Put on your mask first

I really don’t like flying.

There’s the chaos of getting through the airport, the security process, delays, cancellations, airport-provided hotels that smell like smoke and mold, shuttles, and ear pops. Worst of all, the landing. That screeching, bumpy halt gets me every single time.

I just don’t like any of it.

Still, previous jobs and opportunities took me all over the country for conferences, expos, and events, and I’ve racked up my fair share of air miles.

This week, I faced one of my ultimate fears—flying with my child.

On this flight, I paid extra close attention to the safety instructions. As the flight attendant pantomimed the process of buckling a seat belt, I took careful note of the exits and locations of emergency flotation devices.

When she came to my seat and addressed me specifically, I fully took in—perhaps for the first time—one of those famous rules:

Should the cabin suddenly lose pressure, oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling above you. If you’re traveling with a child or person who requires assistance, put on your mask first before assisting them.

She looked right at me when she said it. Then, she glanced at my tiny blonde baby, sitting quietly in my lap with his stuffed monkey and puppy dog backpack, and walked away.

Folks, I was so alarmed.

I felt myself mentally calling after her—”WAIT. WAIT. WHAT?

Help myself first?

How do I even do that?

It must have been some kind of mistake. Every motherhood alarm I possessed went off simultaneously. I was anxious, shaky. It felt so, so wrong.

As we took off, I distracted myself with the logic behind this safety protocol.

I understand the science. If the plane were to experience a sudden drop in cabin pressure, people could lose consciousness. And, depending on the altitude, it could happen quickly. Theoretically, if a parent helped their child first, there may not be enough oxygen left in the cabin to help themselves after.

I get that.

But, doesn’t it feel wrong?

As moms, we’re expected to put our children first. For many, it’s just a natural response to motherhood. It’s instinctive.

I’m willing to bet I don’t know a mother who could look into the eyes of her baby—her soul—and feel perfectly content putting on her own oxygen mask first.

After all, we’re used to sacrifice.

We eat cold food to ensure our babies are fed.

We get our children ready, and often miss that much needed shower.

We take them to school, and skip the long drive-up line for coffee.

We miss workplace celebrations and meetings to stay home when they’re sick.

We always put our children first.

But the thing I realized on this flight is:

If we don’t help ourselves every now and then, how can we be expected to help our children? We need to be healthy, alert, and fulfilled to give this parenting gig our best effort, right?.

Besides, showing our children that mommy needs to take care of herself is a great lesson in independence and self-care.

So, I want to encourage you today.

I’m talking to the mom who

… is tired of doing all the things

… works all day, cleans all night, and repeats

… battles an invisible illness and never feels 100%, but gives it her all anyway

… misses her old self and the hobbies she loved

… is doing this all on her own

Moms, do something for you today.

Get your nails done. Go to the salon. Get a massage.

Read a book. Spend some time alone. Binge a Netflix show.

Eat a meal by yourself. Go to bed early. Sleep in.

For just a few minutes, stop juggling.

It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to be still.

Even the “perfect” mother can’t do it all. She isn’t Pinterest certified, and she’s not hosting a magical play group that serves organic snacks and encourages gender neutral activities.

She’s in the mirror. And my goodness, does she deserve a break.

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