There is something so natural about the act of taking care of yourself in order to survive, or is there? Since becoming a mom something has stuck with me that resonates in my brain over and over again. The words that every flight attendant utters right before the plane takes off are easily tuned out except for one part: “If you are traveling with children, make sure that your own mask is on first before helping your children.” The directions sound so simple when you hear them, yet my natural response is the complete opposite of what I’m being told to do. My brain tells me to defend my babies at all costs and that the concern of my own well being must naturally fall to the wayside. From slowly learning to put myself last, to being stuck in what feels like the trenches- this is my story on learning to put my own oxygen mask on first.
Becoming a parent ushers in bliss and the willingness for change. After having my first son I happily gave up my sleep for long nights to nurse and quiet mornings for snuggles while watching Elmo. I worked with my husband at his gym so my son came to work with me, I could get my workouts in, and we still had a social life. I could blow dry my hair, put on makeup, and the occasional date night was still a thing. We were a cute little family! There were adjustments but I still made myself a priority.
It was after having my second son that the relationship became severed. This time was different. Yes, I was breastfeeding again and all the normal things that take place with a new baby. But as I was struggling with my own postpartum emotions and trauma, my husband and I were noticing that my oldest son was going through his own mental/developmental concerns. My workouts and warm cups of coffee were traded for therapy appts with my oldest, breastfeeding, nap schedules, and trying to be a fun mom while dividing my love for everyone else.
Having more than two kids is becoming a stranger to yourself. Welcoming a surprise third baby really drove home the fact that my whole existence from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed (and all the in between) I am in a state of ‘robot mode’ with a twist of ‘mommy hurricane’. I have entered the trenches where hiding in the pantry is no longer enough. I have become the lady who doesn’t shave her legs unless, well, there’s a special occasion, who’s hair lives in a state of emergency, that lives in fitness clothes but doesn’t work out nearly enough, and is constantly on a stress level score of 10.
It was here, in the trenches, that I decided that if I didn’t seek professional help I was going to completely come undone. What I didn’t know was that this was the first step in taking care of myself. My therapist kept driving home the fact that I have to stop putting myself last if I wanted to show up in a better way for my kids. I have to stop feeling guilty for not giving them all of my time and get back to the things that make ME happy. I chose to turn to God for sanctuary and build relationships that nurtured my soul, to surround myself in social settings that were with like minded women, finding my fitness again, and for the first time setting personal boundaries.
From completely losing myself in motherhood to slowly making positive changes to take care of myself, I am constantly learning to put my own oxygen mask on first. As my family and I plan to take a plane in the next few months I look forward to hearing those words over the speaker and for the first time smiling because I know that it’s not only true, but that I’m actually doing it for the first time since becoming a mom.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my personal story! I would love to hear your story of something similar that has happened to you and continue the positive cycle of moms supporting moms.