There’s a Reason the Airlines Instruct You to Put Your Own Mask On First


There’s a Reason the Airlines Instruct You to Put Your Own Mask On First

Taking care of others. That’s what we do. That’s often what we measure our success by as mothers.  

Last month, my family and I went on a trip to Destin, Florida. Now, I am not a fan of the beach, but my boys enjoy it. Plus, we met our friends from South Carolina there, so I was happy to spend time with my best friend, even if it was on the sand. One morning, we all dragged ourselves out of bed and into our swimsuits so we could head down to the beach. My friend and I sprayed and slathered sunscreen on the very squirmy guys (ages 2-42), and sent them off to the water while we recovered from the effort. A couple of hours into the day, we called the guys back to base camp for Round 2 of the sunscreen squirm. Around lunchtime, we loaded up and headed back to the house for food and showers. When I got in the shower, that’s when I noticed it – radiating heat coming from my legs. When the water hit, that’s when I realized – sunburn! When we reconvened in the living room, that’s when I saw it – my friend had the same look on her face I did; the look of pain! While we had taken care of the guys and covered them in sunscreen, we had forgotten to protect our own legs and now we were left with the painful consequences.

This type of thing happens so often. As moms, we focus on taking care of everyone else and forget to take care of ourselves. So we are left sick and tired, still trying to take care of everyone else, and falling short with painful and impatient consequences. See, there’s a reason the airlines instruct you to put your own mask on first – your kids need you to be around for the whole thing. If you don’t put your mask on first, then you may not be well enough to help with the next thing. The same is true in our daily life – our kids and families need us to take care of ourselves first, so that we can be well enough to help them with all the things. Self-care is not a luxury; self-care is essential.

A couple of years ago, I was doing my best to make the world revolve at just the rate for everyone else and I was spinning out of control. I was worn out physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually and just kept running on fumes because that’s all I had. I was short-tempered, irritated, stressed out, exhausted, and DONE. Then, I realized that, yes, I was running, but I wasn’t running well. I was taking care of everyone else, but I wasn’t taking care of them well. I wanted to enjoy my family and I wanted them to enjoy being around me. I met with a counselor a few times and began making self-care a priority. I prayed about it and spoke with my very supportive husband about it.  We found ways to incorporate that time into our family’s routines.  After a few weeks of our new approach, I began to feel a difference and others around me began to see a difference. I was more patient, I listened, I was less rushed, I let go of the little stuff, and I found joy. There are times when I still forget myself, as the Destin sunburn reminded me. But my friends and family help, so I can put on my own mask.

Below is a list to help you start thinking about how to “put on your own mask first:” 

  1. Find a podcast or audiobook just for you.
    Listen/watch while you get ready in the morning or after the kids are in bed. Or listen with earbuds while cooking or doing laundry. 
  2. Are you an introvert (gain energy from time alone) or extrovert (gain energy from time with others)?
    This was a MAJOR point for my self-care. As an introvert, I NEED time to myself; quiet, peaceful, uninterrupted time alone. 
    Maybe you are an extrovert and NEED time with a group of friends to recharge.  
    This chart can be helpful in learning about yourself and in communicating these things with your family.
  3. Take a nap. Naps are awesome!  
  4. Wake up a earlier than others.
    I’m a big fan of sleep, but I will sacrifice for time in a quiet house. Try getting up about 15 minutes earlier than everyone else during the week and an hour or two earlier on the weekends.  
  5. Regular pampering.
    While a weekly pedicure would be great, pampering doesn’t have to be expensive. It could be one night a week you get 30 minutes if uninterrupted bath time. Or you get a monthly membership for massage therapy. It could even be as simple as trimming your fingernails!  Just make sure you are taking time to do something that makes you feel better about yourself.  
  6. Learn something new.
    What have you always wanted to learn how to do?  Your body and brain are designed to learn, so give them what they want!  Take a continuing education class, pick up a new hobby, find someone to teach you, look it up on YouTube.  
    McLennan Community College Continuing Education, Baylor University Continuing EducationJoAnns, Michaels
  7. Simplify something.
    Making decisions is hard work!  Find little ways to make fewer decisions.  Find something great for breakfast and have it each morning.  Or decrease your eyeshadow collection to 3 colors instead of 30.  Unsubscribe from emails you never subscribed to.  
  8. Watch something that makes you laugh.
    What is your favorite laugh-out-loud show?  Find it and watch it.  Or find a new favorite: Seinfeld, The Office, Friends, Monty Python, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Office Space, Bridesmaids
  9. Dance like no one is watching.
    In the car. In the shower. In the kitchen. In the grocery store. In the Target check-out line. Just wherever.  
  10. Count your blessings.
    Keep a gratitude journal and write down one thing each morning/evening. Establish a new family tradition and share a gratitude at dinner. Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage, puts this as the Number 1 exercise to practice on your path to happiness.  
  11. Put sunscreen on yourself first, then on your family.  
    Just trust me on this one!