I’m sure you have all heard the flight attendant say “In the event of an emergency, the oxygen mask with drop from overhead. Put the mask on yourself first and THEN assist your seat mate.” And what mother doesn’t think “yeah, right.” I guess I won’t limit this to just mothers. Co-dependents would also die trying to get the mask on their seat mate first. Cause many of us think the “right” thing to do, the “proper” thing to do would be to help another before ourselves. And then we die as a saint….right? No? We screw up the other guy’s mask and he dies AND we die? Jeeze, that sounds really kinda awful….
Before I became a mother, I probably would have had no issue with putting my own mask on first. But as soon as I popped out baby number one, my priorities changed. No way would I even think of saving myself first. How dare that flight attendant be so ignorant!! And so I began to put myself last and my kids first. That works on some levels. Until I got burned out. Not taking care of myself made me resentful and not a very good mom. And it made my kids a little entitled. That’s not a pretty picture is it?
I fought the wisdom of the flight attendant though. I tested the theory many times in many different ways. After all, putting myself first is just another way to be selfish and well, an asshole. And with kids, it is near impossible. They take up our time and attention. It is in their nature. We need to raise them. We need to protect them. We need to feed them and nurse them through illnesses and make sure their socks match and that they are having a reasonable amount of playdates and that they have a ride to and from the dance and that they are sleeping normally and that they are not surfing porn on the internet. It is a full time job! How was I supposed to put myself first? And really, the consequences couldn’t be THAT bad….
I would argue every single time I heard that direction…”put your own mask on first.” It would literally piss me off. These are my children, they are helpless. I have to do for them what they cannot do for themselves. That is what being a good mother means! I wasn’t getting the concept that I needed to be healthy and whole to be able to take care of them. It carried over to other relationships also, as did the resentment.
I remember the last time we flew, I had the longest, most severe panic attack I have ever had. I was sitting with two of my kids next to me and my oldest a seat behind me. I had my arm flung across my middle child so that I could hold my youngest’s hand. Squeeze the hell out of my youngest’s hand I mean and I kept my eyes on my oldest. Except when the flight attendant would walk by and I would stare her down to see if I could read her mind and see if she knew something I didn’t…like if we were going to crash. I was probably the talk of the flight attendant station “watch when I walk by seat 234…she gets the crazy eyes and almost burns a hole through me…hahahaha!!!” It finally did occur to me that if something happened to the pilot, no one was going to expect me to take over and fly the plane. This was a great revelation!! It took some pressure off of me. Then I could concentrate all of my energy on keeping the plane in the air. Because obviously I was the only one taking this whole flying thing seriously.
Being a parent means being a teacher. I had to teach my kids to do for themselves. Because I wasn’t always going to be there to put their mask on. And I only have two hands. And if I can teach them to take care of themselves, then I have done my job. It’s a process. Letting go, raising kids, trusting that I have given them the skills they need to make it in life. And if I haven’t, I’ve taught them how to ask someone who does know. I’m not a helicopter mom. I’m an airplane mom. I don’t hover around my kids, doing for them what they should do for themselves. I explain to them how to put on their own mask first and then help those around them. I get it now oh wise flight attendant. I put my own mask on first and then I have the energy and ability to help all those who need me. Taking care of myself first benefits everyone else. Not taking care of myself could very well be deadly.
Now, let’s talk about the magic that keeps 187,700 pounds of steel in the air. I assume it has something to do with my awesome concentration skills and powerful positive thinking…but what do y’all do when I am not on the plane?