Motherhood & Mothers

Confession: I Won’t Always Put my Mom Oxygen Mask On First

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.

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Do moms always have to put their oxygen masks on first? It is really as important as oxygen?
Maybe the oxygen mask metaphor isn’t accurate.

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.

Our decision to step back from our own needs for a period of time can be repaid tenfold by the experiences with our children and by the knowledge that we had the ability to be stronger, kinder, and more patient than maybe we ever knew.
Our decision to step back from our own needs for a period of time can be repaid tenfold by the experiences with our children and by the knowledge that we had the ability to be stronger, kinder, and more patient than maybe we ever knew.

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.


Stewardess Photo: Copyright: macniak / 123RF Stock Photo
Rabbit with Oxygen Mask Photo: Copyright: hammett79 / 123RF Stock Photo

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    1. I definitely know how that is! But, I find that I have gotten better at knowing when I really need the time and asking for it then. I also am recognizing as they grow up, there is naturally more me time!

  1. Self-care and self-love is important as a mom. I know that the balancing act is hard. I love the sense of humor you share here. 🙂

  2. I have never heard of that phrase. Kids first is my motto and we do need to teach our kids patience and to work things out for themselves but ultimately kids first.

  3. Interesting read! I don’t have kids so I honestly don’t know which way I’ll swing. It seems like there has to be a balance, sometimes you’ll pick yourself and sometimes (well, usually), you’ll pick your kids. For me, right now, it’s trying to balance myself, my work, and my husband.

  4. I am right with you there! I will put the mask on my daughter first, I would never be able to put it on myself first, I just can’t do that. She is my everything and I put her before anything else. She is the most important think in my life.
    Me time is when she is in school and I can just relax and watch my shows, when I am not working or having to to school work myself.

    1. Agreed! Until they are a little older and don’t need me, I can move the me time to fit their needs. Although, sometimes lately, I do find myself telling them that we all need some “quiet time” in the afternoons and that’s been working out well for all of us!

  5. Nice perspective on an important women’s issue. We DO tend to over do it in the giving to others and not ourselves department. Finding the balancing point, so we are always able to give our best out of a full cup, is a life long journey of self examination, maturing and spiritual growth. I’ll be interested to see what your journey brings you in self discovery that you can pass on to others.

    1. I love that you take the opportunity to pick the values to prioritize and and the times to prioritize those values. Those choices always benefit everyone!

  6. Oh, I definitely put the needs of my 3 kids first the majority of the time, they are still young (7, 3 and 3) and still need my help to do many things. But I know as they get older the more independent they become and want to do things themselves and even can help me out, which is a wonderful thing! The early years are the toughest, I think, and balance is indeed the key and it is so important to take time for yourself too 🙂

    1. Yes! I have 7 and 4, so I completely know where you are. And it is nice to watch them become ever more independent. I’m just starting to experience that feeling of a little more freedom! It’s a little bittersweet.

  7. As a mom with grown children I think it’s important to strive for balance. I see so many women that never took care of themselves until their children were older, and get to the point where they leave their families (marriages) to learn about themselves and find the ME time that they never learned to take.

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