Have you ever listened to the security instruction on airplanes about what to do if the oxygen mask drops and you are traveling with children? They tell you to put them on yourself before you assist your children. That’s because if you don’t take care of yourself first, you can’t actually help someone else (because you might end up incapacitated!). I find this one of the most true life analogies ever and yet for many of us, one of the hardest to actually apply.
I have to admit that this is a rough one for even me and I waited for weeks to write this post in an effort to follow my own advice. This one isn’t for SEO and won’t give the usual tips on how to manage this sticky issue more effectively. It isn’t even going to be gender neutral because women struggle with this more than men. As I’ve listened to my clients over the past few months, this continues to come up as a challenge. The universe seems to be telling me to write this particular article.
So WHAT is the deal?! First, to be blunt, our society. Even in 2016 when we have ever increasingly egalitarian gender roles, there are still hold over assumptions and expectations that persist. For example, when someone comes over to a family home and it’s a mess, people generally make judgments about the woman, not the man, living there. When cards or presents don’t go out to family members for whatever celebration, it’s seen as the woman falling down not the man, even when the family member is the man’s. When kids act up, the mom is usually seen as the parent at fault. This puts a lot of pressure on women and we need to collectively STOP and realize that any adult is capable to doing any of the jobs.
Second, the default parent is usually the woman. That just means there are more tasks and responsibilities, usually under the radar, that fall on her plate. ALL. THE. TIME. Then, at times, we women try to be super heroes. We feel pressure to volunteer, create the “perfect” childhood for our kids, turn our children into high achieving model citizens, be the most fun friend and the most supportive partner. On top of all that, if we work outside the home, there is the need to do well at work and find ways to pay the bills. Today’s parenting (particularly mothering) has an implicit demand that everything be kid-centered and having them entertain themselves while mom reads a magazine can seem taboo. Often, it simply feels like there is no TIME to put on our own masks.
There are no easy answers so questions and suggestions are meant to inspire deeper thought and asking yourself hard questions to figure out what is right for you. One thing I know is that, although it’s difficult, usually the first step is to say “NO” more often. You cannot save the world and you are not required to buy a ticket for that guilt trip, even when you are the pilot of the plane. Boundaries are necessary for quality of life. Sit quietly without distraction and ask yourself:
Are you the worst judge and critic of your life? What would happen if you quit that? Is it ok with you to have down time where nothing is planned and no work is being done? How about when you include kids’ things? What are the deep fears about your worth if you are not doing or producing all the time? Would you ever have those beliefs about someone else’s worth? What would it mean to you to really, actually love yourself? When are you ENOUGH (good enough, smart enough, popular enough–yep, that–or social enough, rich enough, admired enough)? What if some people don’t like you anyway? What if you asked for, and expected, more help?
For all women out there, I hope you put on the oxygen mask for yourself, at least long enough to search the answers to those questions and some of your own. Ideally, I hope you make room for you in a healthy way on a regular basis. Share with your people, and with me below, what thoughts come up. Be well and breathe. As for me, I’m going to go play Trivia Crack without guilt.
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