Prior to having babies, I didn’t give too much thought to a flight attendant’s safety instructions. “Secure your own oxygen mask before assisting someone else,” you’re always told during the emergency demonstration. When I became a mother, however, I bristled at the idea. My first instinct would be to immediately help my children before helping myself. And why shouldn’t it?
Being a mother changes everything you do and how you do it. Having children taps into a well of unconditional love and compassion. It unlocks a kids-first instinct that purposefully drives you to nurture and care for your charges.
I have countless examples in my daily life where I gladly put my children’s needs before my own. They eat first, often leaving me to grab a smoothie to drink as I take them to school. Unless I sneak out of bed to shower and dress before they rise each morning, I am challenged to find more than 10 minutes to get ready after taking care of their breakfast, clothes, teeth and hair. When the kids are sick, mothers are often the parent who takes time off work to prepare soup, monitor temperatures, blow noses and comfort them. Yet, few of us take sick days ourselves.
All that responsibility, especially the pressure that comes during the back-to-school season, can challenge the physical and emotional well-being of the most dedicated parent. Your schedule feels like a race. School structure, new teachers or classes can upset first-time and returning students alike.
Which takes me back to the attendant’s message on every flight: In order to better care for others be sure to take care of yourself.
So on your to-do list this fall, try to take time to renew and refresh your energy in small ways—a coffee date with a friend, a quiet night with your partner, a yoga class on Saturday morning or an afternoon nap. Enjoy breaks in your routine. When you do little things that let you feel like yourself, everyone in the family will reap the benefits of a happy, healthy mom.