Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Oxygen Bag Reality: Surviving Parenthood by Being Selfish

Have you ever listened to the emergency instructions given by the flight attendant at the beginning of a flight? Most of us probably tune her (or him) out. Unless it's your first time flying. Then you follow along with the emergency pamphlet and everything.

There's always a line that goes something like this, " In the unlikely event of pressure loss in the cabin, oxygen masks will drop from panels in the ceiling. Place the mask over your mouth and nose like this. Oxygen is flowing even if the bag is not inflated. If you are travelling with a passenger who may need assistance, put the mask over your face before helping others." 

That is not the exact script, but my best guess at the moment. 

I got to thinking about this.

It's kind of funny that we have to be reminded on every flight to help ourselves before we help others. Why is that? Because people are stupid? Yes, people are stupid, but that's probably not why. I have a feeling that if these words said what they really, really mean, the script would instead say something like this, "In the unlikely event of pressure loss in the cabin, oxygen masks will drop from panels in the ceiling. Place the mask over your mouth and nose like this. Oxygen is flowing even if the bag is not inflated. If you are a parent flying with your child, listen up. Put your mask on first. Then you can help your kid. You are no use to them if you are unconscious from lack of air. Plus, it will take you two seconds tops to put your mask on and you know it will take at least four minutes to help your child if they are under the age of five. Unless you have millions in life insurance and a sister-in-law you think will make a better mother to your child than you or your spouse, ensuring your continued existence is actually helping your kids."

Of course when it comes to federal messages, they are never that direct are they?

Parents tend to put themselves last.

I am now the parent of two children. I find myself sacrificing twice as much. 

Beautiful picture but deceiving. Most days I don't even put on pants let alone do hair or makeup. Or eat.

I found myself thinking of the "oxygen bag reality" about two weeks ago when I was feeding and rocking baby Noelle at 10 p.m., sobbing because I hadn't eaten a bite of dinner that I had made and served my family at 6 o'clock and I was starving. Oh, and I had to go to the bathroom in a bad way too. 

What can I say? I hear that baby cry, and I put all my needs on hold so I can take care of hers. Even in the middle of the night when I have to pee so bad, I forego it. I jump out of bed, quickly mix a bottle, grab the baby swiftly - yet gently! - and start feeding and rocking her whilst tapping my toes to keep my urine in my bladder.

So is not going to the bathroom really like not giving myself oxygen in the event of a flight emergency? Is my metaphor a little out there? Possibly. But when I have to pee so bad, I am not as patient of a mother. I do not want to sing lullabies. I do not want to snuggle and take an extra few seconds for loving caresses and kisses.

And if I don't eat dinner until after 10 p.m., you bet my family suffers. I become a basket case.

So I am taking an initiative to make sure I do a quickie pee before I do a midnight feeding. I am taking an initiative to eat when I need to. To ask for help when I need it. To shower on schedule. A little self-care goes a long, long way. I am not talking pedis and facials and weekend trips to Lake Powell. That's superfluous. I am talking about the basic building blocks of life (like oxygen!) that many parents sacrifice for their child - proper nutrition, proper rest, and proper hygiene.

So from here on out, I'm putting my mask on first.


cadylee said...

Yes! Put your mask on first! They'll be just fine if they have to wait a couple minutes for what they want (or even what they need). In fact, they'll probably end up better people for it, and you'll be a better mom to them because you'll be comfortable and happy.

Whitney said...

You make such a good point my friend! Even with just one baby, I find myself in similar situations! I will totally feed him first, even if I have to pee sooooooooo bad, or go without dinner because he has those nights where he doesn't want to be put down. Love the analogy. Very good advice!

Jewls said...

I'm the same way!!

That picture is absolutely adorable! Your family reminds me of mine, except with baby girls instead of boys... ;)

Vanessa said...

Your analogy is perfect! It is so true...we give up taking care of ourselves in the name of putting our children first, but there are certain things we MUST do to take care of ourselves if we want to continue to be able to take care of them. Eating, peeing and showering definitely fall into this category! It's good you didn't take too long to figure this out and that you're taking a stand now!

Rachel said...

Favorite line from this post: "Most days I don't even put on pants."

Two is sooo much harder than one. My mom told me it wouldn't be, but she lied.

This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. My kids are bigger so I'm pretty good at peeing and feeding myself, but I've found it's difficult to strike a balance between spending time and attention on them and deciding that it's okay to take a little "me time" or to say "I don't want to play today, sweeties, I'd rather just sit and read. Go entertain yourselves."

Rachel said...

I love your writing! I laughed aloud at the line about not putting on pants. (I can SO relate.)

I recently started reading a website called The Power of Moms. One of their big mottos is that "Mommy is a Person" and you deserve to do the things that people do, such as go to the bathroom, eat, and even have hobbies. Here's the original blog post about it. It's really good: http://powerofmoms.com/2012/04/mommy-is-a-person/


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