I’ve never been on an airplane, but I’ve heard plenty of times the reference to “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others with their oxygen masks.” The idea being that if you pass out from lack of oxygen, you won’t be able to help your children or anyone else, and then you all die.
This gets applied as a metaphor to a lot of other needs. For example: You can’t be the parent your child needs if you don’t take care of yourself.
But what if your oxygen mask is not the same as someone else’s? What if your oxygen mask is sleep, and your child’s oxygen mask is attention, and a certain amount of supervision needed to prevent him from hurting himself and/or tearing the entire apartment to pieces? What if everything he does prevents you from using your own oxygen mask?
Then you hold your breath and keep doing what he needs, that’s what.
As I’m writing this, I’m sick. For the past few days, my husband has been lecturing me to get some rest so that I can get back to normal. He’s probably right, but he also has a day job he can’t just skip, which means there isn’t a lot of time for resting, until he comes home from work in the evening and can take over attending to our son’s needs. Even then, Kj is used to Mom being available anytime, so even when Dad assumes the role of “primary parent” there isn’t much peace from Kj’s demands for my attention.
Of course, he does eventually go to bed for the evening, which should definitely be the time for rest…
But then Mom-Guilt™ takes over.
“There’s so much I have to do. I have to clean. I have to check the budget. I have to write the grocery list. I have to fold the laundry. I have to do the dishes. I have to prep for the next meal…”
There’s also a lot of self-worth attached to being busy, and feeling like a failure when at rest. I’ll admit, that strange “busyness” pride is my own vice. It makes me feel so weird to actively try to do nothing.
I didn’t plan on writing today, but I felt the need to do this now because it’s one activity that gives me the illusion of productivity, while allowing me to sit down.
This isn’t my best work. I don’t have the energy to go through my normal process of planning it out, coming up with a nice, logical outline, writing drafts and revising.
But getting this out was a way to help process what I’m doing to myself mentally. And to reach any other parents out who might also be experiencing self-care taking a backseat.
Right now, I’m going to eat some hot soup, and then try to take a nap, because it’s a Saturday afternoon, and I’m lucky enough to have a partner here to support me when he recognizes that my oxygen mask is going unused.
Hopefully, this will be enough to allow me to heal and be a better parent tomorrow.