Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Put Your Mask On First

If you've ever been on an airplane, you've heard this phrase as part of the safety demonstration. No matter how often I fly, it always jumps out at me. As parents, we are, in general, conditioned to meet our children's needs first, not our own, so to grab oxygen for ourselves first, before assisting our kids or someone else's seems, well, just wrong. Yet, as I came home tonight, so consumed by thoughts of work and work drama that I was barely able to concentrate on my kids' questions about course selection and birthday details and Minecraft, I had a sudden understanding of the flight safety instructions. On the plane, if we don't ensure our own oxygen first, we may be unable to help those needing our assistance. Is it so surprising, then, that in life, when we don't resolve our own issues, we are not much help trying to resolve our kids' issues?

Perhaps when we sign on as parents, we agree to put our children's needs first. I would venture to say that most of us do, most of the time. But as my work--whether changes in it, intensity of it, or lack of it--seems to take center stage, far more than it did when I had a full-time, long-term job, I am, little by little, learning to "put my mask on first." These days, I allow what went on with me to matter, sometimes before listening to what happened to my kids. These days, I'm taking a few moments to decompress before jumping into my role as Chief Negotiator, or even delegating some of the negotiating responsibility. These days, I'm grabbing a nap on the weekends if I need to and grabbing a coffee in the morning if it feels good. Sometimes, these things mean my kids need to wait a moment for their "oxygen masks." Most of the time, these things make me better equipped to give them the "masks" and a whole lot more.

I imagine that the airplane safety instructions were developed based on years of studying human behavior and health needs. As for my own instructions, I've just looked around a little and realized what works. And sometimes, that means putting my mask on first. So that I am really able to offer assistance to others.

No comments:

Post a Comment