When Parenting is Like an Airplane Incident
Remember: Always put your own oxygen mask on first.
This weekend, my husband and I took all three of my boys to a birthday party at an indoor playground and set them free amongst their lively little peers. We spent the entire time rushing from kid to kid, making sure no one was going to escape the space or launch themselves off of anything too high or onto anything too sharp. I always hope that places like this will let them “burn off energy,” but unfortunately, my guys are the types to become even more spirited and maniacal when tired—so I usually have to have a pretty well thought out exit-strategy in order to make sure we all get out unscathed.
At one point during said exodus, my older guy was trying to pull a vending machine down onto himself, my younger guy was screaming, and my middle guy was bolting—my husband and I sat down together to put our shoes on, despite the surrounding chaos. He caught my eye and commented, “It’s like what they say about your oxygen mask on an airplane; take two seconds to put your own mask on first.”
I couldn’t help but smile, there was so much truth to that, and I’ve never really appreciated the parallel to my everyday life.
Media often frames this sentiment in a really obvious way, like “Moms need to take time for themselves—so go get a massage! Relax, go to yoga! Take a break; get a manicure!” And they suggest you do it so you can be a better mom. I, like most moms who are pushed to the edges of their capacity every day, sort of want to agree.
Except then I just end up feeling bad about myself when I didn’t even manage to take a shower that day.
And when I do get my nails done, I don’t necessarily feel like a better mom. I’m merely psyched that my nails look less disgusting, and that I got to enjoy a latte without having someone throwing Cheerios at me.
Luxuries aside, the truth is, we do put ourselves first, every single day, and it doesn’t always involve finding a babysitter or coming out of it looking prettier. We do it when we go to the grocery store and make healthy choices for family dinner. We do it when we Google a weird stomach ache or back pain.
We do it because we know, deep down, that caring for ourselves means we want to do everything we can to be a better, more energetic, and clear-minded mom – a mom who wants to be here longer for our kids.
So rather than feeling bad about all the things I didn’t have time to accomplish for myself today to make me “a better mom,” I’m choosing to feel good about the trip I took to the park with my kids.
Not because they got fresh air and a brisk walk, but because I did.
And my advice? If you don’t feel like getting dressed and checking off every box on your to-do list today while you kids are napping—don’t. Remember: when you’re parenting, you don’t actually have to commandeer the plane and fly it to safety before you put your kid’s mask on. Just remember to tighten your own oxygen mask straps first.
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