In the event of an emergency, passengers traveling with small children should place their own oxygen mask securely on their face before assisting their children.
That warning never bothered me until the first time I flew with my daughter. 10 months old and all smiles, she looked at me trustingly as the plane took off, and I couldn’t help thinking, “If suddenly this cabin loses pressure, I’m going to be breathing comfortably again before you…” It was nauseating to even consider, yet of course I knew that that is precisely what I would have to do.
This morning in church I was reminded that as parents, we need to always apply our own masks first. More important than anything else we can provide for our children – a nice home, fun toys, even food on their plate – is the gift of being raised by healthy, happy parents. It is one thing to neglect your formerly manicured nails or to fall behind in the latest fashions. After all, is it really important that your hands look good while you’re changing diapers? But it is another transgression entirely to neglect your soul.
What makes you happy? Your kids? Of course. Now try another answer.
Time with friends? How about knitting? Maybe you’d really like to get back to actually reading the books for book club – crazy idea, I know. For more than four years I found my happiness only in the raising of my children, and it was good. Truly. But as they needed me less I found myself alone with my thoughts while cleaning up block piles and wondering what I was doing with my life while playing Candyland for the 3rd time in a row.
Never for one second did I think that I wanted to be anywhere other than here, but here needed something new. We began to attend church more regularly, I began working out occasionally, and I started this blog. Suddenly I found a new passion – introducing readers to new products and services – wrapped up in an old passion revisited – writing. I am now more fulfilled as a person and better able to fulfill the roles of wife to my husband and mother to my children.
Some days I think that I should have taken this time and energy and put it into a cooking class or a more concerted effort to actually put the laundry away after it’s washed and folded. Perhaps I could have finally painted my ugly blue kitchen or taught my daughter to read. These little “what if’s” will always nag me, but never as much as the question of “who am I and what am I doing for me”.
Next month I’ll leave my husband and kids for three nights to spend time with other bloggers and businesses at the BlogHer Conference in Chicago. I’ve read a few snarky blog posts asking why women do this – why do we spend the money to travel, exert the last ditch energy to look our best, purchase (gasp!) business cards to introduce our blogs to 1,099 other bloggers. For me, it’s about spending time with like-minded people, those of us who crave interaction with other intelligent and verbal women. When the weekend is over we will all return to our “real lives” more fulfilled, our batteries charged.
I, for one, am looking forward to spending time with other women who have taken the time to put their masks on first. Because as parents, breathing new life into ourselves will leave us ready to face the challenges of caring for our children. And some days, that makes all the difference between a safe trip and a crash landing…