Ever flown in an airplane? At the beginning of the flight, the flight attendants review what to do in an emergency, and they always stress that if the oxygen masks come down, you should put your own mask on before helping anyone else.
I always nod wisely when they say that, because of course, if you don't have oxygen, you won't be able to help anyone else. But... as a mother? I'll put everyone else first until I am, quite literally, without air.
Call it an epiphany, but about two weeks ago I "got" it: My kids will take whatever I'm willing to give! They never, ever say to me: Mama, we've got this. Really, take some time for yourself, we'll play without you and refrain from killing each other so you can meditate, exercise and have some coherent thoughts.
Forget being available, if I'm present, they want a piece of me. My son even wants to come with me when I organize the basement! Truly, even the toilet isn't sacred. Nor is the shower, the dinner table, or bed. They simply believe that I'm just... available! All. The. Time.
With my husband working 12 hour shifts four days a week, it means I am on deck alone with the kids a lot, and have found that it's extremely difficult to strike a balance between caring for them, and making sure I don't turn into a raving lunatic.
It had gotten to the point that while I made sure I exercised on certain days, I was cutting my workouts short. Or, would not sit down to meditate until 10 pm, and truthfully, by 10 pm, I'm COOKED.
So let's go back to a few weeks ago. Nothing happened, really. It wasn't even a particularly bad day, but it suddenly struck me that if I don't carve out time to take care of myself, it is NOT going to happen. I had all these concerns... could the kids get their homework done? What if they were tired and wanted to go to bed before I was available? Would I be holding people up too much if I exercised for a full hour? Would I be inconveniencing my husband?
Noise, all of it. And stupid noise, to boot! Somehow, in that moment of lucidity, I got the ridiculousness of my noisy thoughts.
So that night I got the "littles" (the two youngest children) to bed, and told the "bigs" that I was going to meditate, and they needed to manage themselves until I was done.
And they did. My husband came home while I was meditating, and I overheard my daughter tell my husband, "Mama is meditating, I think she really needed it!"
I sat the entire time, and since that day a few weeks ago, have been working to ensure that I get my full workouts in, my quiet time scheduled, and taking every opportunity to take care of myself that I can find.
It's been extremely freeing. I went to kung fu at night for the first time in months, and it happened to overlap with my husband's workout. He went when I got home. And you know what? It all worked out.
So if you are struggling with balancing it all (and really, what woman doesn't?), I invite you to take the airline's advice.
PUT YOUR OWN OXYGEN MASK ON BEFORE HELPING OTHERS!
You won't regret it.
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