It is becoming more and more difficult to escape. Phones follow us wherever we go, e-mails ping and blackberries call to us with abbreviations as various TV’s bark for us to “call now!”. Our garages are filled with more cars that take us to more places in less time than we somehow used to have.

Simply taking a deep breath can, at times, seem impossible. Even less of a possibility, is finding the time to think about what we need before being thrust into the next item on our list as we move full throttle through our lives…only to realize we’re getting no where at all.

In 1943 Abraham Maslow theorized on the needs of the human race, illustrating this with a hierarchical pyramid. He explained that our basic needs must be met in order to allow us to seek satisfaction at a higher level. The extent to which our needs our met, he said, shapes our behavior and affects our personal lives and the lives of those around us. Maslow stated that we instinctively seek out a higher purpose in life, and are not able to reach our full potential until more basic needs have been satisfied.

The widest part of Maslow’s diagram–the bottom of the pyramid– houses our most basic needs of survival–breathing, food, water, shelter. Once these needs have been met, we are able to strive for the next level, “safety”–feeling safe from harm, having security of employment and resources, the safety and health of our family.

Once this level has been fulfilled, we can move into our need for friendship, a loving family and intimacy. When these have been secured, we can then strive for well being– feeling confidence within ourselves, garnishing a feeling of achievement, possessing a higher self esteem, and having an overall respect for others.

The highest level of fulfillment as a human–the very tip of the pyramid–is where we look to satisfy our needs of problem solving, embarking on creative and moral endeavors, and existing without judgment.

Maslow’s study explained that we all begin at the bottom of the pyramid and we move up into the higher levels of the pyramid only when the needs of the current level have been met. One cannot skip over levels, and we can be tossed back into a lower level at any moment. A life threatening situation, for example, can abruptly thrust us back to intensely focusing on our very basic needs of survival, without concern for things like self esteem and our desire for intimacy.

Raising children presents an effortless opportunity for us to put the needs of others before our own. From carpooling, shuffling our kids to lessons, sports, and clubs, and the endless list of other activities in which we invest our time and money, our desires as parents—as people–humans–can easily get lost in the mix. What parent has sufficient time to relax, read a book or even go to the doctor about that annoying cough when each hour of the day is already spoken for?

We often want what we want when we want it. And most of the time, we get just that, regardless of whether it’s appropriate for us. If we are trying to solve even a minor problem, however–like a scheduling mix up or an answer for a manager–while we are hungry or exhausted, those needs must first be met before we can expect to be successful at the other things we’re trying to accomplish. If we allow ourselves to get burned out, becoming annoyed with our children and family and overwhelmed of all that is being asked of us, it becomes imperative to take some time–to give ourselves a break–to step back down in the pyramid and fulfill our needs there so we can move back up successfully into the next stage of the pyramid.

It can be difficult to reconcile with the thought of taking a step back in order to move forward, especially in this fast paced world of ours. But taking care of ourselves, and ensuring that our own needs are met will allow us to take better care of our children and families. Allowing ourselves—no—insisting for ourselves—a higher standard for our physical health and mental well-being will give us more enthusiasm and spirit to care for the physical and mental well being of our families.

Watching a parent take care of themselves and reach their full potential as a human is an extraordinary gift that our children will carry into their adulthood, and a behavior they will emulate when they are responsible for their own families.

So, as the old song goes, let’s “teach our children well” by first making the effort with ourselves.

Published in The Broomfield Enterprise, 12/2/07

Author's Bio: is a premier wellness site and supportive social network where like-minded individuals can connect and support each others' intentions. Founded by Deepak Chopra's daughter Mallika Chopra, aims to be the most trusted and comprehensive wellness destination featuring a supportive community of members, blogs from top wellness experts and curated online content relating to Personal, Social, Global and Spiritual wellness.