“In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling in front of you.”
I’ve flown countless times in my life, and on every occasion I’ve heard more or less the same line. It’s always followed by some variation of, “If you are traveling with a small child, please put your mask on first before assisting your child.” Sure, sometimes it was in Spanish or Chinese, in addition to English. And there was probably a time or two when the flight attendant (likely in the employ of Southwest Airlines) went off-script and jazzed things up a bit. But every flight I’ve ever taken began with the familiar spiel about oxygen masks.
I suspect the oxygen mask speech developed in response to parents doing exactly what they’re not supposed to do during those depressurization events – i.e., taking care of their children before taking care of themselves, leading to a loss of consciousness for both. The parental instinct to protect one’s child, even at significant cost to one’s self, is so powerful that aviation safety officials deem it necessary to remind parents every single time they fly.
We parents also need reminders at other times to not focus on our kids’ needs at the expense of our own. I confess this is one of my greatest areas of struggle. It’s been easy to become consumed with what I need to do for my daughters – or at least what I tell myself I should do for them. (The two things may not be the same.) It starts with getting them up and dressed and breakfasted, and runs through getting them to school or whatever activity is on their schedule for the day, prepping their later meals or washing their clothes or dishes, playing with them or making sure they’re playing nicely with each other, processing with them the significant events and emotions of their day, and helping them wash up and wind down for bed.
It takes a lot of energy. And in my weariness, the parental instinct to focus on the needs of my children – even at significant cost to myself – takes over. As a result, I’ve let some vital things in my life slide into inattentiveness, like adequate rest; or into outright neglect, like physical exercise. Not only is that unhealthy for me, it’s also unhealthy for my wife and kids. Because my self-care doesn’t just benefit me; it benefits my family, too. If I don’t take care of my body now, especially because I’m past my physical prime, then I’m taking a significant risk that I’ll be cutting short my years with them. Taking care of myself – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – helps to take care of my family as well.
I know this doesn’t mean I can neglect what my kids truly need in the interest of having some “me time.” But I have to maintain self-care. May this post serve as a reminder for you and me both!
And Abba, please grant us wisdom and grace to do better!