In The Family

Oxygen Mask Parenting

Even if you’ve never flown on an airplane, I’m sure you’re familiar with the drill.

“Incase of emergency, oxygen masks will drop down in front of you.  Please pull the mask down toward your face and place the mask over your mouth and nose.  If you are traveling with a child, please attend to yourself first, then the child.”

This has been pounded into my subconscious since I was really little, moving with my family across the country.  The next time I get on an airplane with my own kids, I will be totally prepared to oxygenate us all in the event of decompression.  Awesome.  But this little safety precaution isn’t limited to in-flight emergencies.  At some point, it snuck its way into my consciousness and started to change my approach to parenting.  The result?  Over eight years into this crazy thing called motherhood, I’m a full-fledged Oxygen Mask Parent.

There are too many labels for this job.  Helicopter parent.  Attachment parenting.  Crunchy granola mom.  I don’t want to fuel the Mommy Wars with another one, so do me a favor and hear me out, because it’s a label you ALL have permission to wear.

From the moment I got pregnant, there was this subtle societal pressure to become a slave to the baby inside me.  Okay, I took the prenatal vitamins.  And I ate some gross healthy stuff when I only wanted chocolate.  (And I also ate the chocolate.)  But I didn’t start running marathons or doing Pilates for Preggos.  To be honest, I spent most of my pregnancies sleeping at every possible moment.  If I sat down for more than a couple of minutes, a nap was pretty much inevitable.  Why?  I felt like it and I needed it.  My body was tired, so I slept.  It seemed like such a no-brainer, and nobody would fault a two-in-one human for needing a few extra winks.

But then the baby comes out and suddenly you’re supposed to have relocated to Martyr Town.  No more hot showers in peace because the baby can’t stand to be laid down for a couple minutes.  Make dinner for your husband, do six loads of laundry, play brain-stimulating games with your 2-month-old, start a Mommy Blog, google car seat recalls every day, get less than two hours of sleep, and love every second.  This is bliss, amirite?

No, girl.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

woman-girl-beauty-maskAs a mom, it becomes too easy to not take care of yourself and just ignore something like your own birthday.  It’s not that I actually like my birthday all that much, but hear me now: I’m a big supporter of self-care.  So on November 12th, my kids hung out with their grandparents while I got my hair cut and went to the spa.  I treated myself to the gift of being pampered and having some peace and quiet.  “Being pampered” maybe sounds silly, but when every moment of every day is spent giving all you have to other people and constantly providing for the needs of others, having someone else wash your hair feels like the height of luxury.

Self-care is important because it’s the time when you check in with yourself.  If you’re giving and giving constantly to others and shutting down your needs and thoughts and desires and feelings, you start to actually lose touch with yourself.  Your soul becomes the friend you had a falling out with.  So you need to take that friend out for coffee and catch up.  When you are away from the crazy everyday routine for a little bit, in the silence you can start to tune into your own heart again.  What are the things you love?  What drives you creatively?  What are the thoughts you never share with anyone?  What are your fears and insecurities and how can they be tackled?  What does your heart even sound like when it isn’t at the end of its rope?

Self-care is the reality of the airplane oxygen mask.  You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.  Give me another minute before you tell me that I’m selfish and should always put my children first, because we’re actually on the same side.  I believe that my children deserve the very best version of their mother.  They deserve the happiest me, the kindest me, the most gracious me, the affectionate and playful and silly me.  But a lot of the time they get the angry and tired and overworked me because life is hard and I don’t have an IV hooked up to sparkles and rainbows and unicorn giggles. So I go to the salon, or I watch a funny movie on Netflix instead of washing tonight’s dishes, or I have a two-hour bubble bath with a good book, or I order the dang takeout instead of slaving over a roast chicken they won’t even like anyways.

I love my kids too much to give them a crappy version of their mom.  I love myself too much to lose touch with my own soul.  (I also love Netflix too much to wash the dishes right now.)  And that’s okay because I’m allowed to.  I’m allowed to choose myself.  And so are you, dear one.



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