The Oxygen Mask Theory

Anyone who has ever been on an airplane could probably recite the flight attendant’s opening spiel.  (Unless we’re talking about Southwest, because they tend to recite their spiel in anything from rap to iambic pentameter.  You don’t buckle your seatbelt on a Southwest flight.  You buckle your S to the E-A-T Belt.  It’s weird.)  Anyhow, say it along with me: “In the event that the cabin loses pressure, oxygen masks will automatically descend from the ceiling.  Grab the mask, secure it over your mouth and nose and breathe normally.  If you are traveling with a child, secure your own mask before assisting with theirs.

Secure your mask first.  Why is that?  Isn’t it your job to protect your child at all costs?  Isn’t it selfish to put your own mask on first?  How can you let your child go one moment longer than absolutely necessary without oxygen, Bad Mommy?  Why wouldn’t you want to make sure your child’s mask was on first?

Because you are of no use to your oxygenated child if you are unconscious, that’s why.  In the event of an emergency we are instructed by those who are trained to keep us alive (all of us, not just the children) that we are to prioritize ourselves.  We are to take care of the caretaker so that we can tend to those who depend on us.

Why then, is there an unspoken expectation that to be a good mother means to back-burner our own needs? Why should successful parenting be equated with giving absolutely everything of ourselves to our children?  We already sacrifice our bodies, our manicured hair and nails, our clean clothes and clean countertops and clean armpits.  Some parents sacrifice their careers, their friendships, their hobbies, and even *GASP* their delicious cocktails to the Cause. If we are expected to sacrifice our very well being in favor of our children’s, then what happens when we’re spent?  What is my child to do when all there is is left of his mother is an ill, angry, unkempt hobo crazy lady? If I’ve only gotten him this far by making sure that I never spent any energy or attention or TLC on myself, then this is as far as he goes, because I’ll be too busy counting ceiling tiles in the local nut house to teach him to read.  Not to mention, what am I teaching my boy about what parenting is?  Our children follow our example, not our advice, so if I’m showing him that the needs of a parent are insignificant, then aren’t I condemning him to the nut house if and when he’s lucky enough to become a father?

My child deserves better than that.  My child deserves the very best me that I can provide.  My child deserves a mother who is as centered, calm, and capable as she can be.  My child deserves a mother who allows herself an episode of Burn Notice while he plays in his jumper.  My child deserves a mother who doesn’t feel guilty that Mommy and Me class got skipped so she could take a shower AND shave her legs.  My child deserves a mother who feels worthy of a weekend away, to do whatever the hell she pleases.  My child deserves a mother who reads for pleasure or does sunrise yoga or takes in the new summer blockbuster on opening night even if that means his sheets don’t get laundered today.  My child deserves a mother who is fully oxygenated and ready for whatever insanity today brings.  And he deserves to know that his importance doesn’t fade with age or circumstance.  He and his needs will ALWAYS be important, not just in childhood.  He’ll know that because his mother knows that.

In the event that the cabin loses pressure, don’t you worry about a thing, little boy.  Mommy’s got her mask on and she will take care of you.



Damn straight.

Damn straight.

7 thoughts on “The Oxygen Mask Theory

  1. It’s odd that pure, certain logic can be made to seem selfish when applied to parenting. I just love your truth. Your boy will too.

  2. >ill, angry, unkempt hobo crazy lady

    I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you were living in my apartment.

  3. Oh my, my friend Joanna James told me about your blog and I’m so glad to be here checking it out. I’m always a better mama when I find the right balance of me time/ hubby time/ kid time. I’m excited to read about your motherhood journey. It’s a hard, wonderful, freaky thing raising babies. It sounds liking your doing a beautiful, honest job of it.

    • Thank you, Rachel! It’s really hard to tell the truth because it’s so embarrassing, but I was really shocked to my core to discover just how hard it is, so I figure all us moms (and dads!) have to stick together and be brave!

  4. “In the event that the cabin loses pressure, don’t you worry about a thing, little boy. Mommy’s got her mask on and she will take care of you.” Preach. Even though I believe this with my whole heart, the messages of denying myself creep in almost every day. Why can’t I remember this easy truth? Maybe I’ll tattoo an oxygen mask on my arm 🙂

    • Oh, Jessica! I am sending you to power to put yourself first. Don’t let that guilty little voice tell you it’s wrong. You know how in Pretty Woman, Kit deLuca and Vivan tell each other, “take care of you.” Well, take care of you, girl. (in a strictly non-streetwalker kind of way.)

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