We are constantly told to put our mom oxygen mask on first. How else can you take care of your children? But I just CAN’T always do it or make it happen on a regular basis. And sometimes I just plain don’t want to. Anyone else out there? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? I know I can’t be the only one. And what if, at it’s heart, this is a conscious decision – and not just a failure that mothers should be ashamed of? That’s the conclusion I’ve come to. So I’m not always putting my oxygen mask on first. And that’s ok.
Let me explain. I’m pretty sure that nobody ever had children so that their lives could go on completely unaffected. As a baby, if my son needed his poopy diaper changed, that was more pressing than my finishing my meal at that moment So I choose to put his need first. (Ok, given that poopy diapers can be odiferous…this one could be my need as well. Bad example. But you get the point.) If one sibling is wacking the other with the puppy, it’s probably not a good time for me to be on the treadmill, meditating, doing my nails, or otherwise taking “me” time.
A time sacrifice for a finite period of time, until my children are both in school full time, can be my choice. So here’s the thing; I need everyone to stop telling me to put on my oxygen mask. I’m not dying. Stop making it sound like I am a pathetic, co-dependent, self-hating mom who will surely damage my children. I’m not. Ok, the jury’s still out on the damage thing…but for so many other reasons. Put the mom oxygen mask on first isn’t bad advice. I just think we all get to decide our own tipping point. When do we need the mask? There are degrees involved; it’s not just black and white. Some of us need to fill our cups more often than others. Some of us need to fill our cups less frequently and that’s ok too. I model both for my boys at appropriate times.
As women, we aren’t strangers to wrestling with making time to care for ourselves. Most of us are raised, if not naturally inclined, to be care-takers and peace makers. I always thought I was far too selfish, strident, and judgmental to be a mother. And now look at what’s happened? Ironic, right? I was lucky to have a partner who saw through my tough exterior and took that leap of faith with me. Many women experience personal growth, and the discovery of their amazing ability to give themselves to others with complete and utter abandon during the early years of motherhood. And having that realization may make you want to “go with it” for a while. Giving ourselves with abandon to others. It’s ok. Setting our illusion of control aside for a period of time that gives back so much and can teach so much to those of us willing to receive the lesson.
Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to the next door neighbor … Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting. – Mother Teresa.
Now lest you think I’m just one big hot co-dependent mess, let me stop you right there. I’m still able to take care of myself. Because I agree. If you’re at the point where somebody needs an oxygen mask, it better be the mom oxygen mask first. But I hope it’s rare in our daily lives that we are at the oxygen mask stage. If you stick with the metaphor, mom oxygen mask stage means were are crashing and burning. For me, it doesn’t get to that very often. And I get better everyday at knowing where that line is. And I can step back. If it hasn’t gotten to crash and burn stage, then I can still choose who gets the mask first. At this point in my life, I still choose and need to take care of myself – just in smaller doses. And I choose to recognize that, as children, sometimes the needs of my boys are, in fact, more important than mine.
This is the first in a series of posts about the journey that I’m on to care for myself in better ways. For me, much of that involves my weight and my health. So stay tuned, in my next post, I’ll let you know how I first discovered how to care for myself and how that looked for me. Can’t wait to see you back here!
Click here to see the other posts in my Self Awareness Sunday Series.