my driveway, although I take my time and move slowly. When I’m grocery shopping, there are items that need to be loaded and unloaded several times.

A few days ago, my mom had something to do that I knew she’d struggle with. I also knew that if I did it, it would cause me to further strain my back. I was on the horns of a dilemma.

Whose needs do I put first?

I’m not sharing this because I’m looking for sympathy. I wanted to write about my situation because I know I’m not alone and that there’s a certain comfort that comes from that knowledge.

What do you do when your needs collide with someone else’s?

This problem of prioritizing needs isn’t exclusive to people with elderly parents. If you have children at home who need your support, I’m sure you’ve been faced with this, too.

Does putting yourself first mean you’re selfish?


I’m aware that some people, especially women of a certain age, may find that hard to agree with. My mom spent most of her life being guided by guilt and societal expectations. Her attitude was typical rather than unusual.

I know many people who’ve chosen to put their own lives on hold for a few years to care for an elderly or ill family member. Sometimes those years stretch into decades.

Is that the decision everyone should make? No.

Is that what a good person looks like? Sometimes.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to conflicting needs. The trick is to find balance and to decide what’s right for you and your situation.

Doing something out of obligation, is very different than doing it because you freely choose to. You’ll suffer if guilt or societal expectation is at the heart of your decision, and so will the person you’re caring for.

Obligation often leads to anger and resentment Those feelings don’t benefit anybody.

Freely choosing to do something doesn’t mean it fills you with joy. You may not want to do what you do, but your heart is guiding you, nonetheless.

  • Take time to consider the situation from different angles.
  • Consider possible compromises.
  • Look for ways to offer support that don’t involve you.
  • Sleep on it.
  • Say each option and pause to see how it feels deep inside.

Re-assess your decision regularly to see if it still feels right. What felt good a few weeks ago may no longer seem like the best choice.

Your self-care is important, but so is honouring your values and beliefs. Take time to know what’s important to you.

Shut out the voices of judgment that may be shouting in your head. This is about finding what feels right for you, not doing what you think is expected. If you think others are judging your decision, you’re probably judging yourself.

Happiness is about living an authentic life that’s right for you. Trust yourself to know when you should put yourself first and when it’s OK to come last.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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